Australia will invest $20 million over three years in the video game industry through an Interactive Games Fund, the Commonwealth announced today.
“This fund will assist the sector to reclaim their competitive advantage and support the development of games in Australia, investing in the intellectual property of our creative businesses to give them a stronger position internationally,” arts minister Simon Crean said today at the 2012 Screen Producers Association of Australia conference.
“If we do it properly, treat it as a down payment, because there’s much to be done into the future,” Crean said.
Screen Australia will administer the Interactive Games Fund and report on its impact, Crean said. A decision on how to distribute the grant money will be made next year and the first distribution will happen by the end of the financial year, he said.
States are also investing in games. Last month, New South Wales announced a $291,000 investment in four digital media projects using funding from Screen NSW’s $3 million Interactive Media Fund.
The investment represents a recognition by the government of a growing video game industry in Australia, said Crean.
“The gaming sector is in many ways the natural extension of film – with the interactive dimension,” said Crean. “The sector is a major employer and local start-up companies like Melbourne-based Voxel Agents have seen its Train Conductor series downloaded more than 5 million times.”
“More established companies like Brisbane’s Halfbrick Studios which now has offices in Sydney and San Francisco had its game Fruit Ninja downloaded over 300 million times,” he said. “Major global publishers including EA, THQ, Take 2, Rockstar and SEGA have either owned or commissioned studios in Australia over the years.”
However, the gaming industry also faces “a major market shift from big console-based package games distributed by retailers to digital distribution,” Crean said.
In a radio interview on 3AW Mornings, Crean said that at first he didn’t like the idea of a video game fund.
“I was quite dismissive of it,” he said. “I thought they were just games people play but it’s more than that.
“They’re educational games, they’re entertainment games, they’re interactive games and they’re smart applications that are being developed.”
Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam