GAME DEVELOPERS HAVE ‘LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE’

By Danny Saba

Game developers will have more job opportunities over the coming years as the industry in Australia changes and government funding begins to roll out.

Screen Australia’s Investment Manager Mike Cowap said there is going to be a lot of demand for new entrants into the industry.

“The barrier for entry is really low now in terms of being able to sit down and make your own game in your own time and self-release,” he said.

“It is lightning in a bottle.

“Recipients of games enterprise are going to be hiring and the recipients of game production funding are going to need teams to put their games together.

“If these businesses grow, find new revenue streams to tap into and retain their own IP, they will become more profitable.”

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But freelance writer and industry professional Paul Callaghan said traditional game development jobs such as studio and digital labour jobs will decline.

“The games industry is evolving to more closely mirror other creative industries,” he said.

While this presents a challenge for some, Professor Callaghan said it also presents “really interesting opportunities” for new jobs in the industry.

“Cultural institutions, education, social enterprise and traditional media are all engaging with games in new ways on exciting projects,” he said.

The government also announced, in November 2012, a $20 million Australian Interactive Games Fund and studios are now beginning to see the roll-out.

Former arts minister Simon Crean said the aim of the fund was to support one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy.

“This $20 million fund will help build a sustainable base for the Australian interactive entertainment industry to respond and grow in a global market,” he said in a media release.

Screen Australia was given the task of distributing the money and Mr Cowap said the money will be spent in three different ways.

“One is the support of businesses through our enterprise programs, so businesses will get an injection of cash over three years,” he said.

“Another will go out for games production.

“Finally, sector building funding will be provided for industry bodies to fund their events and boost their ambition.”

But Mr Callaghan said the fund ignores an essential part of the creative industry.

“The first year is heavily business focused with the aims of growing existing studios,” he said.

“This misses support for emerging or experimental practitioners from whom interesting and innovative projects are more likely to emerge.”

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The Working in Australia’s Digital Games Industry Consolidation Report showed the strengths and weaknesses of the video game industry in Australia.

The report said that competitive advantages for the industry include “good levels of State government assistance and an increasing pool of local talent”.

But the report also said Australia’s biggest challenge was its reputation as a “niche player” because of the small size of the industry in comparison to overseas competition.

Brisbane based game developers Halfbrick Studios are the makers of the world’s second most popular smartphone game by iTunes sales.

Halfbrick Studios Community Co-ordinator James Schultz said the small size of the industry is an advantage.

“We want to maintain our work culture and tight-knit bonds,” he said.

“We do not want to be a studio that has 300 people and you do not know everybody’s name.”

Mr Schultz also said there is a changing trend for game development studios in Australia to favour small teams over “traditional big budget production” teams.

In terms of job prospects Mr Schultz said there has been a big shift in focus for the games industry over the last 10 years.

“One of the big differences is the rise of mobile gaming and digital distribution,” he said.

“It is a lot easier for people to get their games out and seen by so many people.”

But Mr Schultz said because the barrier for entry is lower, the market itself is more competitive.

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