SA gaming industry 'suffering' under regulation

2016-05-16 12:57 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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Nicholas Hall, chair of Iesa. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town – Government regulation is dealing a critical blow to the video game industry, says an insider.

The potential growth of the gaming industry is being hampered by regulations that make it difficult for developers to distribute content, said Interactive entertainment South Africa (Iesa), a lobby group for the gaming industry.

“The video game entertainment industry is the largest entertainment industry in the world. In 2015 it was estimated to worth $92.7bn. We are [worth] more than the film and music industry combined,” Nicholas Hall, Iesa chair told Fin24.

He said that in SA, the consumer market for games was worth R2.2bn with local developers producing content for big names like Disney.

“Of that R2.2bn, it’s estimated that about R10 000 actually goes to a South African developer. There is a hell of a lot of money being made and we should be making more of it, and we’re not,” said Hall.

“R10 000 is an estimated amount for locally developed games bought by South Africans in the entertainment sector. The entire industry was worth an estimated R58m in 2014,” Hall added.

Game development

READ: Regulation the 'biggest challenge' to tech investment

He said that the lack of adequate regulation make it difficult for local companies to invest in game development.

“No-one actually knows how to deal with games. We don’t have protection in terms of the Copyright Act. The fundamental basis of how the assets that we create should be protected in non-existent.

“The department of trade and industry doesn’t know if they should be looking after us, or if it should be the department of arts and culture. The department of arts and culture also doesn’t know and sports and recreation thinks that they should be there as well because, you know, we’re games,” Hall argued.

Hall highlighted the Films and Publications Board (FPB) draft bill and exchange controls regulations as key pieces of legislation hampering the industry.

The FPB bill empowers the organisation to classify content it deems harmful to children or have undesirable content removed.

Hall said that the gaming industry was accustomed to classification, but objected to the threat of imprisonment.

“We’re one of the few countries in the world that has criminal sanction attached to not getting classified. So if they were to formally release a game in South Africa and make it available and it is not classified by the film and publications board, they can go to jail for 10 years,” he said.

Content distribution

The FPB bill says that South Africans need to build on the positive effects from the growth of gaming and social networks.

“While these are positive developments and will be economically beneficial for the country, the downside to this is that there is
also a proliferation of illegal content in and the abuse of social media platforms which are at times used by sexual predators to lure their child victims and people who advocate racist ideologies and therefore use these platforms to undermine the government's agenda on social cohesion.”

Hall argued that for game developers, the internet allowed them the freedom to distribute content in countries with a less restrictive legislative framework.

“There are 200 other countries where they [developers] don’t need to get classified and they don’t need to spend thousands and wait months to get classified. So they just don’t bother.”

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