Australian Bureau of Statistics say local games development sector is at 581 people

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The State of the Australian Gaming Industry

Two months ago, a short documentary about the independent Australian gaming industry made for 'Opening Shot' competition for ABC2 was uploaded onto youtube (embedded below). More than a few people remarked on a specific comment made in the video by Woodley Nye (Hitbox Team) on a headcount of the Australian games industry where Woodley places his estimate at "maybe 500 people total in the country working on games". It had to be much too low of an estimate, they believed.

Unfortunately, Woodley was pretty much spot on.

Cast your minds back in 2011 when we released this infographic which, was based on Justin Brow's nation wide industry headcount, put that number at the time at 931. It was a shocking statistic, particularly when compared to other references we had placed in the infographic showing a rapid growth in numbers up to that point:

2008: ACMI'S headcount of the industry at 2,000 (admittedly based on somewhat unclear sources)
2007: 1,431 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey
2003: 700 from the Australian Film Commission

It's unfortunate that Justin received a whole lot of grief for his survey which led him to write a follow-up article explaining what that 931 number meant.

(Justin) ...I am trying to establish a reasonable picture of Full Time Employees (FTEs) in the Australian Games Industry today. If the figures are out, they’re out by 10s, not 100s (and I once again strongly encourage anyone who can help the accuracy of the count get in contact with me and thank those who have to date).

Many remarked that it wasn't a true representation of the local games industry numbers and did not include the whole scope of the games industry including developers who made edutainment, transmedia etc. And yes, some people even got really angry. But as a result of this specific survey, the Games Developers Association of Australia (GDAA) commissioned the Game Development Industry Survey in early 2012 to get a more thorough look at the games development sector.

Today, Screen Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the results of this survey, the first since five years ago where they had pegged industry numbers a 1,431 back then. The latest headcount is at just 581 people in games development.

From the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

Digital game developers

Digital game developers employed 581 persons at end June 2012. During 2011-12 these businesses generated $89.4m in income of which end-to-end digital game development income accounted for 49.6% (or $44.4m) and digital game development services income accounted for 48.5% (or $43.4m).

Production of digital games

During 2011-12 Digital game developers produced 245 digital games and incurred $49.9m in related production costs.

The average cost per production of digital games varied by format. Games produced exclusively for consoles (including handheld consoles) incurred the highest average cost per production ($1.2m). By contrast, games developed exclusively for mobile and web platforms had the lowest average cost per production ($74,000). These figures exclude titles developed simultaneously for multiple platforms, which incurred an average cost of $845,800 per production.

On the release of the ABS survey, Screen Australia's Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, noted the change in the local games industry which was dominated by large studios producing work-for-hire games on console platforms over five years ago...

“In the wake of the tough economic climate for the global entertainment industry, we have moved from a large, predominantly work-for-hire industry, to a smaller group of highly skilled developers making and self-publishing games for web and mobile platforms.

Comments

SteveJD's picture

Of course this doesn't include those of us doing it part time and making just a few dollars a day from the app store. I'm sure there are thousands of us doing that and hoping to make it big any minute now :D

souri's picture

We have 201 Australian games developers (commercial and independent) in our developers listing, and only a very small few of those are one-man studios. There's no way you can average that to 3 people per developer, especially with bigger companies like Firemonkeys, Halfbrick, Tantalus etc on the commercial side of the list.

I'm assuming these 581 are either full time game developers or ones who have put down games development as their main profession. In any case, I'm not seeing the same sort of outrage that Justin Brow got when he did pretty much did the same (counting full-timers only) just 2 years ago.

Despite this, the numbers aren't that important from an indie developer's point of view (which most people here are these days). And if you want to get into games, there's no better time than to go indie now.

shane warild's picture

What I find most surprising is that people found the numbers "surprising". There's "Optimism" and then there's pale faced "Denial".

souri's picture

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have a state,employment, wage, and income breakdown of the recent data they collected which you can also compare to the data they had when they last did a survey back in 2007.

http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/absDataByStateYear...

Anonymous's picture

Do these numbers include advertising agencies and other digital agencies that work on advergames and such? I imagine there are quite a few companies that don't identify as being 'game companies' that still have developers working on web or mobile games for clients.

souri's picture

I think they'd put themselves down as something like Digital Media. It's actually interesting to see so many digital agencies diversifying from traditional web to take on advergames and even to doing their own games productions as well - and why wouldn't they, the people they employ (web/flash programmers, graphic designers) have the necessary skills to jump right into it, and mobile apps is such a huge market for promotional purposes.

I've always thought local games developers should've looked into diversifying and taking on that specific opportunity as well - generating contacts and building advergames for large advertising companies. Or create invaluable tools or assets for the Unity Asset Store They should always be looking into alternate revenue streams and rising opportunities.