The video game developing industry is one of New Zealand's fastest growing creative careers, with both revenue and employment on the rise, according to a new survey.

An independent survey of New Zealand Game Developers Association studios revealed industry revenue grew 43 per cent on last year, earning a record $143 million in the financial year ending March 31, 2018.

Employment in the sector grew 10 per cent, and as of March 2018 there were 550 full-time professional game developers working in New Zealand studios.

Michael Vermeulen, New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson, said the industry brought two of the nation's strengths together.


"Interactive entertainment is the combination of two of New Zealand's most successful exports – creativity and code," Vermeulen said.

The report showed 93 per cent of the revenue came from exports of digital creative entertainment software.

Both revenue and employment are seen to continue rising, with 63 per cent of studios expecting more than 10 per cent growth in the coming year, while expecting to employ another 130 people.

Two studios had notable success in the international market.

West Auckland-based developer Ninja Kiwi had its game Bloons Tower Defence 6 become the number one paid app in the world when it launched in June, while Grinding Gear Games was acquired by the world's largest games publisher, Tencent, for over $100m, making it one of the largest tech exits in New Zealand history.

But there are a number of issues constraining growth of the sector as well.

While the going is good for the trailblazers of the industry, Vermeulen says they aren't seeing a pipeline of new fast-growing studios.

"The ten largest studios earned 94 per cent of the revenue and employed 81 per cent of the industry, and are eight years old on average. While those trailblazers have proven that games can be a sustainable and profitable business, we're not seeing a pipeline of new fast-growing studios to join their ranks," he said.

"Since we're competing in a global market, New Zealand should have significantly more large studios. Our potential isn't limited by New Zealand's size."


Support for startup game businesses is one of the main issues being looked at by a report on Interactive Media and Video Games being undertaken by NZ Tech and the NZ Game Developers Association.

In addition, 24 per cent of the studios said they felt that skills shortages were affecting growth, particularly around local workers.

According to the survey, seven studios currently employ 84 staff on work supported visas, making up 15 per cent of the entire industry.

New Zealanders spent $118.3m in retail stores on games and $334m on digital and mobile gaming in 2017, according to figures from the Interactive Games Entertainment Association.

Overall the interactive games industry is now worth more than half a billion dollars.