NZ interactive games grew $120m in April 2020 year

New Zealand’s video game developers have proven themselves resilient through Covid-19. The interactive media sector earned $323.9 million in the year to April 1, 2020, an increase of $121 million in one year alone.

A statement from the New Zealand Game Developers Association says the industry benefited both from being able to continue production during lockdowns as well as soaring demand as people around the world stayed home and played digital and online games. Ninety six percent of local creators’ income came from overseas audiences.

The figures come from the annual New Zealand Game Developers Industry Survey of 42 interactive, gaming, virtual reality, augmented reality and education tech companies. 

“Games and interactive media have given so many people the opportunity to come together when lockdowns and border closures have kept them apart,” says New Zealand Game Developers Association Chairperson Chelsea Rapp. 

“The games industry has proven itself particularly resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic, both here in New Zealand and around the world. 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.” 

The ten largest studios earned 95 percent of this revenue but are now 11 years old on average. However, 75 percent of studios employ five people or less and the association is concerned by the lack of support to grow these firms to take advantage of the export opportunity.

Despite the survey being conducted in the middle of New Zealand’s second Covid-19 lockdown, 49 percent of studios surveyed predicted significant growth (10 percent or more) this coming year. Only 17 percent of studios predict any decline in sales.

While lockdowns have increased the market opportunity, travel restrictions have made it harder to make publishing deals and secure funding. The top four challenges studios reported facing were a shortage of experienced staff, Covid-19 travel restrictions, attracting early-stage funding and attracting investment for expansion. 

Last year’s Interactive Aotearoa report by the Game Developers Association recommended that the Government create an interactive innovation fund and industry development plan to grow the pipeline of new interactive firms. The Government is currently consulting on the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan and the Screen Sector Strategy 2030, which these could be part of. 

The New Zealand Game Developers Survey 2020 highlights 

The data comes from a survey of 42 New Zealand Game Developers Association studios conducted by independent researcher Tim Thorpe and is for the financial year ending 31 March 2020.

  • 86 percent of studios say they are independent game developers who create their own IP, although 19 percent of those also make products for paying clients. Eleven percent contract to other clients solely, while three percent create educational and serious games.
  • Interactive studios are spread around the country, with 40 percent in Auckland, 26 percent in Wellington, 14 percent in Otago, 10 percent in Canterbury, five percent in Waikato and five percent in Bay of Plenty.
  • 96 percent of revenue was earned overseas, mostly by selling digital services to consumers via various digital platforms. Five percent of revenue also came from royalties, eight percent from selling advertising in games and seven percent from selling services.
  • New Zealand studios target audiences around the world, with 65 percent reporting significant income from North America, 41 percent from Europe and 21 percent from mainland China.
  • The industry employed 747 full time creative technologists, and expect to create another 142 new jobs this year. This is an increase of nine percent from last year. 
  • 29 percent roles were for artists, 29 percent for programmers, 11 percent for game designers, 10 percent for management, eight percent producers,six percent quality assurance, two percent audio and one percent writers.
  • 23 percent of studio employees identified as female.

The statement adds that for the studios that reported skills shortages, 89 percent were seeking programmers, 33 percent 3D artists, 33 percent game designers, 15 percent 2D artists, 15 percent management, 11 percent producers, four percent quality assurance, four percent audio and four percent writers. 

The sector attracts staff from a variety of sources. 48 percent of studios said they had hired staff directly from tertiary education in the last year, 48 percent from another game studio, 45 percent from overseas, 35 percent from other creative or tech companies. 

In turn, 111 employees, or 15 percent of the industry, are currently, or have previously been, on work supported visas.

It also says that 61 percent of studios create games for PC, 48 percent for mobile devices, 36 percent for consoles, 27 percent for virtual reality, 18 percent for augmented reality and 24 percent for websites.

On average studios are six years old, with the oldest being 23 years old.

The top 10 studios employ 78 percent of the industry’s full time workers and account for 95 percent of revenue.

Image credit: Screenshot from the local game Guardian Maia by Metia Interactive.

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