Govt urged to double games fund pledge

The Albanese government should double the funding for the Australian Interactive Games Fund it pledged to resurrect under its five-year National Cultural Policy, according to the peak body for the games development sector.

In a submission to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee reviewing the policy, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) said funding should be lifted from $12 million to $25 million – the figure originally pledged by Labor in 2019.

“While we are appreciative of the commitment of $12 million, it falls short of what is needed given that it follows almost a decade of our sectors being ignored at the federal level,” the industry association said.

IGEA said that between 2013 – when the previous Gillard Labor government’s “barely commenced” Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF) was scrapped by the Abbott Liberal Government – and 2022, there was “zero federal support for Australian game developers in contrast to practically every other cultural and artistic sector”.

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“Over the years, our sector has kept its fire burning and so many amazing local games have still been made, with some of them inevitably becoming among Australia’s most successful and famous cultural exports so far this century,” it said.

“Unfortunately, countless stories have also been lost and some of our very best talent has departed for industries abroad. The development of Australian games and our industry is sadly still well behind where it should be, and this must be fixed urgently.”

IGEA said the $12 million commitment for the fund – or $3 million a year for the next four years – in January was similar to the funding provided by the Victorian government’s creative development agency, VicScreen (previously Film Victoria), which provided $2.7 million last financial year.

It is also “substantially less than the $20 million fund that the original AIGF was committed to providing… or the $25 million games fund that the Australian Labor Party promised in 2019,” IGEA added.

“Given that [federal funding] is needed to cover the whole of Australia, including states like NSW without any direct screen funding, it simply is not enough,” the submission, published on Thursday, states.

The proposed funding also “represents a 25 per cent fall” in funding provide through the Games: Expansion Pack fund to 10 small and medium-sized independent studios developing original games with budgets below $500,000 last year.

In the course of that exercise, which “needed to be raised from $3 million to $4 million Screen Australia” due to the calibre of the submissions, Screen Australia received more than 100 funding applications.

“In practical terms, the urgent demand for support will far outstrip the $3 million that will be available for each of the next four years,” IGEA said, adding that 70 applicants to the fund were turned away.

“We therefore ask the committee to make a recommendation for the funding commitment for a new Screen Australia-administered fund for video game development in the NCP to be expanded from $12 million over four years to $25 million, matching the Australian Labor Party’s 2019 election commitment.

IGEA said that such a commitment – which still remains “less than 10 per cent of the support that Screen Australia already provides for film and TV production each year” – would be “highly targeted and sustainable”, and allow the sector to “catch up”.

“A larger games fund would also allow Screen Australia to provide multiple funding streams to achieve different objectives. For example, the original AIGF included a highly successful enterprise funding program that supported game development studios to develop and grow as organisations,” it added.

Ahead of last year’s federal election, the Greens committed to create a $100 million Games Investment and Enterprise Fund to invest in projects and help successful companies grow their businesses.

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