New Zealand video game industry earnings double in two years

Kiwi game developers earned a record $203.4 million in the last financial year, with the Economic Development Minister saying more is being done to promote the growing industry.

Imagery from Grinding Gears Games' Path of Exile game. Source: Grinding Gears Games

In a release today, New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson Cassandra Gray said 96 per cent of the earnings came from exports.

"What we're seeing are the fruits of the last generation of New Zealand interactive studios' hard work," Ms Gray said.

"Our opportunity is to support the next generation of creative tech companies to join them."

Figures provided by the New Zealand Game Developers Association showing the growth of the industry. Source: New Zealand Game Developers Association

Earnings in the sector have grown strongly in the past three years especially, going from about $100 million in 2017 up to $143 million in 2018 and then up 42 per cent to $203 million in the financial year to March 31 in 2019.

Growth projections made in the association's Interactive Aotearoa study suggested the industry could be worth $1 billion to the New Zealand economy by 2025.

Kiwi game studios celebrated a number of successes this year, including NinjaKiwi's Bloons TD6 topping the Apple paid games charts, Grinding Gear Games' Path of Exile being among the most played PC games in the world and Little Lost Fox's Valleys Between receiving an international award.

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About half of the studios told the developers' association that skill shortages were limiting the growth of their business - something Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said is being addressed.

"Whether it's through game development, digital storytelling, augmented reality, education technology or health applications, interactive media has so many social, wellbeing and cultural benefits to offer New Zealanders and people around the world," Mr Twyford said.

"A great example of the innovation and growth of this industry is in my own electorate of Te Atatu where Grinding Gear Games began in a garage in West Auckland in 2006.

"The success of its Path of Exile game saw the company sell to Chinese tech company Tencent in 2018 for an undisclosed sum of more than $100 million.

"More than 2 million people worldwide regularly play Path of Exile and Grinding Gear Games now employs around 150 people in Henderson.

"Interactive media is exactly the kind of industry our Government wants to foster to help us achieve a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy – it is low emission, export driven and provides high-value jobs.

"It is scalable, with huge future potential and our Government wants to see the sector continue to strengthen and grow.

"Growing these kinds of industries is a key objective of the Government’s Industry Strategy.

"We will explore, in partnership with industry, the best way to support New Zealand’s interactive media sector through the future development of a creative industries Industry Transformation Plan.

"We are also helping the industry directly address its skill shortages through our reform of vocational education.

"The game development industry will for the first time be able to influence training and the type of courses offered by vocational education providers through the formation of new Work Development Councils."