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'High score' for New Zealand's thriving gaming sector

It's far from game over for New Zealand's game development industry - in fact, it's something of a high score as the sector's exports reached $323.9 million in the year to April 2020 - a 59% increase from 2019 and the highest ever exports on record.

The New Zealand Game Developers Association released the statistics in its annual New Zealand Game Developers Industry Survey of 42 interactive, gaming, virtual reality, augmented reality and education tech companies.

96% of the total revenue was generated through digital services sales to consumers via various digital platforms. 5% of revenue also came from royalties, 8% from selling advertising in games and 7% from selling services.

The ten largest gaming studios accounted for 95% of the export revenue. The industry employed 747 full-time creative technologists, and expect to create another 142 new jobs this year. There are 111 employees (15% of the industry) who are currently or have previously been on work supported visas.

The top 10 studios employ 78% of the industry's full-time workers and account for 95% of revenue. However, 75% of studios employ fewer than five people. The Association is concerned that there may not be enough support to help these smaller firms grow.

And there could be plenty of job opportunities in the gaming sector - of the game studios who reported skills shortages, 89% were seeking programmers, 33% 3D artists, 33% game designers, 15% 2D artists, 15% management, 11% producers, 4% quality assurance, 4% audio and 4% writers.

We are uniquely positioned to contribute to our economic recovery with weightless digital exports, but that growth will depend heavily on our ability to support young and emerging enterprises,” says New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson Chelsea Rapp.

Minister for Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark, says it's a fantastic result for the industry, which continued to power through growth over the last eight years - and through COVID-19.

“Most of the growth was from well-established firms. The challenge for us and the sector is growing new competitive firms and helping them develop investment-ready products,” says Clark.

According to the report, 86% of studios call themselves independent game developers who create their own IP, although 19% of those also make products for paying clients. Additionally, 11% of studios contract to other clients solely, while 3% create educational and serious games.

Clark references the Government's Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan, which is a roadmap for the next 20-30 years.

“I am confident that this industry will continue to help our economic recovery from COVID-19 through delivering weightless exports, continuing to create jobs throughout New Zealand, and by developing a range of products for a global audience, whether [it is] an entertainment game, or a serious game that supports mental wellbeing or health and safety training,” he adds.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says the achievement is a great example of how the wider New Zealand tech industry is faring.

“New Zealand tech firms have been incredibly resilient as COVID-19 impacted most sectors across the economy this year,” he says.

“We are seeing sectors like the game developers growing exports at exponential rates, local IT companies working through the night helping other sectors rapidly become more digital and a new wave of high growth companies raising funds to expand globally.

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