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Monday, 21 January 2019 03:18 pm

Game development fast growing New Zealand export

Jun 14th, 2017 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

New Zealand’s game development sector has grown 354% over the past five years.

The sector earned $89 million last year, and while it is tiny in the context of New Zealand’s annual $49 billion export trade, game development growth is big news.

Year-on-year growth since 2012 is 71%, according to an industry survey.

The amount of people in the industry is also growing at a steady rate according to Tim Thorpe, who conducted the survey.

As of March 31, 2015, there were 568 fulltime professional game developers and artists in New Zealand, plus many more indie developers according to figures from the independent survey of 27 New Zealand game studios.

Thorpe says last year New Zealand employed around 500 people, in a population of 4.3 million, in its game development sector, while Australia employed 800 in a population of 23.7 million.

In Wellington alone there is around 140-150 game developers including artists, coders and writers, says Thorpe, director of Tim Thorpe Consulting, which specialises in the film, music and video game sector.

Thorpe says that New Zealand needs to offer a point of difference when it comes to creativity compared to the rest of world.

“We have to be good enough technically and story wise to match with what everyone else is doing, but beyond that we have to explore niches.

“You think of down in Dunedin. Runaway Production down there are doing stuff with nature. Mainly successful with kids but that’s the target audience.”

Thorpe says many Kiwi companies are creating what is known as a “serious game”, which is a game focused around education or health.

For example, the game Sparx was developed to target young people with depression or anxiety and teach them ways to deal with feeling down or stressed.

“It was done with the University of Auckland Medical School, they produced this game which was clinically successful and helped just as much as other methods.”

Thorpe’s survey also showed that the vast majority of income comes from making original games, with only 15% coming from contract work.

The creative intellectual property is generally owned by New Zealand studios, providing higher margins and more sustainable businesses than international service work.

The graph below using data from previous surveys shows how much the industry has grown in the past 5 years.


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