New Zealand game revenue up 86 per cent in 2013
National dev scene now generates more than $36m, but skills shortages are a problem
The revenue generated by New Zealand's burgeoning development scene grew 86 per cent in a year to hit $36.3 million.
According to a survey of 33 members of the New Zealand Game Developers Association (N.Z.G.D.A.) - the third of its kind - the national industry's total annual revenue topped $36 million by March 31, 2013. Around $31.4 million of that came from smartphone and online games.
"The success of New Zealand's games industry continues to come from digital distribution via AppStores and websites and the fact that we develop and own our ideas," said Stephen Knightly, chairman of the N.Z.G.D.A., in a statement.
"Game development is a serious career option these days and we're attracting very bright and creative people to the industry, but we could do with more"
Stephen Knightly, Game Developers Association
"Original IP means we have higher margins and grow audiences over time. Many of the hit Kiwi games aren't one-offs but are franchises with loyal fanbases that will earn money for several years to come."
Perhaps the most visible New Zealand success story is Grinding Gear Games' online role-playing game Path of Exile, which has more than 3.2 million registered players. Another leading light - and perhaps more typical of the New Zealand development scene - is the smartphone developer PikPok, which has enjoyed great success on iOS and Android with games like Turbo Racing League, Giant Boulder of Death and the BAFTA-nominated Super Monsters Ate My Condo.
And employment in the games industry is also on the rise, with the total number of jobs rising by 18 per cent in a year to hit 448 full-time positions.
"The investments in skills and job reported in previous years' surveys is now paying off in real profits and international recognition," said Knightly. "Gaming is now firmly established as one of the core sectors of New Zealand's creative economy. New Zealand studios are demonstrating sustainable growth and winning huge audiences globally in a highly competitive market."
However, with more growth expected over the coming year, the shortage of skilled employees is becoming more apparent. Around 44 per cent of surveyed studios claimed that skills shortages were restricting their ability to grow - 77 per cent of those studios noted a lack of programmers, while 57 per cent need experienced game designers.
"While our industry continues to demonstrate impressive growth, there is a very real risk that the brakes may be applied in future," said Knightly. "Game development is a serious career option these days and we're attracting very bright and creative people to the industry, but we could do with more."
The Media Design School of New Zealand in Auckland now offers two Bachelor degrees in game design and game art. The Game Developers Association hosts an annual conference, two game jams and has a mentoring programme for start-up studios.