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Booming Kiwi gaming industry asks for Government intervention to grow

Games like Into the Dead 2, Bloons TD 6 and the much-awaited Ashen are helping the New Zealand games industry find success on the world stage.

New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson Michael Vermeulen said the industry is booming, with a goal for earnings to reach one billion dollars per year by 2026.

"We've got companies all the way from Auckland down to Dunedin making games that are doing really well on the world stage," he said.

PikPok managing director Mario Wynands said he believes New Zealand’s "inherent innovative, creative culture" is part of why the country’s games appeal to an international audience, as well as being influenced by a variety of cultures.

"We're able to bring all of this together and then create things which are interesting and compelling all over the world."

Last week, West Auckland-made Bloons TD 6 by Ninja Kiwi was the number one paid app in the world on Android, Apple iPhone and iPad, an unprecedented feat for New Zealand.
In 2012, the industry earned $19.6 million.

Five years later, in 2017, revenue had exploded to $99.9 million, the majority of which comes from exports.

Last year, there were 500 game developers working in New Zealand, according to a survey by NZGDA.

Companies are now calling for government intervention to help grow the industry further, saying maximising their success will be difficult without it.

"If we could see improvements to the local investment scene, to government support then we’d be able to accelerate and amplify that success," Mario Wynands said.

NZGDA's Michael Vermeulen said when foreign game companies enquire about moving to New Zealand, the first thing they ask about is if there any tax incentives.

Digital Media Minister Clare Curran said the government is investigating how to further develop the industry’s impact on the economy and said incentives are needed.

"Research and Development tax credits may be one of them and there may be others," she said.

A government report is being worked on by the New Zealand Technology Industry Association to provide accurate data about the industry and analyse opportunities for growth.

The Minister also acknowledged there is a skills shortage for game development in New Zealand.

"We’re currently having to import people with the skills levels because we’re not producing enough of them," she said.

Aurora 44 creative director Direk Bradley said for development of Ashen, which will be released on Xbox and Microsoft Windows, staff from overseas were needed as the type of game is new ground for creation in New Zealand.

"Honestly, a lot of what the ecosystem needs is people who’ve shipped games as opposed to people who have come out of an education system," he said.

Mr Bradley said gaming students need opportunities for apprenticeships and the education system doesn’t allow for this at the moment.

"It's such a success driven industry… the bar for quality is so high that you need to be around those people that are just the best in the world to be able to live up to that."

PikPok managing director Mario Wynands said with an increase in commercial success, people are starting to take notice of the industry.

"It’s a legitimate career to get into, it’s a great opportunity and something that I think could be an important part of New Zealand’s economy in the future."

Mr Wynands said the gaming industry is starting to close the gap on the success of the film industry and has surpassed the music industry here when it comes to earnings.

The Government report on interactive media is due to be released later this year.

Gaming is NZ’s fastest growing industry, with offerings gaining international popularity. Source: 1 NEWS