Justin Halliday from Screen Australia gives a rundown on the first twelve months of Screen Australia's Games Fund and some pointers for those looking to apply in the future.
Two months ago, a short documentary about the independent Australian gaming industry made for 'Opening Shot' competition for ABC2 was uploaded onto youtube (embedded below). More than a few people remarked on a specific comment made in the video by Woodley Nye (Hitbox Team) on a headcount of the Australian games industry where Woodley places his estimate at "maybe 500 people total in the country working on games". It had to be much too low of an estimate, they believed.
Unfortunately, Woodley was pretty much spot on.
Cast your minds back in 2011 when we released this infographic which, was based on Justin Brow's nation wide industry headcount, put that number at the time at 931. It was a shocking statistic, particularly when compared to other references we had placed in the infographic showing a rapid growth in numbers up to that point:
2008: ACMI'S headcount of the industry at 2,000 (admittedly based on somewhat unclear sources)
2007: 1,431 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey
2003: 700 from the Australian Film Commission
It's unfortunate that Justin received a whole lot of grief for his survey which led him to write a follow-up article explaining what that 931 number meant.
(Justin) ...I am trying to establish a reasonable picture of Full Time Employees (FTEs) in the Australian Games Industry today. If the figures are out, they’re out by 10s, not 100s (and I once again strongly encourage anyone who can help the accuracy of the count get in contact with me and thank those who have to date).
Many remarked that it wasn't a true representation of the local games industry numbers and did not include the whole scope of the games industry including developers who made edutainment, transmedia etc. And yes, some people even got really angry. But as a result of this specific survey, the Games Developers Association of Australia (GDAA) commissioned the Game Development Industry Survey in early 2012 to get a more thorough look at the games development sector.
Today, Screen Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the results of this survey, the first since five years ago where they had pegged industry numbers a 1,431 back then. The latest headcount is at just 581 people in games development.
From the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
Digital game developers
Digital game developers employed 581 persons at end June 2012. During 2011-12 these businesses generated $89.4m in income of which end-to-end digital game development income accounted for 49.6% (or $44.4m) and digital game development services income accounted for 48.5% (or $43.4m).
Production of digital games
During 2011-12 Digital game developers produced 245 digital games and incurred $49.9m in related production costs.
The average cost per production of digital games varied by format. Games produced exclusively for consoles (including handheld consoles) incurred the highest average cost per production ($1.2m). By contrast, games developed exclusively for mobile and web platforms had the lowest average cost per production ($74,000). These figures exclude titles developed simultaneously for multiple platforms, which incurred an average cost of $845,800 per production.
On the release of the ABS survey, Screen Australia's Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, noted the change in the local games industry which was dominated by large studios producing work-for-hire games on console platforms over five years ago...
“In the wake of the tough economic climate for the global entertainment industry, we have moved from a large, predominantly work-for-hire industry, to a smaller group of highly skilled developers making and self-publishing games for web and mobile platforms.
Federal Arts Minister, Tony Burke, announced today the successful recipients of the Games Enterprise program, part of the $20 million pledged for the Australian Interactive Games Fund announced last November. The program accessors, who include Siobhan Reddy and Rob Murray, chose the following ten local games developers to receive a total of $6 million of funding over the next three years...
- Defiant Development (QLD) Morgan Jaffit, Dan Treble
- ODD Games (SA) Ben Marsh, Terry O’Donoghue, David O’Donoghue
- Soap Creative (NSW) Ashley Ringrose, Bradley Eldridge
- Tantalus Media (VIC) Tom Crago
- Tin Man Games (VIC) Ben Britten Smith, Neil Rennison
- Torus Games (VIC) Bill McIntosh
- Twiitch (VIC) Steven Spagnolo, Shane Stevens
- Uppercut Games (NSW/ACT) Andrew James, Ryan Lancaster, Ed Orman
- The Voxel Agents (VIC) Simon Joslin, Matthew Clark
- Wicked Witch Software (VIC) Daniel Visser
The applicants of the Games Enterprise program had to fit a number of criteria, including having at least one company director with a minimum of five years participation in the games industry. The developers above were chosen based on the the quality and viability of their business plan, the experience, expertise and talents of the company, and the projects currently in development or proposed for future development.
Screen Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, summarises what the funding grant hopes to achieve for the Australian games industry...
(Fiona) “The successful companies represent a diverse range of Australian game studios, from start up companies to larger developers. Funding will ensure an expansion in the workforce, allowing smaller developers to gain critical mass and larger developers to shift from a reliance on work for hire to developing original projects”
The deadline for the Games Production fund is on the 12th of July. Visit Screen Australia for more details and the guidelines here.
As applications to the Games Enterprise program of the Australian Interactive Fund closes today, Screen Australia have announced two new Games industry experts to the games program assessment committee which already includes Screen Australia’s Investment Managers Mike Cowap and Justin Halliday. The committee will be looking through the applications received and working to decide which applicants will be allocated up to $1 million of funding over the next three years.
The new members of the committee are Siobhan Reddy (Studio Director at Media Molecule) and Rob Murray (founder of Firemint). From the Screen Australia...
Siobhan Reddy is Studio Director at Media Molecule, who created the hugely successful and innovative LittleBigPlanet game franchise. She was recently named Australian Woman of the Year in the UK and by the BBC as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. Cultivating an early fascination with fanzines, technology, pop culture and entertainment led to her first job at Spike Wireless. Siobhan entered the games industry at 18 years of age as Production Assistant at Perfect Entertainment in the UK on DiscWorld Noir. By 1999, she had joined Criterion Games as Producer where she consistently shipped high-quality titles including, Burnout 3 and Burnout 4.
Rob Murray has broad experience in the Australian games industry as an entrepreneur, designer, producer and engineer. In 1999, Rob founded Firemint, the critically acclaimed game developer and publisher best known for iPhone hits Real Racing and Flight Control. Firemint’s accolades include Design Awards from Apple, and the Federal Government’s Australian Exporter of the Year (Art & Entertainment). Rob has been personally recognised by Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards as well as the Pearcey IT award for taking a risk and making a difference in the development of the Australian ICT industry. Rob sold Firemint to NASDAQ listed Electronic Arts in 2011 and continued there as an executive producer until early 2013. He has also served terms as a director of Film Victoria and the Game Developers’ Association of Australia. Rob is currently pursuing investments in the broader technology industry.
Screen Australia will announce the successful applicants for the Games Enterprise Program at their Jobs, Dollars, Hearts & Minds conference in Canberra on the 18th of June, 2013.
It's here! Screen Australia have released the *final* guidelines for its new Interactive and Multi-platform programs. The programs grant over $30 million of funding spread over the next three years for various games development and multi-platform film projects. $20 million of it consists of new Federal Government funding including the Interactive Games Fund and other former programs.
Screen Australia’s Chief Executive, Ruth Harley, commented on the industry feedback which helped shaped the new guidelines...
(R. Harley) We were impressed by the number, scope and quality of the submissions received from industry organisations, as well as games studios and individuals. We were also pleased with the level of engagement across all our other consultation channels, including online platforms and face-to-face meetings. We’ve amended the draft guidelines in several areas as a result.
The final guidelines for each program are available from the Screen Australia website which are linked below. The important deadlines to apply to those specific programs are also listed:
Games Enterprise: 22 April
Games Production: 12 July
Signature Documentary (including Multi-platform Production): 22 March
Multi-platform Drama: 12 April
You can read Screen Australia's response to the feedback on the draft guidelines here!
Screen Australia have released the draft guidelines for their new interactive and multi-platform programs that will commit $30 million worth of funding for the next 3 years with $12 million assigned within the first 12 months. Screen Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, outlines the potential for the growing gaming sector and how these new programs can assist local games developers in taking advantage of that...
(Cameron) Games are growing faster than any other entertainment sector and Australian developers have had extraordinary global cut through as demonstrated by the success of home-grown games such as Real Racing, Fruit Ninja and LA Noir...
The pressure facing the industry is job migration and falling foreign investment. These programs released in draft today go a long way towards realising a strong and sustainable Australian games development sector, to ensure we tap into the huge global appetite for interactive entertainment.
Screen Australia proposes to distribute funding in the first 12 months through these programs:
- $4–5 million through Games Production, supporting games developers to produce individual games
- $2–3 million through Games Enterprise, supporting games development businesses to develop and enhance their sustainability, as well as fund ongoing development of their games projects
- $2–3 million through Multi-platform Drama Production, supporting individual multi-platform drama projects including innovative broadcast and online projects; targeted funds will also support multi-platform extensions for appropriate Screen Australia–funded film and television projects
- up to $2 million through Signature Documentary, expanded with an additional $500,000 to incorporate interactive and multi-platform projects as well as distinctive linear projects, supporting bold documentary storytelling for online and mobile platforms as well as big-screen film festivals
- approximately $400,000 for sector development and special initiatives.
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, is pleased with the industry involvement in the consultation process which helped guide the formation of these new programs...
I’m delighted the industry consultation process has generated so many innovative ideas around the ways to foster interactive and multi-platform content. It will ensure the great local talent in the industry continues to have a competitive advantage.
The draft for the new programs are available now for download on the Screen Australia website. Comments and feedback on the draft can be sent to email@example.com until the 1st of March, 2013.
Webinar held 18 December 2012 by Screen Australia as part of its consultation around the development of the Australian Interactive Games Fund. For more information visit the Screen Australia website: www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gamesconsult
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image was host yesterday to the Melbourne leg of the public forum for the Interactive Games Fund. It was the first of many to be organised by Screen Australia in a nation-wide open discussion on how to best utilise the new $20 million Interactive Games Fund so that it has a meaningful impact for the local games industry.
Registrations were completely filled for a packed out Melbourne audience at ACMI, and from the numerous topics that were brought up yesterday, the most prominent of them turned out to be the issue of "prototype funding". Two opposing camps clashed on the idea of allocating funds towards prototype funding, where funding goes into the early stages of a games project, from a proof of concept to the more complete vertical slice. Those who were for prototype funding were games students and smaller companies, and the idea gained additional support for the benefit of helping up-skill film/tv industry in their foray into games development...
(Jazrozz) More meanderings. The prototype funding concept was more favoured amongst the students and smaller companies. #gamesfund
(Alex Farrar) Love the idea if using prototype funding to up-skill creatives from the film/tv industry in games devt #gamesfund
However, prototype funding was staunchly opposed by Grant Davies from Endgame Studios, as well as Trent Kusters (previously from Torus Games and now heading up his own indie studio, League of Geeks). Both developers with decades of experience in the games industry had some strong words on Twitter against prototype funding...
(GrantTheAnt) Can we call prototyping funding what it actually is? Black hole expenditure. #gamesfund
Trent followed the same sentiment with a tweet which gained support from other experienced games developers, Tony Albrecht (previously from Ratbag Games, Pandemic Studios etc), and Paul Turbett (Interzone Games, Spinfast, and his indie studio Black Lab Games)
(Trent) Re; prototype funding. Complete waste of money/time. Do it yourself. Really, is there any instance where it should be gov funded? #GamesFund
Tony Albrecht @TonyAlbrecht
@TrentKusters I agree. If you are not willing to invest your own time and money into a prototype, then why should anyone else?
Paul Turbett @blacklabgames
@TrentKusters agreed.funding should help cre8 finished products, not experiment with ideas.If an idea is not worth yr resources don't do it
Due to the limitations of twitter, the issue on prototype funding has prompted both Grant and Trent to expand on their thoughts against it through their blogs. A highly informative post from Grant explained the different types of prototype funding (proof of concept, vertical slice, enterprise funding, production funding), and explains why most of these types do not warrant being funded by the games fund. Production funding, however, is where Grant believes we have the best chance of success. From Grant's post...
(Grant) Finally, there’s production funding, or funding a good game idea to completion from whatever stage it’s currently in. I think this is a great idea, and in my view where most if not all the money should go. The only thing that will drive the recovery of our local industry is strong original IP, Australian manufactured and Australian owned. It creates jobs, it trains workers, it brings in export revenue.
Grant also provides some compelling arguments against projects that target specific game platforms which he believes the Interactive Games Fund should not be supporting, and I think many would be inclined to agree with him. Considering the intense competition in markets such as the smartphones, tablets, and Social/Facebook, it makes much more sense to support projects that are multi-sku and aim for many platforms and markets...
(Grant) One caveat to the production funding is that I strongly believe smartphone/tablet/Facebook-only games should be prohibited. The reason is that these markets are far too fickle and hit-driven. I’m not saying iOS should be prohibited entirely, but that any project with iOS should be a multi-sku project, also targeting PC/eShop/XBLA/PSN, to mitigate the risks involved in smartphone.
It's hard to argue with Grant's points, and with the public forum kicking off in Adelaide today and then Brisbane, Sydney, and the Webinar next week, we are most definitely looking forward to further discussions that expand on this particular topic. Keep your eye out on the #GamesFund hashtag on twitter, follow the public discussions on the Australian Interactive Games Fund options paper, or RSVP to the public forum in your state or the online Webinar.
Screen Australia have released today the proposed options paper for the Australian Interactive Games Fund and has invited the local games industry for important feedback.
(Screen Australia) This options paper is intended to stimulate discussion and includes a number of key questions on which Screen Australia would like feedback. It outlines Screen Australia’s aims in providing funds to the industry and the principles underpinning how it might do this to make a meaningful impact. It also proposes several program options currently being considered as ways of targeting the support.
The Options paper is available online for download as a PDF file here. It's also available in six separate sections on the Screen Australia website with each topic accompanied with a comments area where you can provide your feedback and follow the discussion. Before posts can be made, however, you will need to provide authentication via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, or through the Disqus commenting system. Submissions can also be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org which will be added to the discussion online (unless specified not to).
Screen Australia will be accepting feedback on the optioncs paper until Friday the 25th, January 2013. Your feedback will be highly important in steering the course of the Australian Interactive Games Fund, so please take part!
There's also an important reminder for all those wanting to attend the public consultation forums that Screen Australia is holding for the Australian Interactive Games Fund that the chance to RSVP your spot is ending real soon. This is the last day to RSVP for the Melbourne forum which is on tomorrow and the other states (in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or the online webinar) will be closing registrations soon after, so please RSVP as soon as possible to secure your spot!
For the dates and further details the public forum, head on to our news item here.
In its capacity as the Federal Government’s key agency for providing support to the screen production sector, Screen Australia has been charged with administering the new $20 million Interactive Games Fund to help build a sustainable base for the Australian interactive entertainment industry. The agency will develop funding guidelines in consultation with the games sector to develop the best possible funding program.
Screen Australia invites the games sector to attend public forums being held in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane or to participate in a webinar to discuss and comment on a options paper. The options paper will be made available on Monday 10 December via Screen Australia’s website.
To stay up to date with the latest information on the Interactive Games Fund like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/InteractiveGamesFund and join the conversation on Twitter using #GamesFund.
Dates and details for the forums and webinar below. RSVP essential.
Tuesday 11 December
Venue: ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne
RSVP by Monday 10 December: email@example.com
Wednesday 12 December
Venue: Adelaide Studios, 226 Fullarton Road, Glenside
RSVP by Monday 10 December: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday 17 December
Venue: Auditorium, Department of Housing & Public Works, 111 George Street, Brisbane
RSVP by Thursday 13 December: email@example.com
Tuesday 18 December
Venue: Screen Australia Theatrette, Level 1, 150 William Street, Woolloomooloo
RSVP by Friday 14 December: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 18 December
Details for joining the webinar will be sent via email a few days prior to the webinar.
RSVP by Friday 14 December: email@example.com