New Zealand game developers grew their staff numbers by 46 percent this year and growth is expected to continue into 2012 according to the New Zealand Game Developers Association.

The NZGDA reports that 359 people are now working in game development in New Zealand, 114 of whom were employed in the year ending in September.

The 21 studios are expected to create a further 99 new jobs in the coming year, consisting of approximately 40 programmers, 40 artists and the rest in management.

“New Zealand games studios are export businesses employing highly skilled technical and creative staff, creating original game ideas and increasingly retaining that intellectual property in New Zealand,” said Stephen Knightley, chairman of the NZGDA.

“Online, smartphone and 'indie' games may not have the advertising budgets of large console games, but they're the fastest growing segments of the games business,” he continued. “Our distance from the rest of the world meant that New Zealand game developers were early adopters of online digital distribution and self-publishing, and we're seeing the positive results of that investment now.”

The NZGDA has highlighted some standout successes:

  • Shatter by Wellington's Sidhe, rated No.1 PlayStation Network downloadable game by IGN.com.
  • Bloons by Auckland-based Ninja Kiwi, an online game played well over one billion times. One of its sequels Bloons Tower Defence 4 has sold more than a million copies on iPhone and iPad.
  • SmallWorlds, a fast-growing social game world which has passed the seven million players mark.
  • Chopper 2 by Majic Jungle was a Mac App Store launch day hit, selling over 100,000 copies in one week.
  • Voxatron by Lexaloffle, which headlined a recent hit "Humble Indie Bundle".
  • Five games from Wellington smartphone game developer PikPok (owned by Sidhe) have been downloaded over a million times each.
  • Sparx by Metia Interactive in Auckland, which won a UN World Summit Award and has been "clinically shown" to help teenagers manage depression.