Game developers get $1.19m boost

Ever imagined what it would be like to fly across the ocean as an albatross? What about being an annoying seal?

The latest funding boost worth $1.19 million from the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (Code) could be about to make that happen.

The Dunedin-based government-backed entity - set up in 2019 to progress the expansion of New Zealand’s growing video game development industry - announced its third round of funding last night at an event in Dunedin.

Nine Dunedin game development studios received their share of $1million to progress new and existing projects.

The largest chunk, $250,000, was awarded to established company Runaway Play.

It became the first recipient of the Code scale-up funding grant, supporting the creation of an additional team to work on a new, yet-to-be-announced game.

Chief executive Zoe Hobson said the company’s team was "absolutely thrilled" to be awarded the funding.

The grant was being match-funded by Runaway Play, meaning the company also had to help fund the project.

Runaway Play chief executive Zoe Hobson. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Runaway Play chief executive Zoe Hobson. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Mrs Hobson could not give away too much about the new game but said it involved bees and would hopefully be available by the end of next year on Apple App Store and Google Play.

The funding would help the company on a pathway to more "significant growth", she said.

Mrs Hobson believed Code’s funding was helping break the stereotype that games were bad, and showing the sector was a "serious business".

Just over $150,000 was allocated to four applicants in the Kickstart category - which supports the production of commercially viable game prototypes.

In the Startup funding category - which supports existing prototype games with the further development and production - four studios were awards a total of just under $600,000 in grants.

One of them was Atawhai Interactive Tapui, which received $150,000 towards production of Toroa, a game about an albatross returning across the ocean to reunite with its chick.

Spookysoft Ltd received $150,000 towards the production of its game My World of Penguins, aimed at children aged 3 to 7.

The company, which received $21,528 from Code’s earlier round of funding this year, is developing a collection of 12 mini-games starring "five charming penguins and an annoying seal".

Creative director Stef Animal said the company was "very excited about the opportunities" the funding would bring.

Her team of five had spent about six months working on the project so far; over the next year, they would move into the next phase of development and look to secure a publisher for the game.

It was hoped to be launched by towards the end of next year.

Applications for Code’s next round of funding opens for expressions of interest in February.

Round three of Code funding

Kickstart recipients and game projects:

C & C Art Studio, $39,997 for developments of Frens, a match-two puzzle game involving creatures with colours and emotions.

Longjaw, $40,000 for development of Coking Rodeo, a narrative-driven sim exploring issues facing an ecologist working for a mining company.

Retipora Studios, $33,816 for House, a procedural puzzle game with mechanics based on ray-tracing, set in world where architecture is alive.

Transformative Games, $37,074 for development of Project Storm, multiplayer adventure about chasing storms

Startup recipients and game projects:

Atawhai Interactive Tapui, $150,000 towards production of Toroa, game bringing te ao Maori stories to life ina nonviolent, narrative adventure about an albatross returning across the ocean to reunite with its chick.

Nutriblocks, $150,000 towards production of Nutri-Islands, a health impact role-playing game for children about nutrition and healthy eating.

Spookysoft, $150,000 towards production of My World of Penguins, a collection of 12 mini-games starring five charming penguins and an annoying seal.

Usual Suspects Studios, $149,730 towards production of It’s Only Money, a satirical social role-playing game about petty crime and the wealth divide.


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