Games made in New Zealand gathered revenues of NZ$99.87m in the financial year ending March 31, according to a independent survey commissioned by the New Zealand Game Developers Association.
That figure, arrived at via a survey of 29 NZGDA members by researchers Tim Thorpe Consulting Limited, represents growth of 12 percent on last year's total of NZ$88.9m.
The vast majority of revenue (97 percent) comes from overseas.
"One hundred million is a great milestone to hit, but our real goal is to grow a billion-dollar industry in New Zealand within 10 years," said New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson James Everett.
"With some coordinated support to maximise our export potential, that’s achievable. Finland’s game industry earned over $4 billion last year, for example.
The survey also uncovered that more than half (55 percent) of New Zealand’s studios describe themselves as independent self-publishers, 14 percent focus on contract work and outsourcing, and 28 percent mix contracting with developing their own original IP.
Developing and publishing original game IP seems to be the most successful business strategy, with 65 percent of studios’ revenue coming from direct sales and 14 percent from selling advertising in those games. Contract work accounted for only 12 percent of revenues.
"Game Development is a mix of two of New Zealand’s strongest sectors, creative and hi-tech. In a global digital market, New Zealand creators have the same opportunity as anyone else to compete and succeed," said Everett.
"Much of our success to date comes from creating our own original creative IP and self-publishing it. While this cuts out the middlemen, it also means we must fund our own growth."
Hit Kiwi action RPG Path of Exile was recently launched in China by Tencent, the world’s largest games publisher. Tencent has also invested in Dean Hall's Dunedin-based studio Rocketwerkz.
As of March 2017, there were 500 professional game developers employed by studios in New Zealand, working in a mix of creative and technical roles: 29 percent are programmers, 28 percent are artists, 18 percent are in marketing or management, 9 percent are game designers, 7 percent work in quality assurance, and 6 percent are producers.
Studios expect to employ another 93 people in the coming year. The Association’s job board posted 58 vacancies this year.
However, 42 percent of studios felt that skills shortages were constraining the growth of their business.
Other barriers to growth were difficulties attracting early stage funding, attracting expansion capital, developing business capability, and increasing employee diversity – 17 percent of employees in the game development industry are female.
"At the moment, R&D funding is the most pressing need facing the sector. It’s what is needed to develop more original creative IP for export," said Everett.
"Currently there’s a lack of coordination with the rest of New Zealand’s screen sector which can lead to missed opportunities too."
The industry will celebrate later this week when over 450 people are expected at the NZ Game Developers Conference at AUT University on Thursday and Friday.