Small Business: Game developers - Hannah Laird

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Hannah Laird of Gameloft NZ.
Hannah Laird of Gameloft NZ.

Hannah Laird is public relations coordinator at Gameloft NZ, an international company which employs 126 staff in New Zealand.

Why did Gameloft expand to New Zealand? What does the NZ gaming community have to offer a global business?

In 2010, Gameloft International had some money to invest in a new studio. New Zealand was chosen as the best place to do this for a few reasons:

1. You get a great quality of life
2. There are skilled workers
3. Taxes aren't too high

The New Zealand gaming community offers a lot to a global business such as ours, because New Zealand is very strong with 3D and animation, and as mobile games were turning to really powerful devices and allowed for console-like performance, this was a very welcoming asset for the country.

What games is Gameloft known for?

The most well-known games that have come out of the Gameloft New Zealand studio are: My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic, Littlest Pet Shop and Wonder Zoo - Animal Rescue. Combined, these three games have had over 25 million downloads worldwide.

Where do you find your developers? What institutions are they coming out of?

It's been a bit of a challenge finding people with the right skills in all areas of our game development including; programmers, artists, designers and producers. In fact, 74 per cent of our employees have come from overseas. We do have some employees who have come through institutions such as the Media Design School and all major universities of New Zealand and Australia. To help remedy this situation, we're working very closely with universities such as Unitec, Victoria University, Media Design School, AUT and Canterbury University to take part in guest lectures and career expos as well as assisting some of them with the development of new games courses. For us, this is the best way to ensure students will have attained the right skills to give them the best chance of finding work once they graduate.

What world demand are we trying to feed from NZ?

Mobile gaming is turning more and more to casual and social gaming, those are the two axes of development for the future years.

Are there any challenges for NZ businesses trying to make it big in game developing?

You cannot find everyone here in NZ unfortunately. Speeding up our visa procedures as well as keeping our taxes low will be two key deciders. We also need the NZ dollar to remain low against other major currencies such as the Euro and the USD, so that our costs do not grow too high. What happened in Australia from 2007 had a terrible impact on the video game industry.

What is Gameloft trying to achieve in New Zealand in the next few years?

In the next few years, we have a few goals we would like to achieve:

• Strengthen our ties with local universities and businesses.
• Become a beacon for the video games industry in New Zealand through commercial success and be a reference amongst mid-sized NZ companies for company practices and work environment quality.
• Be part of the top three Oceania studios, both for commercial success and studio size.
• Attaining the best external licensed IP to work on.

Anything else you would like to add on the game developing business?

There are still a lot of people who do not realize you can work in this industry in New Zealand. For us, it's about creating that awareness and retaining all the skilled people in this beautiful country. If you are passionate about video games and looking for a great career, then Gameloft NZ is definitely the place to go!

Next week: Now is a key time for every retailer out there as well organised types are shopping for family overseas and at home. A recent news report said that retailers weren't going to be hiring more staff in the run up to Christmas, they would just be working harder. Is this true in your case? How do small businesses motivate and manage staff at this crucial time of year?

- NZ Herald

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