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A Call Of Duty To Create The Jobs Of Tomorrow

13/11/2015 5:01 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Call Of Duty Black Ops

Like many parents, I've noticed that there is a new family member: the screen. Trying to talk to the kids can sometimes be met with: "Can't talk now, Dad, I've just got to finish this". Announcing dinner usually is a set up for: "I'll be there in a minute, this can't be saved". I wonder what there is going on that has led them to have such close relationships with their screens that they will let the pizza grow cold.

But each one of my kids are just like millions of other Australians -- adults included -- who are participating in our largest and fastest growing entertainment industry.

Bigger than watching movies, bigger than sitting in front of the TV, bigger than listening to music -- the games industry in Australia is now worth $2.43 billion every year. Only when you include live performances, news and documentaries, to create a total of $2.87 billion, do the other entertainment industries stack up larger than games.

Most importantly, this is a figure that grew 20 percent in 2014 alone. This should be no surprise when looking at the statistics. Games are consumed across every demographic in a way that no other entertainment service could ever be. Gamers span ages and brackets, with 47 percent of gamers being women and 19 percent being over 50. I know that even my wife can become drawn in, using Candy Crush to pass the time during winter evenings.

The diversity of appeal means that anyone can be bought into playing a game, either at home or on a device. Its availability, mobility and interaction make games the perfect time-filler. Ninety three percent of households will have a device to play games, up from 76 percent a decade ago, and most of these devices and now also our phones.

More than this, games represent a product and an industry that is thriving without government support. International movies and TV made in Australia can apply for a 30 percent Location Tax Offset or a 16.5 percent Film Producer Offset, money that can be claimed back instead of going to the tax man.

However, often these offsets aren't claimed by small movie studios producing local content but by multibillion dollar operations looking to cash in on the glitter and glamour they can bring to Australia. The government will spend nearly $1billion on film offsets alone to have the industry presence in Australia.

The production and development side of the games industry, on the other hand, is making its money simply by applying ingenuity.

In Brisbane, Half Brick Studios have helped contribute to many an hour of procrastination with their game Fruit Ninja. Designed for the iPhone and released in April 2010, by September that year it had sold over 2 million copies. In September this year, that reached over 1 billion copies.

In Victoria, two developers -- one from Melbourne and one from the rural town of Creswick -- have created Crossy Road. A brilliant cockatoo remake of the Seinfeld-famous game Frogger, when the game turns one later this month it will have 100 million downloaders to wish it happy birthday.

When you consider that it is Australian start-ups that generated over one million jobs between 2006 and 2011, it is incredibly promising that these companies are achieving success without government support. Instead, using crowdfunding and innovative business management, these companies are able to support themselves and create jobs.

However, a complementary regulatory environment would give our games industry an advantage in a competitive global environment. With a new emphasis on innovation and the need to invest in Australia's economic strengths, there are few that fit the bill like games.

Unlike the film and television industries, games development skills can be applied across many different sectors. Gamification and software development are now an intrinsic part of many businesses, from defence to medical research, recruitment to engineering.

In New Zealand, the support of the games industry has been delivered through a start-up hub that supports entrepreneurs who have ideas to develop. In addition to this, legalising crowdfunding for equity has meant greater access for investment for games developers.

Australia should be taking these examples to heart, particularly in light of the games industry's successes. A modernisation of our film and television rebate scheme to capture the games industry and the legalisation of crowdsourced equity funding should be considered.

Venture capital is also a key to bridging the gap on a good idea and a blockbuster game. Australia should be leveraging its advantage as the 8th most popular destination for venture capital investment. Of the $516 million of venture capital invested in Australia last year, 75 percent was in communications technology.

However, due to outdated regulations, particularly around Collective Investment Vehicles, the overseas investor will see 15 percent less on their return. We should use the opportunity of the tax reform white paper to address these barriers to growth in the industry.

An industry that is as innovative and expansive as games needs to be a core part of our economic vision. Not only does it capture the attention of everyone at home, it has also captured the future of our entertainment sector as a whole.

The screen and its games have settled in as new family members for good. We should be looking to harness the love of today's gamers to create the jobs of tomorrow.

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