Game on for WA’s gaming industry

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WA’s government has thrown some initial support behind the state’s gaming industry, announcing a pilot under the New Industries Fund…

Although details are scarce, earlier this month WA’s Innovation Minister Dave Kelly committed at least $50,000 to a new program for the local gaming industry, which will seek to showcase WA on the world stage.

Included in the pilot is funding to take ten West Australians to game industry events worldwide.

A spokesperson for the New Industries Fund said the games industry growth pilot program is about more than a trip abroad.

“Travel grants under the International Access Pass will provide recipients with a cash grant for a limited number of activities, such as event registration and flights, and will be a competitive program,” she said.

“Recipients will also receive commercialisation skilling to help them optimise the opportunity that these events offer.

“Eligibility for the program is still under consideration, but we expect the program will be accessible to people working in game development studios and many other types of organisations as well.”

Engagement intelligence expert and games designer Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie told Startup News she’s disappointed it’s taken this long for the state government to fund an industry worth more than $100 billion globally.

“It’s actually bigger than film and music combined, so in terms of what we fund it doesn’t really make sense that we’re not supporting it, because it’s a massive industry,” she said.

“It connects with a whole bunch of innovative technologies like VR and AR and we have all this talent and it helps to bring innovation and jobs and money into the state, but we’re not supporting it, we’re losing out it to Melbourne and to other countries.”

Dr Raynes-Goldie said she’s hoping the pilot program will eventually expand to include development funding, similar to Victoria’s model, which in May provided $550,000 in funding to nine projects.

First steps

The announcement of the pilot program is the first sign of government interest in WA’s gaming industry since the Australian Interactive Games Fund lost funding from the federal government in 2014.

Black Lab Games founder Paul Turbett, who received $50,000 shortly before the Fund closed, said his business shows why government funding is so valuable.

“Basically it made Black Lab Games possible,” he said.

“As a result of that grant, I left the job and went full-time and was able to bring in some other people to help out on the project.

“That in turn led to us getting the licence to do the Battlestar Galactica game.”

Dr Raynes-Goldie said stories like Paul’s show the tough environment WA game developers have operated in – an environment she says holds the industry in good stead moving forward.

“I think we’re really scrappy, and I think we’re able to do a lot with a little, so if we actually had the same kind of resources that they have in Melbourne I think we’d be able to do something quite powerful,” she said.

“We have just under 10% of the games industry of Australia and that’s based on having nothing [in terms of project funding].”

Murdoch University’s Academic Chair of Games Technology, Shri Rai, said he hoped the program would eventually bring an international developer into WA.

“If a lot of the work is being done over here, then it becomes useful for big companies to setup shop here,” he said.

“If one of the studios from one of the big companies – EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard – sets up shop over here, it will kick start everything.”

As for what happens next, the government said they’ll be asking for public comment before moving forward.

“The Government will invite input on the pilot through an online survey,” a spokesperson said.

“A link to the survey will be published on the Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation website and more detail on the International Access Pass will be available at that point for comment.”

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You can read the New Industries Fund’s full announcement here.

STOP PRESS: The announcement about who received the $20K innovation vouchers is expected soon.