Bumpy ride for Australian game developers

There’s been some good news and some bad news for the Australian games industry over just the past couple of days, illustrating perfectly that when one door closes, another opens… or was that a window?

We’ll get the bad news out of the way first: KMM has closed down its Brisbane studios, less than a year after it opened its doors to work on Happy Feet 2. Around 40 developers have now lost their jobs – many of whom joined KMM after local Krome Studios closed late last year.

[img_big]center,8101,2011-10-17/Happy_Feet_Two_The_Videogame_8.png,Happy Feet 2[/img_big]

In the past six years, we’ve seen seven high-profile Australian games studios shuttered – including Pandemic, Krome, two THQ developers, Melbourne’s Visceral Games and Sydney’s Team Bondi (which saw many former employees find work at KMM‘s Sydney studios).

The story goes that KMM started the closure process earlier this month after work dried up following Happy Feet 2, with studio art director Jason Stark blaming that mixed blessing: The strong Australian dollar.

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. But it’s maybe a little surprising the extent to which it has happened. We’ve all expected the industry to be shrinking — it’s been bad times. It’s gone from being a mild contraction to being pretty much obliterated.

In a recent interview with ABC Online, Stark also points the finger at the lack of Australian tax breaks or incentives for games developers, as well as a decline in “middle-ground” games. He predicts many out-of-work devs will start packing up and heading overseas to find work.

…those who are wishing to stay in Australia could be in luck, though, as local success story Halfbrick bucks the trend and actually opens a second Australian studio.

[img_big]center,8050,2011-06-08/FNKscreen3.jpg,Fruit Ninja Kinect[/img_big]

The Fruit Ninja creator currently has 50+ employees in its Brisbane office, and believes it is time to expand. The company was founded back in 2001, working largely on licensed titles, but over the years started working on its own games, with the unexpected smash hit Fruit Ninja breaking out last year. It’s now been ported to several platforms (including Xbox 360 with Kinect), and things just keep looking brighter for Halfbrick.

If you’re looking for full-time work in Sydney, the opportunity to work in a smaller, self-directed team and contribute to the design and implementation of games on smarphone, digital download and social platforms, it might be worth looking them up: Here’s the job ad for your perusal.

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