Start game jobs – insert policy

This year, games expo PAX celebrated its third year in Australia. I was lucky enough to attend as part of Melbourne International Games Week.

I was there to meet a number of industry players and research the significant number of steps the State of Victoria has taken to support its thriving games development sector. In fact, I hardly got to play many games at all.

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New Zealand’s game development sector is currently worth $92 million a year, employs over 500 people and has grown 13% in the last year. It’s pretty great growth but to put it in contrast with Finland, a country with a similar population, their games sector is worth $2.4 billion! Often Steven Joyce says we shouldn’t give our games development sector the same support like film gets because it’s doing well. My response is: why stop at “well”? Let’s get to Finland levels because I’d hate to see our growth in high paying jobs plateau or decline.

The fact PAX is in Melbourne, Victoria stems from a concerted strategy by the state to attract studios, investment and events like PAX that bring in 60,000 out-of-state attendees. I would love to replicate the steps they have taken here and grow more high-paying, creative jobs.

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The international video games market is estimated to be worth $US 111 billion, according to Gartner Research, much more than the film or music industries. It’s a huge market and going to grow even faster with virtual and augmented reality, but New Zealand’s game development sector suffers from a lack of support compared to Australia, the U.S, Canada and especially other countries like Finland, that offer direct government investment.

I was also there to show support for our New Zealand companies showing off their new games across the ditch. I was lucky enough to meet with a few of the companies and chat with them about just how they got to where they are, some of the hardest parts about getting there and what the New Zealand Government could put in place to make it more achievable.

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Some of these great companies included Lost Goblin, who recently managed to hit their Kickstarter goal on their new game The Goblins of Elderstone; Dinosaur Polo Club with their hit award winning game Mini Metro; Flightless with their realtime strategy space game Element; and Frogshark with their chaotic physics-based action game Swordy. There were many more New Zealand and Australia companies showing off their indie games in the PAX rising area and it was great to see that they didn’t view each other as competition but instead worked together to help and support each other in the industry.