This year’s KiwiGameStarter drew 30 entries, four of which were named finalists and pitched to judges on Wednesday. The judges were led by Google’s Chief Game Designer Noah Falstein, who’ll also deliver a keynote address to the NZ Game Developers Conference tomorrow (Friday).
For the last couple of years the KiwiGameStarter winners have been announced at the closing session of NZGDC. This year the winners were announced in the opening session, giving them the rest of the two days to concentrate on enjoying the conference, accepting congratulations and – for those also presenting – boosting attendance at their sessions.
The runner-up, Lost Goblin with Goblins of Elderstone, wasn’t present at the opening session. “He’s running late,” a friend in the audience called out.
“Tell him to run faster,” came the reply.
The winner of the $10,000 first prize, sponsored by Callaghan Innovation, plus software and business mentoring support worth over $20,000, was on hand to collect his award. Developed Auckland-based Team Ninja Thumbs, Grabity uses real-time simulation of physics to create interesting puzzles and gameplay as robots battle each other in a futuristic test centre.
Falstein said, “The KiwiGameStarter entrants would be contenders at any indie game competition I’ve seen worldwide. The Grabity team had all the ingredients for a successful startup business: a novel product, a great team and a clear business plan. Plus the prototype had the judges laughing and enjoying ourselves almost instantly – a great user experience.”
Collecting the prize, Ninja Thumbs offered to share their pitch documents with anyone interested in entering KiwiGameStarter next year, because “when we entered we had no idea what we were doing”.
Run by the New Zealand Game Developers Association, the competition aims to help early-stage games businesses to develop prototypes ready for investment or crowdfunding. It’s supported by Callaghan Innovation, Hudson Gavin Martin lawyers, marketers IndieDevKit and The Sound Room. Grabity will also receive three months in The Arcade Auckland games coworking space and mentoring from some of New Zealand’s most successful game developers.
In addition to the funding stream awards, Media Design School offered two Postgraduate Certificate in Design scholarships to KiwiGameStarter entrants, which were won by Matthew Gatland (Caves) and Cynthia Qingxia Wang (10,000 Coins).