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July 29, 2007 - Some interesting figures were released this morning inside a new report released by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia. If you haven't had a gander at the figures, [Register or Login to view links] to see the state of Australia's gaming scene. We had a chat with IEAA CEO Chris Hanlon to help put the figures in context a little better. Read on to get all the facts on who was asked, how the information was collected and what the Australian government needs to do to ensure our industry continues to thrive.

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Nintendo's Touch Generations titles have been instrumental in capturing the 'grey gamer' market in Australia.

Interestingly, Hanlon also reveals his team's plans to push harder than ever before for the introduction of an R rating in the coming weeks.

IGN: Good morning, Chris. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

Chris Hanlon:
Not a problem.

IGN: In terms of data collection methods, how large was the sample size and how did you collect responses?

Chris Hanlon:
Okay, there were 1606 Australian households who responded to 75 questions. It was a 15 minute online survey that was run by A.C. Nielsen.

IGN: Do you think that, because the survey was online only, this might warp the figures in any way? Insofar as people who are regular net users might be more technologically-minded and therefore more likely to be gamers?

Chris Hanlon:
Well, we asked both gamers and non-gamers in that sample set. In the study we'd done previously, which we conducted with a telephone survey, we found there was a strong correlation between the results we came up with in our first research project and this one.

I think the other factor that gives it credibility is that the findings are on par with other comparable large, international studies. If anything, I feel that some of our results are understated - one of the largest studies that was ever done was conducted by the OECD in May 2005 and all our data closely aligns with theirs. For example, they're saying that the average age of gamers in Europe is 30; we're saying 28. In the US, I think their finding was 29 years old. There's nothing that stands out as not in keeping with international research.

IGN: It seems like the Australian gaming industry is reaching critical mass this year, with that billion-dollar figure announced. What increase is this from the last period?

Chris Hanlon:
Well, from January to June 2007, it's up 30 percent.

IGN: A jump like that is usually indicative of a hardware launch - there were two since December last year. Has this artificially boosted the numbers? Will next year's figure seem kind of depressed by comparison?

Chris Hanlon:
No, I don't think so because I think, in addition to the three next-generation systems that are now on the market, there are other factors that are coming into play. The industry now offers a gaming system for all types of budgets - with the decision by Sony to continue with the PS2, with the offerings from Nintendo - it's easy for families to get into gaming. The second factor is that the industry keeps coming up with new games and new ways to interact, and that is driving a lot of people to games; particularly women and older adult markets.

IGN: On those markets, there is an 8 percent figure listed for the number of 'seniors' playing games. What constitutes a senior first of all? And is this significant growth on last year?

Chris Hanlon:
Our definition of a senior that we used is over 60 years old. When we did the research with Bond University, this was the first time that we'd ever asked about that particular age group, so I don't have any historical data to give you, but I think we're continuing to see games that are specifically geared towards older Australians; for example, with the Nintendo Brain Training games and some of the other types of games that Nintendo are bringing out.

Also, I think, with a lot of the online gaming and websites that are specifically geared towards 'grey gamers' - it's an area that continues to grow in popularity, particularly as connecting to the net and playing online is made easier and older Australians lose their initial fear of computing that was around a few years ago.

IGN: There's been a strong push over the last ten or so years for an R rating in Australia. Finally it's getting to the stage where the average age of gamers is almost ridiculously far beyond 18 - now sitting at an average age of 28. It builds a pretty strong case for an R rating. Do you have plans to present your fresh figures to the OFLC?

Chris Hanlon:
Well, our President, John Watts and myself presented to Philip Ruddock and the standing committee of Attorney Generals twice last year and we presented them with data which talks about the average age of gamers in Australia being 28 years old. The industry has also gone around and spoken to every state and territory Attorney General and their policy advisors individually.

We also pointed out to them that the classification act says that adults should be able to read, hear and see what they choose. The purpose of the classification system is to protect minors from seeing materials that may harm them. We believe there is a strong legal basis for the games classification system in Australia to be the same as it is for films.

In the next few weeks, we'll be making a major announcement about classification policy, further discussing the reasons why an R classification is needed. We'll also be proposing what we think is a good model of a classification system that helps Australian parents make a quick decision when buying or hiring a game or film.

IGN: Is this something that you've been working with the OFLC on? Or is this something that's been worked on strictly internally?

Chris Hanlon:
This is something we're doing internally and pitching to the government. We're writing it up now. I imagine we'll certainly be sending it out to all the Attorney Generals and policy advisors in the first instance and putting a copy on the net, etcetera.

IGN: Government support-wise, it seems like the Victorian state government has embraced the games industry a lot more than other states and territories. Why is that?

Chris Hanlon:
I think firstly, there's a strong critical mass in Victoria and Queensland of game developers. I think that the Victorian government has been quite proactive in terms of taking local developers, hardware and software developers overseas to trade shows to help build business linkages, so certainly they've had a whole-of-government approach to IT development.

IGN: What are other individuals in the industry doing to garner more support and benefits for local game developers?

Chris Hanlon:
Well, Greg Bondar from the Australian Game Developer's Association and its President, Tom Crago from Tantalus, recently had a round of meetings with Helen Coonan and some bureaucrats in Canberra regarding a submission for the taxation treatment of game developers.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the upcoming proposal for an R classification, as assembled by the IEAA. Thanks again to Chris for his time this morning.

Thanks to [Register or Login to view links] for sharing the news with us!