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Gaming

Greens announces inquiry into Australian video game industry

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam will lead a Senate Inquiry into the decline of Australia's game development industry.

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The video-game industry, when supported well, is massively profitable. According to research firm Newzoo, it is projected to reach a massive $113.3 billion in global revenue by 2018, up from a projected $91.5 billion in 2015.

Australia is home to a large pool of talented, mostly independent, developers, yet Australia's government is making no move to support the industry. In the 2014 Budget, the Australian Interactive Games Fund, a government body which supported independent developers, was scrapped.

According to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, this warrants a Senate Inquiry.

"Five years ago, Australia had a burgeoning video game development sector employing thousands of talented people in this rapidly growing industry," Senator Ludlam said in a post on the Greens website.

"Internationally, companies have experienced strong growth thanks to smart government support and favourable regulatory settings. In Australia, no such luck: the sector has been treated like the poor cousin of the creative industries, culminating in the Abbott Government's decision to close the $20 million Australian Interactive Games Fund, just 12 months after it was established."

The Inquiry, Senator Ludlam said, aims to establish the benefits the game development sector could bring to Australia, and what the government could be doing to support the industry.

Brisbane-based development studio Defiant Development had been receiving funding from the AIGF. The removal of the fund was poorly thought out, said Defiant Development's founder Morgan Jaffit.

"The fund was removed without any process of consultation, part-way through its planned three-year term. That was incredibly short sighted, as the fund hadn't had time to have an impact at that point," he explained.

"We're now starting to see the results of that funding, and it's been extraordinary. A stream of critical and commercial successes has eventuated as a direct result -- [Defiant Development's] Hand of Fate, Bonza, Framed, and more. We've built our business into the position where we're a solid employer helping to develop the next generation of Australian game developers."

Unlike the IT Pricing Inquiry into the cost of IT products in Australia, the results of which were delivered in 2013, and which had little effect on the Australian market, Senator Ludlam's inquiry will provide statistics that can be used to bolster arguments for supporting Australian developers.

"I think it's high time that we started looking at the actual short and long term benefits to the economy and culture of local game development. I expect an inquiry to give us concrete figures to point at in future discussions, in terms that our elected representatives can understand and appreciate," Jaffit said.

"Ultimately, games are one of the most consumed forms of entertainment in the world today. A thriving Australian industry not only makes economic sense, it gives us an Australian voice in modern culture, and helps to provide jobs to the many game students currently graduating. On every axis, it makes sense -- I expect the inquiry to reach similar conclusions, and help to move the conversation forward."

The Inquiry, which will be conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, will be accepting submissions in the coming days, and is scheduled to deliver its findings on April 1, 2016.