A video gaming start-up out of Dunedin has topped hundreds of lawyers, accountants, financiers and global businesses by securing the penthouse floors of New Zealand's tallest new office tower on Auckland's waterfront.
"It's only money. You can't take it with you," said RocketWerkz chief executive Dean Hall of his firm's surprise leasing transaction of Precinct Properties' $1 billion PwC Tower at Commercial Bay.
That move has trumped the blue ribbon corporate brigade, all will be beneath the whiz kid game developers: giant well-established businesses PwC New Zealand, Chapman Tripp, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Jarden, DLA Piper, Marsh, Macquarie Bank and Delegat.
"We wanted to make a statement. We're scaling the company up and we're doing to the gaming industry what [Sir] Peter Jackson did to the film industry," Hall said today, adding that leasing such premises was a drawcard for new staff.
Scott Pritchard, chief executive of Precinct which developed the 40-level tower nearing completion, said the successful New Zealand business had leased levels 38 and 39 on a six-year term.
RocketWerkz is now in temporary Albert St premises but Hall hinted last year he was about to improve digs.
"It's an aspirational move. We wanted to position ourselves as different. It's all about attracting talent," Hall said, referring to RocketWerkz's need for more personnel.
Around 60 to 80 staff specialising in video game development will work on the two floors to be connected by stairs: "The fit-out is more than $1m but less than $5m. We pay for that. It will be pretty wild," Hall said.
The Herald has reported how Precinct took High Court action last year to liquidate a company which signed a deal for the same two top floors but reneged. Golden Tower NZ told Precinct in November 2017 it no longer wanted the space but the landlord claimed $379,000 from that would-be tenant.
Each PwC office floorplate is 1364sq m and although no rents were revealed by Hall or Pritchard, top office premises can go for around $700/sq m so RocketWerkz could be paying just under $2m per year.
"The rent doesn't bother me too much. They're very competitive and one of the reasons I liked it is Precinct is really easy to work with," Hall said.
Asked whether he had considered Precinct's Wynyard Quarter Generator, Hall said: "We did talk to them about it. Security is a massive issue for us. We're trying to make one of the biggest games in the world. These new premises are highly secure. A lot of the Generator places were difficult to lock down."
On December 14, the Herald named Hall as one of the top 20 emerging tech leaders.
Chinese gaming giant Tencent bought a 46 per cent stake in RocketWerkz in a deal which some say could be worth "tens of millions" (Tencent spent more than $100m buying a majority stake in Rocketwerkz's closest peer, West Auckland's Grinding Gear Games). Hall said last year he would open a second studio in Auckland to create a big-budget survival game.
Hall founded RocketWerkz after five years in the Air Force plus a successful stint in the gaming industry in Europe. He returned to New Zealand in 2015 to found his own gaming studio.
In 2018, he opened a second studio in Auckland and went on a hunt to hire 60 new staff to create a big-budget survival game.
But on Friday morning, he was about to lead staff on a team-building exercise at Rangitoto: "You can't all be lucky and beautiful, right?"