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Video game exports up again

The NZGDA has published the results of its fifth annual state of the games nation survey, which shows good year-on-year growth across much of the industry.

The $89 million earned is up 13% on last year’s $79 million, and 92% of earnings came from exports, a substantial jump over last year. Those gains were achieved despite the closure of the country’s largest studio during the year.

“Entertainment software and apps continue to be one of New Zealand’s fastest growing hi-tech creative exports,” says NZ Game Developers Association Chair Stephen Knightly. “The successful New Zealand studios have consistently grown their audiences. They’ve become sustainable independent publishers and proven that they are not one-hit wonders.”

Knightly told SCREENZ that the growth was sustainable going forward, as much of it came from mature studios who understood the rhythms and cycles of successful game production. Those studios had titles which continued to earn significant revenue over long periods of time.

While the industry continues to grow, it doesn’t do so without growing pains. 47% of studios taking part in the survey noted that skills shortages were impacting their ability to grow. Historically, most of those shortages have been at the intermediate and senior levels in both technical and creative roles. Finance, especially early stage funding, is also an ongoing challenge.

IMG_NZGDA_Survey-2016

Tertiary education institutions have done a great job in training people to get into the industry, Knightly said, but the shortage of senior level industry personnel meant there were still missed opportunities in identifying and nurturing talent.

The NZGDA does its bit to counter that with its $20,000 Kiwi Game Starter competition. Now in its third year, the competition closes for entries next week. The winner will be found at next month’s New Zealand Game Developers Conference in Auckland.

While there’s regular debate in NZ about the country’s ability to sell valuable assets, it’s encouraging to see that most NZ studios are locally-owned and are creating NZ-held IP rather than doing service work for companies based elsewhere.

France-headquartered Gameloft closed its NZ studio in January, putting 150 people out of work, although the overall industry workforce only fell by 93 full-time equivalent jobs during the year. Studios forecast 98 new jobs in the coming year. As has happened in previous surveys, the number of people in work doesn’t always correlate with the amount of income earned.

Despite the loss of Gameloft, the industry has seen international investment in NZ over the last year. The arrival of local studios for Artix and Climax, the setting up of DayZ creator Dean Hall’s Rocketwerkz studio in Dunedin have brought investment and created work,

Among the industry’s successes this year has been indie Dinosaur Polo Club’s BAFTA nomination and Independent Games Festival win for puzzle game Mini Metro (pictured, top).

The survey data comes from 38 New Zealand Game Developers Association studio members, conducted by Tim Thorpe Consulting Limited.

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