Last week, FTI (The Film and Television Institute of WA, FYI) released the results of their WA games industry scoping survey. Naturally, I wanted to write a piece on it (this one, specifically) because it was really interesting, but I fell into a bit of a dilemma. While it’s great to see FTI investigating what’s holding local devs back and how to support them, I doubt anyone’s actually going to be interested in the report’s content. Why? Because stats are lame. Like, who even does maths any more? The kids these days don’t want numbers, they want bling, zazz, they want some god damn X-Factor rammed down their throat from the all you can eat buffet of ironic self-indulgence. So, to keep things interesting, I’m pulling out the one thing guaranteed to keep people interested: #hashtags.
Stats are #boring, but a well placed #hashtag? That’s #mastercard #priceless. I could just say, ‘60% of Perth devs own their own studio’, but that’s practically Atlas Shrugged compared to, ‘60% of Perth devs own their own studio #indielyfe #getonmylevel #undervalued #fundingpls’. The #hashtag isn’t here to make fun of the facts, it’s here to give them some #deepermeaning without drowning you in jargon as exciting as a 3rd-grade pottery class #primaryschoolplaya. Back to the matter at hand, the FTI survey is actually quite enlightening regarding the #localscene, even if it does paint a rather depressing picture. I won’t talk about everything inside it #boredtodeath, but I do want to point out some #keyfindings.
As part of their growing interactive division, FTI conducted a survey some time around March to help them find out how healthy Perth’s local gaming scene is. This fact alone is a good sign for the Perth scene, since it means established organisations are recognising the importance of video games as a medium in popular culture #gamesarelegit. This also means that at least one organisation is taking funding video games very seriously, which is nice considering the government dropped support for video games a while back, which was a bit of a #dickmove (and even when it was available, it wasn’t exactly easy to get). The report itself is divided into two sections: Students #poorpeople and Practitioners #poorcompanies, but both paint a similar picture.
Could this be the new gaming capital of the world? Eeeeeehhhh…
From the practitioners viewpoint, like Stirfire or Gnomic studios, it’s a #bleak situation. Only 13.2% of respondents had an annual income of $50,000 or more, with 73.3% of respondents making less than $15,000 annually from games #devpoverty #confirmed. For comparison, a Jeep is $35k driveaway, so they’d be working for two and a bit years to be in one of those terrible ads. What’s even more alarming is that 75.1% of these guys devote more than 20 hours a week to making games #basicallyajob. It’s not hugely surprising that the biggest perceived challenges were a lack of funding/development support #norespect #nohelp, and the lack of established studios/job opportunities #nosystem #nowork. So, yeah, #bleak.
Thankfully, students seem a bit more #optimistic about the local scene, but are very aware of the struggles. When asked what kind of jobs they would be looking into after graduating, the highest rated responses were working for an indie/boutique studio #indielyfe, starting their own #likeaboss, or finding some other games-related job #noidea. When asked about expected salary, 70.9% expected to be making at least $35k within 5 years #yearlyjeep #livethedream. What’s interesting is that 58% of students thought solely making money off games wasn’t a realistic outcome #worthlessgames #nodolla4u. Students perceived challenges much the same as the practitioners #nohelp #nowork, and 75.7% of students thought they would need to relocate for work, which is hardly surprising given Victoria’s funding scheme #move2money #young #dowhatiwant. So, if you’re still with me, what the hell can we make of all this data, and are we as boned as it sounds?
Looking at these numbers, two things are obvious to me #mathdegree #statsnerd. The obvious one is that Perth is still an infantile contributor to the global industry, and that probably isn’t going to change any time soon #smallPerth #bigheart. The lack of any established studios is seen as the biggest challenge, regardless of demographic #nowork, but because no one is making any money #poorcompanies, no one can establish anything sizable #nogrow. Most devs are already working ridiculous hours to make games that don’t make them any money, and since there’s no funding/support to help them, they don’t really have the freedom to pursue anything bigger or more profitable #stuck.
We had something like 1600 people through the doors at The Perth Games Festival, and yet we have no formalised system to support developers.
The other implication gouging out my eyes like a recently born murderer is that no one knows how to market their games #whynobuy. To work so many hours and receive so little payment in return is either the fault of the consumer #peoplesuck or the person marketing it #marketingsucks. I’d be lying if I said I thought Perth games were doing a good job of exposing themselves #silent, even with games like Paradigm, Freedom Fall, and Square Heroes being produced #butdeadly. It’s probably not surprising to know that 70% of respondents (both students and practitioners) were interested in indie marketing workshops #teachpls, which means the problem is hardly a secret #NOTSECRET, but I think it’s part of a deeper issue.
Right now, most devs are working alone, which I don’t think is productive at all #opinions. 42.9% of practitioners are sole operators, which means their ‘companies’ are actually just them #onmyown. The benefit is that you know exactly what’s happening with your game #mygame, and you’re not at the behest of others #mycompany, but successful endeavours involving only one person are as common as meetings with the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg. It’s difficult enough as a team to get people to play your game, let alone by yourself #onemanteam #nopenopenope. Atop that, a lot of Perth devs (50%, in fact) are under 25 years old, which means they probably lack the experience to make a high quality game and successfully sell it on their own to begin with… But what option do they have? There’s #nowork, #nosupport, and it’s unlikely anything big is going to happen any time soon #stuck. Well, that’s not entirely true.
The guys who wrote the report this whole article is basically plagiarising (#journalism #atitsfinest) are actually leading the charge on supporting Perth video games. Realising the $93 billion market of video games was, well, there #untapped, FTI recently announced funding support for up and coming Perth developers #woosupport. It basically offers up to $15k for rookie devs to get a game off the ground, prior to moving on to bigger and better endeavours. It’s not a huge buff to the local scene #fornoobs #notkings, but it’s frakkin’ there #real, and that’s what matters. While it’s aimed to alleviate the entry-level issues that up and coming devs can face, it’s also hoping to #createsupport.
Regardless of making no money, we still try to get as much as interest as we can, sometimes through giant puzzle games.
While it’s great to see FTI trying to stimulate the local industry #stopgiggling, there’s not a lot they can do outside of small, one-off funds, but hopefully some bigger players follow suite #GET #OVER #HERE. The federal government is the obvious target here, especially since they are one of the few institutions capable of profoundly changing the circumstances devs must operate within #screenwestpls. Sure, Kickstarter and other crowd-funding services allow devs to get funding, but that’s totally, always, 100% ended well when it comes to video games #stahp. If the Perth scene is going to get anywhere substantial, we either need to start making so much money off games that Gina Rinehart gets envious #toppletheturtle, or we need a boost to set up something worthy of global attention. It’s hard to sell the idea of funding games from ‘but if we had money’, but seriously, if we had money #hoobaby.
Currently, the only AAA company is Australia is 2K over in Canberra. While those guys play the global-market game #Steam #Borderlands, every one else is squandering in the back trying to sort themselves out. If, and this is a big if, we had money to establish a studio to sell games globally, I don’t doubt for a second Perth devs could pull it off #faith #confidence. We’re already showing off games like Paradigm and Freedom Fall, games cobbled together in spare hours, and yet we hesitate to back up this talent with concrete funding to let these devs pursue their creations more freely. It’s obvious that no one’s making enough money to do anything themselves #poorpeople #poorcompanies, and there are no structures in place to change that. Surely any investor can see the potential in the $93 billion industry sitting just left of the Indian ocean. If nothing happens, we’ll keep plodding along #smallPerth, but if we want to beat Victoria #boo #boourns, we’ll need a helping hand.
We have a strong community making heaps of games, but it’s unable to fulfill it’s own potential.
So, how’s Perth looking? Rife with squandered potential, that’s how, have you even been paying attention!? #jeez. We’ve got the devs, now we just #needfunding. FTI has definitely helped with their newest scheme, but if we really want to try our hand at the global market, we’ll need a bit more to work with. Until then (which will probably be never), there’s a clear yearning for #marketingclasses to help the strugglers get their games out there and struggle a little less. It’s not the most uplifting picture, but it’s #gettingthere. Like a blooming flower… But with more coding.
Editor’s Note: The What, Why, and WTF is a fortnightly article series that explores the culturally pervasive elements of gaming, those parts of video games that seem to have left some mark on gaming as a whole or Nick just finds really interesting. It is in no way an academic source, despite liking to pretend it is.