Screen Australia awards $4m for local video games

Brandon How

Screen Australia has awarded more than $4 million worth of grants to fund development on tens of indie video game titles through the Games: Expansion Pack Fund.

Initially announced in March as a $3 million funding round, it was expanded to support the large number of high-quality submissions from across Australia. Screen Australia received more than 100 applications overall.

The fund was eligible to small and medium sized independent game studios. It provides direct funding for original games with budgets below $500,000 and will reopen for applications in September.

Art from Totem Teller.

In March, Screen Australia announced that a total of up to $6 million would be committed over the two years. There is also the potential to expand the initiative to include larger game studios.

Among the recipients’ studios is Melbourne-based Grinning Pickle, which is developing Totem Teller, a “pensive and deeply philosophical game that charges the player to reflect on their own past and how history shapes us as humans”, according to Screen Australia. The game features a distinct ‘glitch’ art style and will be available on PC, Mac, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and Series S. The studio previously received a grant through VicScreen in late 2018.

Also awarded a grant, and another previous recipient of a VicScreen grant, is Melbourne-based Guck for development on Future Folklore. The building/crafting game for mobile is set in an Australian-bush-inspired futuristic fantasy setting. Developed by an Aboriginal-led team, the game offers an Indigenous lens to players who are tasked with restoring bush and caring for Country.

A recipient from Western Australia is Earthlingo, a language-learning free-to-play game. Released on online game store Steam in 2019, and also available on mobile devices, players control an alien trying to learn one of several Earth languages. The game also receives funding through crowd-funding website Patreon and currently receives $113 a month.

Minister for the Arts Tony Burke said that the federal government is “committed to supporting the Australian digital games sector – to create, innovate, and flourish and achieve its full potential”.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) chief executive Ron Curry thanked the Minister for Arts and the federal government for supporting the “highly creative and technically skilled video game industry”.

“Games: Expansion Pack is directed toward emerging, or small to medium independent games studios. It was fantastic to see Screen Australia bolstering support to cater to the high demand and quality of applications for the initial round of funding,” Mr Curry said.

“By assisting early career developers, products, and studios through Games: Expansion Pack, the Albanese Government is set to facilitate support across the entire game development ecosystem.

“This will result in growth in employment, promotion of digital and screen skills development, plus increased revenue for the highly talented and reputable Australian game development industry.”

The Digital Games Tax Offset (DGTO), which entitles game developers with expenditure of at least $500,000 to a 30 per cent tax rebate, was initially expected to come into effect from July 1, but the legislation was not introduced to parliament before the federal election. Mr Curry expects it the DGTO to be legislated within this financial year.

The New Zealand Game Developer’s Association has expressed its concern to the New Zealand Government that strong incentives for game development in Australia will lead to an emigration of local talent.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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