Movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit have made New Zealand’s film companies world-renowned. More recently the entertainment industry is discovering that the same New Zealand creative culture is yielding equally powerful results for game development. New Zealand’s cluster of game developers, though a tight-knit community of approximately 450 professionals, is currently responsible for some of the world’s hottest new games and online worlds.
As game developers come together from all over the world for the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference, New Zealand-created games will be featured on many of the ‘top lists’ and prominent screens. Six New Zealand-made games were Top 10 iOS games in the U.S. last year, including The Blockheads, Bloons Tower Defence 5, MiniGolf Matchup, Major Mayhem, Into The Dead, and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. Online games Path of Exile, Smallworlds, Minimonos and BigLittleBang attract audiences in the millions.
Creative Kiwi Firepower
According to the New Zealand Game Developers Association, on average only 32 percent of a New Zealand game developer’s revenue comes from contract work, with the vast majority of income coming in from original intellectual property (IP) and royalties. Additionally, more than 99 percent of the games developed in New Zealand have a reach outside the country’s population; the games are mainly exported and digitally distributed – increasingly in partnership with leading US based studios.
“Developing highly creative original IP underpins the growth of the NZ industry. Original hit games like Path of Exile and Bloons Tower Defence both build sustainable income streams, reputation and skills, which in turn can lead to key partnerships with – and investment by – leading international companies,” said Stephen Knightly, Chairperson NZ Game Developers Association.
New Zealand’s game development community is enjoying significant growth:
- PikPok, New Zealand’s largest game studio, has released over two dozen titles which collectively have seen around 35 million downloads. Most recently, their game Super Monsters Ate My Condo was nominated for a prestigious U.K. BAFTA Games Award.
- Kiwi indie art game developer Michael Brough has been nominated for the Independent Games Festival Nuovo Innovation Award at the Game Developers Conference 2013 for his ‘only take one turn each day’ game VESPER5.
- Path of Exile, a PC-based action role playing game (ARPG) from Grinding Gear Games, attracted more than two million registered users within a month of Open Beta. It raised more than $2.5 million U.S. dollars in crowd funding support and pre-sales, and was the 2012 IndieDB People’s Choice for Upcoming Game.
- Bloons Tower Defence 5 by Ninja Kiwi was the Number Two Paid Game App in the U.S. during Thanksgiving Week 2012, and remains in the Top 50 Grossing Apps.
- Gameloft, one of the world’s largest mobile developers, chose to establish a studio in New Zealand. The studio’s My Little Pony Friendship is Magic game became a Top 10 iPhone hit.
- Runaway creates iOS games inspired by nature. Working in partnership with conservation and ecologically-friendly brands like National Geographic and World Wildlife Foundation, their latest release, Flutter, was published by global mobile publisher DeNA and featured in iTunes stores across the globe, earning an Editor’s Choice spot.
- Online children’s worlds developed in New Zealand with more than one million players (some many more) include Minimonos, BigLittleBang, DinoSawUs and Smallworlds.
- Serious clinical game ‘SPARX’ helps teenagers manage depression. Though not yet on the market, its clinical trials were reported in British Medical Journal.
It’s no coincidence that game developers, primarily technology entrepreneurs, find a hospitable business climate in New Zealand. According to The World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s Doing Business 2013 report, released in October, New Zealand ranks as the easiest place to start a business out of 185 countries. Forbes also ranked New Zealand as the “Best Country for Business” in its annual ranking this year.