It was announced today that the government plans to “close a loophole” and require games released on the iPhone and other smartphones to apply for classification, at an expense per title of between $400 and $2000. This will have two inevitable impacts on the Australian development community.
Firstly it will result in many (nearly all) titles simply not being released in this territory, meaning that one of the great appeals of the iPhone (having access to a large amount of content easily) will go away. Very few developers will be willing to pay extra to gain access to the Australian market on the possibility that they may be able to recoup their money. Iphone development is a very hit and miss affair, and this proposal just makes misses an order of magnitude more expensive.
Secondly, this will have a brutal impact on local development. Developers will have to choose either to take the risk and pay the costs, or simply release their games everywhere else except Australia. Australian developers rely on Australian audiences to help them build global brands. Products like Fruit Ninja gain local attention and then use that to spread their wings internationally, with great success.
Certainly that was the case with Cluck It! for us. It’s initial release was spread throughout our (primarily local) networks, which helped us gain the attention we needed to get featured on the local app store. From there, we rapidly spread internationally, gaining tens of thousands of new customers from around the world.
This really seems like a case of the government acting at cross purposes to itself. On one hand, we had state and federal representatives present at this weekends excellent Freeplay conference advising independent developers how to gain government support for their initiatives. On the other, we have Brendan O’Connor making statements that potentially put the (currently thriving) local independents at risk.