Australia is becoming increasingly popular among gamers as it prepares to host the first major gaming convention since the Fukushima disaster, with online gaming growing by 30 percent this year.
In November, the Australian gaming community celebrated the release of its first annual gaming convention, dubbed PAX Prime.
It saw players from around the world flock to Australia to play games like FarmVille, an online-only arcade game that features hundreds of animals roaming the virtual landscape, or the first-person shooter game Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
The festival also celebrated the debut of the first free PS4 game, Call of the Wild, which is a multiplayer shooter set in a vast wilderness.
“We had a huge amount of people from all over the world coming to see us play,” said the festival’s CEO, Andrew White.
“I’m very excited about the growth that’s going on, particularly around free games.”
The Australian gaming industry has boomed in recent years, with the number of gamers reaching over 300,000 last year.
While the industry is still relatively small, its growth has been fuelled by the introduction of mobile gaming and other emerging genres such as survival horror and first- and third-person shooters.
Australian gaming conventions also have been a boon for the tourism industry, with thousands of Australians visiting the country every year, with many taking the opportunity to experience Australian culture.
In March, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released a plan to increase Australia’s tourism industry by $20 billion over the next five years, in order to attract a growing population of 20 million.
“There’s a lot of interest from Australian expats,” said Andrew Gough, CEO of Destination Australia, a tourism agency that specialises in Australian events.
“We’re seeing people coming here, they want to stay, they’re interested in spending money, they just want to come here and have fun.”
With the popularity of online gaming increasing in Australia, it has also attracted an influx of new people from the US, who are also keen to play and experience the same genre of games.
“I think the rise of free games is probably the biggest change to Australia in the last decade,” said Stephen Wills, an executive with the Australian Gaming Association, a trade body representing Australian games makers.
“Free games are more accessible now, there’s less of a barrier to entry and there’s a whole new group of people who are starting to look for a more competitive experience.”
“There are games where you don’t need to buy a game console or a PC to play.”
In February, US company Electronic Arts released Call of War, a first-and third-player co-op shooter game that players can play with friends online.
“It’s like you’re playing a co-operative game, but on the other side of the screen,” said James Karp, a game developer and former Australian professional gamer.
“You can play on both sides of the planet, you can have a friend on your PC and they can play online.”
He said that free games had become more popular in Australia because of its proximity to the US.
“If you’re from the States, you’ve probably got a pretty good sense of what the free-to-play model is, but if you’re coming to Australia, that’s a completely different story,” Karp said.
“The difference is, Australia’s not playing the games that the US is playing.”
“The only way to beat it is to have a big game, big studio and a big publisher.
That’s where you need to be.”
Australia’s biggest game developers, Electronic Arts and Activision, have released games in the past, but this year they have only released two first-party games, the Call of Destiny and World of Warcraft MMOs.
“Call of Duty has a lot to offer to Australian gamers,” said Activision’s Andrew Wilson.
“There’s the competitive element, there are the mechanics of playing a game on the PC and there are also a lot more fun elements.”
In November 2016, Activision’s Call of The Day was the first online game to be officially released in Australia.
It is now available on PS4 and Xbox One, and has been downloaded over 2 million times.
“It’s definitely a big step up from just about any other game out there,” said Karp.
“The biggest difference is that it’s all free.
There’s no need to pay to play, you just download it and you’re good to go.””
Free is great, because it gives people a reason to play for the first time, which means that you get to learn new things.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian gaming is growing by 32 percent annually.
It also has one of the highest growth rates of women gamers, at nearly 70 percent, and is the second largest gaming market in the world, after the US market.
Australian game developers are also starting to focus more on digital distribution.
The Australian gaming lobby has also started