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E-games - the 'Fury' and the spin

By Malcolm King - posted Monday, 21 January 2008


The call has gone out for young people to make a lucrative career designing electronic games. It’s fab! It’s fun (it’s not really work is it?) and you can become mega rich - but students beware.

In October last year, the media hailed the launch of Fury, a multiplayer online game developed in Brisbane by Auran Studios. The creator of Fury, Tony Hilliam, said his “online masterpiece is about to shake up the world rankings”.

“I believe it's the biggest computer game development project ever undertaken in Australia, and it's even one of the biggest entertainment projects … The original Crocodile Dundee movie budget was about $8 million, and we're nearly double that,” he said.

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Unfortunately things didn’t pan out that way. Just three months later, on the December 15, Auran Studios admitted that the sales of Fury were “disappointing” and it had slashed 60 in-house jobs and was outsourcing future work to China.

"(We) will be looking to China to create much of the new content that we will release in future updates. Furthermore we're talking with a number of publishers in Asia regarding co-development deals," said Hilliam.

The company will “focus on a smaller, more agile core team of Fury developers. These are people who are incredibly passionate about the game and work until four in the morning to ensure they get things done,” he said.

Just three months prior, Hilliam said he stood to make anywhere from millions of dollars to hundreds of millions. You’ve got to admire that optimism.

There are serious problems here. One is the hype surrounding electronic games development. The global games industry is worth about $50 billion of which Australia has a $100 million share. USA and Japan are the powerbrokers.

It’s certainly cheaper to use Chinese animators and programmers. They get paid less and work in sweatshop conditions.

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Fury failed because its developer’s expectations far exceeded market capabilities.

One Melbourne programmer said that “you put in the long hours, in part out of enthusiasm, but also because you’d look like a ‘quitter’ if you left work at 5:00pm. 50-60 hour weeks are the norm and over time is a rarity”. For more on conditions in the Australian games industry Google “Games development: a real career choice?” by Sarah Stokley.

The Australian e-games industry would fair better if it dropped the spin and played it straight. They’re been making astounding claims that 2 million Australians play online games and up to 40 per cent of these are females.

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Frist published in The Courier-Mail on January 17, 2008.



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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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