Video gaming in Australia
In Australia, 68 per cent of the population play video games, 47 per cent of video game players are female and the average age of a video game player is 33. Australians spend an average of 88 minutes a day playing video games.
The video game industry in Australia is worth $2.96 billion annually as of 2016, inclusive of traditional retail and digital sales. A survey completed in 2014 indicated that game development in Australia employed more than 827 people. In 2013, revenue from Australian game developers was approximately $64.5 million.
Beam Software was one of the first Australian game development studios to achieve global success, with a text adventure adaption of The Hobbit released in 1982 for the ZX Spectrum. The company went on to produce other successful titles including The Way of the Exploding Fist for Commodore 64 in 1985 and Le Mans for the SEGA Dreamcast in 2001. Ozisoft, a major distributor of games, was established in 1982.
John De Margheriti later established the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) in 1996 and founded the Game Developers Association of Australia (GDAA) in 1999. The first president of the GDAA was Adam Lancman, who had previously worked at Beam Software.
The Game Wizards, an Australian video game retailer, was established in 1990. It was the first retailer to sell games online in Australia when it set up its website in 1997. In 2007, the company's 22 stores were acquired by GAME and re-branded. By 2009 GAME Australia had expanded to over 100 stores.
EB Games entered the market as a video game retailer in 1997.
In 2002, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) was established as an industry association for publishers, distributors and marketers of video games. A research report published by the association in 2005 found that the 76 per cent of households had a device for playing video games, 38 per cent of gamers were female and the average age of a gamer was 24. The IEAA was later renamed the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA).
Team Bondi, a Sydney-based independent third-party game developer, was founded in 2003. The studio was responsible for the Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title L.A. Noire, published by multinational video game developer and publisher Rockstar Games (also popular for the Grand Theft Auto series). L.A. Noire was both a critical and commercial success, with over 5 million sales. Despite this, Team Bondi was wound up on 5 October 2011.
During the same period, smaller game developers were having success with mobile games. In 2010, Halfbrick, a studio based in Brisbane, released Fruit Ninja which has since been downloaded over a billion times. Other notable mobile games developed in Australia include Crossy Road and Framed. In October 2015, half of the top 10 mobile games in the App Store were Australian made.
EB Games held the first EB Expo video game convention at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in 2011. The expo was attended by over 10,000 people. The expo moved to the Sydney Showground for 2012 and was held there annually until the expo returned to the Gold Coast in 2017. 36,750 people attended the expo in 2015.
At PAX Prime 2012, it was announced that PAX would expand internationally to Australia. PAX Australia was held for the first time in 2013 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. The annual event remains the only PAX event held out side of the United States.
The Digital Australia 2012 report, published by the IGEA, found that female participation in video gaming had risen to 48 per cent and the average age of an Australian video gamer had hit 32. Traditional retail sales of video games in Australia during 2012 were $1.16 Billion; digital sales were estimated at $620 Million.
In 2013, Australia was ranked 14th in the world in terms of gaming revenues.
Video games could not be designated an adults only or 18+ rating in Australia until 1 January 2013. An R18+ classification rating has been available for this purpose for other forms of media since the introduction of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995. Prior to 1 January 2013, a video game that had content deemed unsuitable for persons under the age of 18 would be 'Refused Classification' by the Australian Classification Board (ACB) under this act. Classification of video games is mandatory in Australia and material refused classification is legally banned from sale, hire or import.
Notable video games that were refused classification by the ACB prior to the introduction of an R18+ for video games include: Duke Nukem 3D, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead 2, Mortal Kombat (2011) and The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut. Most of these games were subsequently modified by the publishers and later reclassified MA15+ and made available for sale in Australia.
On 22 July 2011, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General agreed in-principle to introduce legislation that would allow video games to be classified R18+. Amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 came into effect on 1 January 2013 to allow video games to receive the adults only rating. Games that were refused classification prior to 1 January 2013 can be designated an R18+ rating and made available for sale in Australia if the publisher of the game applies for re-classification and pays a fee.
Games can still be refused classification and banned from sale if they depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.
Notable video games that have been refused classification since the introduction of an R18+ for video games include: Saints Row IV, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and Outlast 2.
Material which is refused classification is put on the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service list of prohibited items. Any copies of these games found at the border will be seized, and its recipient, depending on the amount of copies being imported may receive up to AUD$110,000 in fines.
An individual is allowed to own, use, access or create Refused Classification items, including games (with the exception of Western Australia). But a Refused Classification rating means that the created item is illegal to sell within Australia.
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