The country's thriving gaming industry has been given another boost with the makers of the popular PlayStation console this week announcing a partnership that gives Kiwi students the chance to develop their own games on Sony's platform.
The deal will see Sony Computer Entertainment Europe support central Auckland-based Media Design School with tools, expertise, incubation labs and connections with some of the top game companies worldwide.
The school will be the only tertiary institute in the country to offer students the chance to publish their games onto the PlayStation Network.
Sony's NZ director of sales and marketing, David Hine said the prospect of Kiwi students unleashing their creativity on PlayStation platforms was very exciting.
"There is some serious talent in this country and we think PlayStation First is a perfect way to develop their abilities as the next generation of game developers," he said.
"In the early PlayStation Two and Three days to get a game onto the platform you needed to develop this game that was commercially viable, to have produced the discs and the promotion, and distribution and all the rest of that, but now we are seeing an explosion of creative ideas through the smaller indie digital games, that's what is exiting."
PlayStation First is Sony's academic partnership programme which champions university courses and fosters pathways for graduates, and opportunities for developing and publishing student intellectual property.
Watch: PlayStation partners with Media Design School
The New Zealand Game Developers Association's 33 member studios collectively hiked their earnings to $36.3 million last year. More than $31 million of that total came from exports of smartphone and online games.
Digital gaming exports generated more revenue than New Zealand's music or TV exports last year.
NZGDA chairman Stephen Knightly said there were more than 450 full-time game developers based in NZ, but almost half of the local studios struggled with a shortage of skilled graduates.
From left, PikPok managing director Mario Wynands, Darryn Melrose, chief executive at Media Design School, and David Hine, director of sales and marketing for PlayStation NZ
Wellington-based mobile game maker PikPok, whose titles include Flick Kick Football, Into the Dead and Turbo FAST, have over 150 million downloads for their games.
Mario Wynands, the managing director of PikPok says that despite the country's small size, digital has unlimited potential.
"The ability to reach tens or hundreds of millions of people, with something that a small group people can create shows the massive potential there, so it's a lightweight industry with a lot of upside," Wynands said.
The Media Design School offers bachelor degrees in both game programming and game art, attracting students from around the world, says Media Design School chief executive, Darryn Melrose.
"We want our students to be 'industry ready,' so they can slot right in, rather than being interns for six months making coffee; we want them to add value straight away," he said.
Melrose says about 300 students are enrolled in game programming and game art courses, but that number could have been much higher; the school's student roll is capped by the government.
"We are on the cusp where parents are thinking a career in gaming is just as valuable to their child as a career in law or commerce or medicine, and the skills are probably more globally transferable, as well as they are doing a job that they love to do," Melrose said.
PlayStation will be integrated into the school's curriculum from July this year.
Read more about the New Zealand game industry here: