Comment: Why IGEA thinks Australia is the next big games hub

This is a guest post from IGEA CEO Ron Curry.

Ron Curry, IGEA CEO

LA, Montreal, Tokyo, London, Seoul, Helsinki. These are the places that come to mind when we think of game development, right? It will soon be time to add Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to that list. Actually, make that all of Australia as our Federal Government, as part of its Digital Economy Strategy, will soon be introducing a generous and globally competitive Digital Games Tax Offset (DGTO) of 30% to foreign (and local) studios wanting to establish a base in Australia.

Recently announced by the Arts Minister, the Honourable Paul Fletcher MP and the Digital Economy Minister, Senator the Honourable Jane Hume, the DGTO will be available from July 2022 onwards, with projects needing to have a minimum qualifying spend of half a million dollars (around USD $375 million). In addition, a number of Australian states like Victoria and South Australia provide existing funding and incentives for the game development industry.  

Offering both grant-based funding as well as a rebate, Victoria is well recognised as being ‘the hub’ for video game development in the nation, housing globally renowned studios such as Sledgehammer Games, EA Firemonkeys, Big Ant, Keywords, Playside and Hipster Whale. South Australia likewise offers a generous 10% rebate for games, with an expanding local industry anchored by Mighty Kingdom, which was recently listed on the stock exchange. 

The overall incentive package to come to Australia is pretty enticing right now. Furthermore, if you’re looking to work adjacent to gaming and explore the broader digital economy, Australia has several active grants and incentives in related sectors, including AI, drones and cybersecurity, as well as a broad-based research and development (R&D) tax incentive of up to 43.5%. 

Australian studios have a long and proven track record in making games, producing critically and commercially successful titles including Untitled Goose Game, Fruit Ninja, Crossy Road, Hollow Knight, Oregon Trail, Battlestar Galactica, Armello and Real Racing to name a few. AAA game development is also returning to Australia in full force, with Sledgehammer Games leading development of the next Call of Duty. We know that the idea of satellite offices in Australia is particularly appealing to North American and European studios, as it allows for a 24-hour development cycle.

Survey data from the Australian video games peak industry body, the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA), showed that the Australian games development industry grew its revenue by 29% since 2019 despite the global pandemic. A more recent survey found that local studios reported increased or stable revenues over the past 12 months, as well as enhanced employment opportunities for both local and overseas talent. The Australian industry continues to prove to be adaptable and flexible, with 60% of respondents moving to a hybrid model of work, balancing time between the office and home.  

With a thriving and expanding local Australian industry, the Federal Government has recognised the importance of allowing a smooth transition back to Australia for the many successful game developers that left after the GFC, plus a simplified migration pathway for international developers and studios wanting to establish a base here. In fact, the Federal Government created the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce, led by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Peter Verwer AO, which, along with the Government’s investment promotion arm Austrade, can aid in fast tracking visa applications, providing certainty of permanent residency, facilitating relocation of company executives, key staff and their families, and providing tailored advice and connections to help migrants.

There has also been a doubling of occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) which will be given priority processing for migration and travel exemptions, subject to domestic quarantine caps. The new occupations include ‘Multimedia Specialists’ and ‘Software Engineers’, two roles that are crucial in video game development. Both roles are part of the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List, which offers a pathway to permanent residency in Australia.

All of these initiatives and incentives mean that overseas studios and talent should now look to Australia as their number one destination for expansion and job opportunities. We know many studios are already doing so. This is coupled with an opportunity for local studios to grow and source more offshore talent while encouraging the many talented Australian expat game developers to return home. 

We couldn’t talk up Australia as a great place for studios without talking about Australia as a great place to live. The Economist has ranked Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane within the ten most liveable cities for 2021 (with Sydney as number 11). Expats and new migrants can enjoy an excellent quality of life with an enviable work life balance, and even more job opportunities soon to be on offer. 

IGEA is thrilled that Australia is creating the right policy levers to attract, support and house game developers from around the world. Australia has a talented, vibrant, creative, successful and digitally literate community who will continue to drive Australia towards being an absolute powerhouse for the global video game development industry. Go on. Get over here.

For further information on our association, please visit: https://igea.net

For more information on the Federal Government’s investment support, please visit: https://www.globalaustralia.gov.au/industries/digital-games.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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