From taking a first step into the world of online gaming,
NHNZ's Flutter game this week went viral on Facebook.
Business editor Dene Mackenzie investigates.
NHNZ general manager John Crawford and Runaway Play director
Tim Nixon have had an anxious few weeks as they awaited news
whether social network giant Facebook would give
Flutter its accreditation.
Mr Crawford said NHNZ had to prove its credentials to
"It is open to anyone - to a degree. Getting Facebook onside
is tough and they are notoriously difficult to get hold of.
It was a nail-biting few weeks waiting for accreditation."
Emma Johansson fills in a Flutter background. Photo by Jane
The accreditation, which came two weeks ago, saw
users rise from 50,000 to 500,050 in the
following two weeks. By late Thursday, numbers playing were
more than 600,000.
The online game Flutter was the first game developed
and released by the Runaway Play team, based in Dunedin. It
involves butterflies in various settings flying around,
pollinating flowers and moving through the levels of the
Mr Nixon said it was in the system for months before
accreditation came through which meant Facebook put the game
on its main gaming page, or "dashboard".
He believed the reason the accreditation finally came was
that the game used Facebook currency exclusively, it told an
interesting story and, thanks to some forward planning,
provided a rich visual experience.
"All of that planning paid off. We used Facebook ads to
target who we wanted playing the game. We had a very good
idea who our core demographic was and made sure those ads
went exclusively to our target niche.
"Once you increase the number of people in the niche playing
the game, there is viral growth when there are enough people
urging their friends to play it. That's when the game really
starts to fly."
Mr Crawford said NHNZ had spent six months investigating the
multibillion-dollar online gaming industry. He was sure it
complemented what NHNZ did as a television production
The multimedia use of things like iPads, computers and mobile
phones to watch television programmes gave everyone a chance
to improve viewer experience.
The documentaries produced by NHNZ gave the company a chance
to design games around television programmes.
Flutter was starting to hit its straps now but Mr
Crawford had high hopes for the next game, due to be promoted
by the National Geographic channel in about two weeks.
Puzzle Planet would be available on iPhones and iPads.
It was launched three weeks ago and he expected it to take
off, once the advertising started around the world. Both NHNZ
and National Geographic owned a share of the game.
"We are hoping for great success. We are working on getting
our pitch out to potential parties."
The key to success, however, was to make money out of the
game. People paid to download the games on iPad and iPhones
but many of the Facebook games had been free.
Flutter started using Facebook currency so that game
players could buy the elements they needed to keep
progressing on the game.
All of that was based on lots of study, finding a market,
working out a marketing plan - things you could not learn out
of a book, Mr Crawford said.
"There was a lot of trial and error involved. The metrics
that go with it showed that people buying on our game were at
a level of market average and the number of people coming
back to play for a second and third time was well up on the
"That gave us the leverage to spend a bit of money to test
NHNZ spent "several hundred thousand dollars" investigating
its target market for Flutter because it was important
to identify the market along with business risks, he said.
NHNZ had been at the forefront of high definition programmes
before HD televisions were available in New Zealand, it was
also the first in the world to broadcast a 3-D television
Now, it was looking at becoming a major games developer.