In Australia 2009 has seen the closing of game development studios Pandemic and Transmission Games as well as the contraction of many more, in this climate of contraction and economic gloom Game Connect Asia Pacific 2009 has kicked off in Melbourne.
The first day of the conference contained two distinct streams of the video-game industry; health and education. In particular the education keynote was attended by many hopeful graduates looking at how they could break into an industry that on the surface seems to be contracting.
Chief Operating Officer of the Game Developers Association of Australia (GDAA), Mike McNabb opened the education stream with a keynote that remained positive about the state of the industry world-wide. McNabb describes the lively forum discussions as a ‘healthy debate’.
But McNabb is quick to point out that though the industry has suffered through 2009, Australia is still a vibrant successful place to work in the video-game industry: “You name the medium, you name the genre, you name the platform and there are games being made for them.”
McNabb also put up statistics, showing the video-game industry in Australia as bigger than the DVD or Film industry and tracking a close second to Music as entertainment that Australians spend money upon.
Firemint, the studio behind the wildly successful iPhone games Flight Control and Real Racing was touted by McNabb as an example of just how much achievement can be had by companies despite the downturn in the economy.
For the future, McNabb sees optimism as key “there is a fair amount of optimism out there, whether it is real or not, you have to have optimism to be able to continue forward,”
But McNabb also acknowledges the need for changes “The days of having huge amounts of permanent staff, is something that will be looked at. Unless you continue to get the projects, day after day that is how companies get in trouble”
Ultimately McNabb confused his delivery of a positive message once questions from the floor arouse. After speaking about the trend towards digital distribution, and the globally connected industry, McNabb dashed a number of audience hopes by contradictorily (but most likely accurately) playing down the potential for industry growth in Australia.
“How many companies can have relationships with limited number of publishers”, McNabb hinted at this restricting growth, along with “sheer population size” as limiting factors for the industry.
What is wrong however, with the Australian industry growing current studios, or looking to establish home grown publishing outlets rather than relying on overseas companies that contract within their own boarders thus creating hardship for off-shore development hubs such as Australia?
Overall the opening keynote for GCAP09 was an honest assessment of the industry in Australia currently, with a positive spin on the future and a call to arms for innovation and investment.
GCAP09 is being held in Melbourne until Tuesday December 8th