Australia can't afford to ignore gaming: Simon Crean
FEDERAL Arts Minister Simon Crean readily admits he was "dismissive" when the idea of putting up federal funding for Australia's gaming industry was first raised with him.
But there was one figure which made the veteran politician sit up and take notice.
Gaming is one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy and is tipped to become a $90 billion a year industry by 2015. In Australia it is already a $1.5 billion industry.
It's a number Mr Crean says Australia cannot afford to ignore.
"Now Australia ... has to get a slice of the action, and Australia has some of the world's best in this space," Mr Crean said on Melbourne radio.
He was speaking after revealing at the Screen Producers Association of Australian national conference that the Federal Government would establish a $20 million Australian Interactive Games Fund.
Screen Australian will administer the fund, with the $20 million spread over three years. It was hoped the fund would be operating by March, with $5 million available in the first two years jumping to $10 million in the third year.
Mr Crean used the film Happy Feet to explain the concept of interactive gaming to radio host Neil Mitchell, who asked if the fund was "welfare for nerds".
"Now I started with the same position as you Neil until I went to George Miller's studios in Sydney," he said.
"He did Happy Feet and he had all these people working on the animation not just for the film, but the animation for the extension of the film - the interactive game."
The fund will also help people develop game ideas for a number of platforms including apps for iPhones and tablets.
He cited the example of Queensland company Halfbrick Studios - maker of the popular app Fruit Ninja - to show the work being done in Australia.
The Fruit Ninja app for iPhones and iPads has been downloaded hundreds of millions of times around the world.
"Australian games studios are recognised internationally for their skill and originality in developing interactive games played all over the world but the local industry is coming under increased pressure in the midst of a major market shift," he said.
"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."
Game developers and start-up companies will be invited to apply for funding, with Screen Australia to develop guidelines over the coming months following consultation with the gaming industry.
The money will be drawn from funding allocated in the May budget for the National Cultural Policy.
Game Developers' Association of Australia CEO Tony Reed said the fund was "fantastic news" for the gaming industry.
"The games industry has gone beyond the entertainment space with games now used in education, healthcare and training. We look forward to working with the Federal Government to create a program that supports growth and stability, secures jobs, encourages innovation and creativity, and promotes investment in Australian talent and capability globally," Mr Reed said.