How rebates are helping the South Australian games industry grow

The South Australian games industry has been receiving beneficial government rebates since June, providing incentives for bigger development projects.

So the Australian games industry, and especially the South Australian games industry, isn’t known for its AAA blockbuster titles. You’re not likely to see an Australian studio churn out something on the scale of a Call of Duty instalment, for example. The developers that we have down under are far more likely to be recognised for producing small-budget indie titles, like Team Cherry for Hollow Knight, or House House for Untitled Goose Game.

The state government of South Australia seems to be hoping to goad its local games industry toward increasing in scale, if this piece of financial prompting is any indication. Recently, the government has begun dangling a 10 percent rebate on eligible production costs over $250,000, as long as the money is spent within the state. For now, the plan will cover expenses incurred between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2022.

Hollow Knight Promo
Image: Hollow Knight / Team Cherry

While the Australian games industry does have a select few mid-to-large sized studios, the scene here is dominated by small studios that list only a handful of employees – usually less than a dozen. The end result is a huge disparity between the number of students graduating from tertiary games development courses and the number of jobs the industry offers.

According to this 2016 parliamentary report on the Australian games industry, over 5,000 enrolled students would be vying for positions in an industry that only employs 1000 “active participants”.

This leaves graduating students with only limited choices. They might form or join an indie studio, hoping that the title they develop will become a hit rather than disappearing into the ocean of obscurity, or they take their skills overseas to join a larger, more established company. Either way, Australia is losing vital talent that could help it tap deeper into the existing multi-billion dollar gaming industry.

Untitled Goose Game Screenshot
Image: Untitled Goose Game / House House

The hope for the government seems to be that, by offering studios the chance to recoup expenses on larger-scale productions, they might be incentivised to employe more workers, which would strengthen the industry as a whole.

If you happen to be a South Australian game developer, or if you’re just curious, you can check out all the gritty details on the South Australian Film Corporation website here.