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Screen Australia reshapes funding programs to help more indies

Screen Australia is rolling out three new funding programs to direct cash towards a broad spectrumof indiedevelopers in the region, including emerging talents, future leaders, and established creators.

Taking to the stage during Games Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP)in Melbourne, Screen Australia’s head of online and games, Lee Naimo, kicked off proceedings by explaining the Games: Expansion Pack fund will be replaced by the Games Production Fund, Emerging Gamemakers Fund, and the Future Leaders Delegation.

The trifecta is billed as an “evolution” of Screen Australia’s existing game funding efforts that will serve the country’s independent developers well into the future.

Screen Australia hopes new initiatives will support a more diverse range of developers

Digging into the details, Naimo explained the Games Production Fund will provide grants of up to $100,000 (AUD) to developers working on original, Australian independent titles with a budget of up to $500,000 at the time of applying. The fund is geared towards developers looking to take their project towards a “significant milestone” that could include its release, an early access debut, the completion of a vertical slice, or applying some polish to a prototype.

The Games Production Fund was described by Naimo as Screen Australia’s “flagship fund” and the most natural evolution of the Games: Expansion Pack initiative. Notably, Naimo acknowledged that the Production Fund offers a lower funding cap of $100,000 compared with the $150,000 that was previously made available through Expansion Pack, but explained the shift was made to enable Screen Australia to allocate funding to a wider variety of areas spanning different stages of development.

“We are responding to the need for flexibility by allowing you to take your game to a significant milestone of development,” added Naimo, who noted that developers looking to apply should lay out their creative roadmap to increase their odds of being successful. “What’s really important is that you tell us where you are, where you want to get to, and how you intend to get there,” he said.

Screen Australia’s games investment manager, Amelia Laughlan, was then ushered on stage to introduce the Emerging Gamemakers Fund, which will provide grants of up to $30,000 to support the development of original projects. This fund is specifically aimed at those looking to create a prototype or complete a “micro-scale game,” and is aimed at emerging creators, diverse voices, and/or established creators who are “interested in creative and artistic experimentation.”

“Prototypes are a really important stepping stone to other opportunities in games. You usually need a prototype to apply for funding or for a portfolio or to apply for jobs. You might need a prototype on the international pitching scene,” explained Laughlan. “We noticed that many people have the skills and ideas but what they lack is the time—and what is time if not money? This barrier affects people from diverse backgrounds more than others, particularly those with caring needs or facing socio-economic barriers or any other number of adversities. So we wanted to create a fund that would help with that.”

The hope for Screen Australia is that the Emerging Gamemakers Fund will democratize the early stage of game-making, encourage more experimentation, and lead to the creation of more games aimed at underserved audiences. Indeed, Laughlan herself noted that some of the most interesting games the group saw through the Expansion Pack were some of the most experimental.

Crucially, the Emerging Gamemakers Fund is open to both sole traders and private companies, with Laughlan suggesting it was important to expand the initiative to individual creators because it could eventually open the doorway to other opportunities.

Finally, Screen Australia games investment manager Chad Toprak was handed the mic to unveil the Future Leaders Delegation, a new funding program that will offer up to $8,000 in cash and additional support to five individuals to help them attend GDC 2024 in San Fransisco.

The initiative is geared towards early-to-mid career developers who are looking to travel to GDC for the first time and includes a pre-departure workshop led by industry experts to help them make the most of the opportunity.

“We all know there are so many emerging game makers in our community, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds who have the potential and are ready to step up into leadership roles,” said Toprak. “[This fund will enable those people] to build relationships that will ultimately benefit Australia when they come back and bring that knowledge home.”

Future Leaders Delegation applications are now open and will close at 5 PM AEDT on Thursday, November 9, 2023. Applications for the first round of both the Games Production Fund and Emerging Gamemakers Fund are also open now but will close on November 30, 2023, at 5 PM AEDT.

For more information on Screen Australia’s new funding initiatives, you can follow these links to find guidelines for the Games Production Fund, Emerging Gamemakers Fund, and Future Leaders Delegation.

Game Developer was invited to GCAP and Melbourne International Games Week by Creative Victoria, which covered flights and accommodation. Game Developer and GDC are sibling companies under Informa.

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