As part of Australia’s new National Cultural Policy, the Australian Interactive Games Fund, which was pulled nearly a decade ago, will be re-established in full. The news was announced by Tony Burke MP, the national Minister for the Arts, during the launch celebration for the updated policy.
‘All forms of storytellers now – whether it’s narrative, visual art, music, acting – are finding themselves jobs in the video games industry,’ Burke said in his address. ‘Screen Australia, when you’ve got an industry expanding like this around the world, shouldn’t be left trying to check if there’s some spare change back in the lounge to fund this rapidly growing, AU $4 billion sector.’
‘So we’ll restore the Games Fund for Screen Australia that was abolished nearly 10 years ago.’
The original Australian Interactive Games Fund had a much wider scope than current measures, and provided ample funding for local and international developers. Amongst other titles, it aided the creation of League of Geek’s award-winning Armello, and aided Defiant Development, Flat Earth Games, The Voxel Agents, Loveshack, and many other studios.
Despite the growth of the industry, the original fund was inexplicably pulled by the Abbott government in 2014 when it came into power, leading to an exodus of local game developers overseas, and the shuttering of several major studios.
Burke aided the original establishment of the Australian Interactive Games Fund in 2012 – but it was never able to achieve its full potential, with funding cut off before the promised AU $20 million could be completely spent. At the time, the decision caused major outrage and frustration, with industry leaders calling it a short-sighted decision that was a real blow to the industry, and to the Australian economy.
The current Labor government has now pledged to reverse this impact by bringing back the fund, and hopefully restoring ample support for local video game developers.
In the National Cultural Policy document, it has promised to introduce the previously-announced Digital Game Tax Offset, alongside ‘increased investment to support digital games developers and small and medium independent games studios through Screen Australia’ and ‘support for investment in large-scale screen productions in Australia through film tax offsets and location-based production incentives.’
‘Two-thirds of all Australians play video games,’ the policy makes clear. ‘With eighty-four per cent of revenue derived from exports, there is potential to expand the domestic games industry and the ensuing employment of creatives within Australia by tapping into the AU$250 billion global games market, which is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.’
As Burke said in his address, workers in the video games industry, and the wider arts industry, are ‘entertaining and essential’. You can learn more about how this declaration translates to policy and support in the National Cultural Policy 2023, now available to the public.