Aussies cashing in on booming app industry
AUSTRALIA'S pp developers are making a mark on the multibillion-dollar industry, with Aussie apps appearing everywhere from cockpits to commerce and employment soaring by 20 per cent in just two years.
The finding is part of a new study by the Progressive Policy Institute released today that shows Australia's app industry now employs 136,000 people and is on equal footing with the United States and Britain.
But local app creators say the industry is likely to keep growing rapidly, with smartphones getting folding screens, augmented reality games emerging, and everyday items being connected to the internet-of-things.
The app study also comes after several Aussie app makers were singled out for praise on the world stage recently, including studio Annapurna that claimed a BAFTA for best mobile game last week, and fitness influencer Kayla Itsines and Tasmanian illustrator James Cuda whose apps Sweat and Procreate were named among Apple's top eight apps of 2018.
The PPI research found Australia's app industry has added 23,000 jobs since March 2017, based on figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and job listings.
The greatest number of app jobs were based in New South Wales, followed by Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, and Apple apps created more roles than their Google Android equivalents.
Authors Michael Mandel and Elliott Long also found Australia's "app intensity" or the percentage of people employed by the app economy, was even greater than in Germany, and predicted it would keep growing.
"In recent years, Australian exports of computer and information services have soared, rising by 30 per cent in 2018 alone," it said.
"We therefore see the app economy as a powerful force, driving growth of both employment and exports in Australia."
PlaySide Studios chief executive Gerry Sakkas, from Melbourne, said he had witnessed the growth of Australian apps first-hand after starting the mobile game business with two former ElectronicArts colleagues seven years ago.
Mr Sakkas said the company spent a year building its first game just to show "the kind of quality" players could receive on a mobile game, and it was good enough to attract international attention.
"After that we got two major contracts: one was for a SpongeBob game and the other one was (British cartoon) Moshi Monsters," he said.
"From there it just kind of blew up. We had Warner Brothers ring up and ask us to do a Batman game and it just kind of exploded."
Mr Sakkas said the studio now employed more than 50 people, which were split between producing games for Hollywood studios, such as Lego Batman and Wonder Woman, and its own creations including one of Apple's first augmented reality games, AR Dragon.
While the company regularly sent representatives to the US for face-to-face meetings, Mr Sakkas said being an Australian pitching for work often came with advantages.
"People love working with Australians," he said. "We're quite casual in nature but we also work really hard and that's what they want."
Other successful Australian app exports include Sydney-based graphic design app Canva, Townsville business app iAuditor, and South Australia's OzRunways that is now used inside more than 21,000 planes across Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
Co-founder Rowan Wilson said the CASA-approved app, which replaced heavy binders of maps and directories, had proven hugely successful in Australia, and had since been translated into Spanish and Portuguese for overseas markets.
"It's one of those apps that no one has ever heard of unless you're a pilot," he said.
"But as soon as it came out, all these pilots just jumped on it. It was a no-brainer."