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Review of Interactive Games and multiplatform funding

On 11 March 2013, Screen Australia released final guidelines for a suite of new interactive and multiplatform programs which incorporate Federal Government funding through the Australian Interactive Games Fund, as well as funding previously provided through the agency's former multi-platform programs.

industry consultation, including an options paper on the Interactive Games Fund in December 2013, and the release on 15 February 2013, of draft guidelines.

The feedback received on the draft guidelines has helped Screen Australia to further refine the programs taking into account the needs and characteristics of the games industry, and to provide for fair, clear and consistent application processes and funding decisions. Some comments sought clarification on particular issues, which Screen Australia was able to address through the online discussion board, as well as helping us adjust the wording where necessary to further clarify our reasoning and expectations for applicants.

The areas that attracted the most comment were the credit and experience eligibility criteria for both games programs: Games Production and Games Enterprise.

Opportunities for entry-level games practitioners

Some submissions were concerned that the eligibility criteria for both programs would preclude applications from entry-level developers and companies formed by recent graduates.

Screen Australia continues to believe that the most effective way to target the funds available is to focus direct funding on developers and companies with a minimum level of experience rather than entry-level practitioners or start-ups. New business partnerships and alliances are encouraged, however, and talented practitioners with less experience may be able to partner with others who have the required level of experience in meeting the criteria.

Entry level practitioners are also expected to benefit from new staffing opportunities offered by Games Enterprise companies, and from sector building activities funded or co-funded by Screen Australia.

Eligibility criteria: Games Production

Some submissions argued that the credits and experience requirement should be more flexible to take into account the discrepancy between the length of the game development cycle for large scale PC and console games, compared to games for mobile devices.  Further, requiring a creative team to include someone with a credit in the most senior production role was seen as unnecessarily burdensome. A credit in a senior art role should carry as much weight as senior roles in design or programming.

Other submissions noted that solo developers would be ineligible for Games Production funding if the criteria set out in the draft guidelines were applied.

Screen Australia has amended the eligibility criteria for Games Production to better acknowledge the characteristics of the games development process.

The guidelines now require a creative team to include at least two ‘experienced games practitioners’, each of whom needs to have either a minimum number of credits, or a minimum level of experience in a senior development role on a large scale PC or console game.

A solo developer may apply if they have created and released a minimum number of publicly available games as a solo developer.

The final guidelines define senior development role as 'a leading role in the areas of production, design, art or programming'.

Eligibility criteria: Games Enterprise

A few submissions noted that the requirement for a minimum of five years experience in the industry was too limiting. As with Games Production, there was also concern that the requirement for a minimum number of credits didn’t appropriately recognise experience on large scale PC and console games.

Games Enterprise applicants need to be able to demonstrate that they have the requisite experience, skills and knowledge to deliver the outcomes outlined in their business development plans.

Screen Australia is satisfied that requiring at least one company director to have a minimum number of years participation in the industry is necessary to achieve this.

However, as with Games Production, we have revised the credit requirements for the company’s Key Principals (which can include both company directors and creative team members integral to the Games Enterprise business plan) to allow for experience on large-scale titles as an alternative to a minimum number of credits. (Note also that the company director who possesses the required “five years in the industry” can also be included in satisfying the Key Principals credit requirements.)

Third party investment or marketplace attachment

Some submissions argued that games that had attracted third party investment and marketplace attachments should be favoured over projects that haven’t attracted significant investment. Conversely, there was also concern that teams who intended to self-publish their project on a platform that did not require a marketplace attachment such as Apple’s App Store, would be placed at a disadvantage when competing with projects for platforms that require a marketplace relationship, such as console games for Playstation or Xbox platforms.

Mobile games without a marketplace attachment will not be inherently at a disadvantage relative to console games. The criteria for funding decisions - regardless of platform -incorporate elements such as the ongoing development/release plan, and appropriateness and viability for marketing strategies, as well as proportion of overall budget provided through other/third party sources.

If a project has raised additional finance from the market, this would be taken into account during the assessment process and may improve the competitiveness of the application. This would apply regardless of the intended distribution platform.

Accessibility of games

The issue of accessibility for people with a disability was raised, with Film Victoria’s criteria cited as an example of a possible approach.

Screen Australia’s final guidelines for both programs encourage applicants to develop games that are accessible to people with a disability to ensure that projects can reach the widest possible audience.

The guidelines state that, where possible, successful applicants should address relevant accessibility measures in their funded games, which may include among other things, configurable controls, variable difficulty levels, alternative sound settings, high visibility graphics and accessible menus. Links to further information and advice are also provided.

Games pre-production

Screen Australia received a small number of submissions arguing for the importance of pre-production funding. Most comments received did not address pre-production funding.

Taking into consideration the feedback from the earlier Industry consultation, Screen Australia has not introduced pre-production funding into final guidelines.