New Zealand-made mobile games have been downloaded over 130 million times in the last year and industry earnings grew 86% to $36.3 million dollars, according to an independent survey of New Zealand Game Developers Association members. The majority of that income, $31.4m, came from exports of smartphone and online games.
“The investments in skills and job reported in previous years’ surveys is now paying off in real profits and international recognition,” says Stephen Knightly, Chairperson of the NZ Game Developers Association.
“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.”
The survey was carried out among 33 studios for the year to 31 March 2013, who released 55 commercial video games in that time.
New Zealand has established an international reputation for producing games with 18% of studios producing a game for an international film or TV studios in the last year. Dreamworks, Disney, BBC, Lionsgate and Hasbro have all worked with New Zealand studios to produce smartphone games over the last year.
Wellington-based PikPok’s Super Monsters Ate My Condo was nominated for a UK BAFTA award, and their game Into The Dead is used by the Guinness Book of World Records when officially judging the world’s best mobile gamer.
Recent hit New Zealand video games include:
- Path of Exile by Grinding Gear Games has over 3.2 million PC gamers and was featured on the homepage of the world’s largest online PC game store Steam.
- Bloons Tower Defence 5 by NinjaKiwi was a US Top 50 Grossing Paid iPhone game.
- The Blockheads by Majic Jungle was a #1 US iPad game, #2 US iPhone game with over 7 million downloads.
- MiniGolf Matchup by RocketJump was the #1 iPhone game in 28 countries with over 10 million downloads.
- Turbo Racing League by PikPok had over 30 million downloads.
- Robot Unicorn Attack 2 and Giant Boulder of Death by PikPok were both #1 US iPhone games.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by Gameloft received 17.5 million downloads
- Littlest Pet Shop by Gameloft received 15 million downloads.
- Wonderzoo by Gameloft received 10.5 million downloads.
- Browser-based MiniMundos by Smallworlds reached 3 million Brazilian players.
- PikPok’s sister label Sidhe launched All Blacks Rugby Challenge 2 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
“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. 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,” says Knightly.
Only 16% of the industry’s revenue came from contract work, with the balance being made from direct sales, royalties and advertising. Selling advertising space in games now makes 32% of revenue, an increase from 14% the year before.
Game development jobs grew 18% last year and there are now 448 full-time equivalent professional game developers. 37% of those people are artists and 32% are programmers, with additional roles mainly in marketing and customer support.
NZGDA Chairperson Stephen Knightly says there is now pressure to find experienced programmers and game designers. Worryingly, 44% of studios said that skills shortages were constraining the growth of their business. 71% of those studios cited a shortage of appropriately skilled programmers, and 57% did not have enough skilled game designers.
“While our industry continues to demonstrate impressive growth, there is a very real risk that the brakes may be applied in future,” says Stephen 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.”
To combat this the NZ Game Developers Association holds an annual conference and two game jams, participates in the AnimFX conference and is launching a mentoring programme. This year the Media Design School began teaching two Bachelor degrees in game development and game art, and several universities now offer game development courses.
33 video game development businesses who are members of the NZGDA were independently surveyed with figures as of 31 March 2013. This is the third year of the survey with the questionnaire partially based on Statistics New Zealand’s Screen Industry Survey.