Gaming going gangbusters, says developer association

Growth achieved despite the closure of the country’s largest studio

The New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA) estimates that the game development industry earned revenues of $88.9m in the 12 months to 31 March 2016, a 13 percent increase on the prior year and with 92 percent coming from exports of interactive software and online services.

The findings come from a survey of the association’s 38 game studio members. NZGDA chair, Stephen Knightly, said: “The successful New Zealand studios have consistently grown their audiences and attracted fans around the world. They’ve become sustainable independent publishers and proven that they are not one-hit wonders but are smart digital exporters.”

NZGDA points out that this growth was achieved despite the closure of the country’s largest studio, the local subsidiary of Paris-based multinational Gameloft, in January. “Despite 150 jobs being lost as a result of [Gameloft New Zealand] abruptly closing its doors, employment in the sector only decreased by 93 fulltime equivalent jobs to 475 as of 31 March 2016,” NZGDA said. “This suggests the sector created 60 new hi-tech jobs in the last year.”

Knightly said that Gameloft had made a significant contribution to industry growth, despite its closure. “The international investment from Gameloft provided professional experience and upskilling for many developers and artists, at a time when our rapid growth led to a shortage of experienced developers,” he said. “Many former Gameloft staff quickly joined local studios or have gone on to create their own startups.”

NZGDA said member feedback from the survey suggests that the industry will employ close to 100 addition people in the next 12 months.

However, the survey also identified a range of challenges facing the sector. “Attracting early stage funding was a challenge for 48 percent of studios, with expansion capital being a challenge for 35 percent,” NZGDA said. “The lack of funding options slows growth as studios fund development by expanding products in stages or relying on crowd funding and ‘early access’ presales to help to finish games.”

Other challenges cited included skills shortages (47 percent), developing business skills (43 percent), attracting international projects (23 percent), accessing technology partners (22 percent) and employing more diverse employees (23 percent).

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