Hiring boom at Auckland games company

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Gameloft studio manager Patrick Wagner, who came to New Zealand from the company's Paris headquarters in 2011. Photo / Supplied
Gameloft studio manager Patrick Wagner, who came to New Zealand from the company's Paris headquarters in 2011. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland game development studio which created three top-selling titles last year has more than quadrupled its staff numbers in less than three years and says it has no plans to slow down.

Since starting with 15 developers in August, 2010, Parnell-based Gameloft has grown to 85 employees and is about to hire another 20.

Studio director Patrick Wagner said the success of its three games last year - My Little Pony, My Littlest Pet Shop and Wonder Zoo - had led to rapid growth in the company.

"Those three games collectively brought in the same revenue in the space of three weeks as the studio made during the entire previous year," he said.

Sales last year were "in the millions", he said.

My Little Pony was one of six kiwi-made games to hit top 10 iPhone download charts in the US in 2012.

The New Zealand studio is a subsidiary of its French-owned global parent, a leading developer and publisher of games for mobile phones and consoles.

Headquartered in Paris, Gameloft has 28 subsidiaries around the world, employs 6200 people and last year made sales worth about 250 million euro (NZD$400 million).

Wagner relocated from Paris in 2011 and said New Zealand had been a perfect place to establish a business.

"We set up here because there are very good 3D artists and animators in New Zealand," he said.

"When it comes to 3D, we have some very strong hitters in the industry."

My little pony

My Little Pony screenshot from Official Teaser Trailer


Largely responsible for that was a thriving kiwi film industry, which had nurtured a hotbed of talent, he said.

"When Weta are doing a movie they need everyone in the country to work for them but these 3D artists are still there when the movie's finished."

Kiwis were generally well-trained and did not get flustered by tight deadlines, he said.

The country also offered an attractive tax system compared to countries in Europe.

About 30 per cent of Gameloft's local team are Kiwis, with the remainder from more than 20 different countries.

"We get people from all over the world because New Zealand in a very attractive place to live," Wagner said.

"We want to hire more New Zealanders - the more locals we can get the better."

He was looking forward to a flood of graduates emerging from new game development degrees being run by providers like the Media Design School in Auckland.

"They're still in the first year of the degree so we need two more years before we can hire those graduates.

"I would be willing to hire all of them."

Gameloft recently received a $600,000 research and development grant from Callaghan Innovation to help the company pay salaries for employees working on its 'engine' - the skeleton of a game which allows it to run.

Wagner said that grant had directly enabled Gameloft to hire 12 more people at the end of January.

A number of other game development studios were also doing very well in New Zealand, such as PikPok and Small Worlds, he said.

"These companies weren't there 10 years ago so the industry's growing."

In 2011, Gameloft NZ attracted controversy when a former employee complained of excessive work hours.

The NZ Labour Department found no evidence of breaching health and safety laws.

"All creative industries work long hours and we're no exception but in 2011 we were severely short staffed after losing a few key positions," Wagner said.

"We worked on it. There were some things we needed to work on and we have needed to get the right number of staff."

There are around 450 game developers in New Zealand.

The global game development industry will generate spending of about USUS$97 billion this year and US$115 billion by 2015, according to research by Gartner.

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