Games should get movie-type backing

RocketWerkz founder Dean Hall and some of his team outside of their Dunedin HQ. IMAGE: GERARD O...
RocketWerkz founder Dean Hall and some of his team outside of their Dunedin HQ. IMAGE: GERARD O’BRIEN & MAT PATCHETT
RocketWerkz founder Dean Hall says the games sector should have access to the type of creative arts funding provided to the film industry.

Mr Hall, whose company now employs about 100 staff through its Dunedin and Auckland studios, said the main issue undermining growth, particularly regionally, was in securing skilled staff.

"We have largely exhausted the talent pool we could get in Dunedin and it has stunted our growth. Expanding to Auckland has solved that but also created new problems such as competition for resources internally — so it’s not a silver bullet."

He said to put the numbers into perspective the company probably spent more on travel than CODE (the centre for digital excellence) has to spend per year

"Ten million dollars over 10 years sounds like a lot but it is really not. It wouldn’t even cover most of our rent in Auckland."

He said it was not an easy problem to solve, as senior staff were needed to help manage a three- to four-year apprenticeship for juniors and gaming companies had to fund that in-house.

"At the moment, the Government is subsidising the film industry, which is causing us quite a headache as we compete for the same staff."

He said while the Government had been actively touting the benefits of the digital gaming industry, there had not been much in the way of action — "hopefully, plenty targeted at the regions".

Mr Hall’s comments come in the wake of the latest annual survey by the NZ Game Developers Industry, which suggested the 39 interactive gaming, virtual reality and edTech companies operating in the sector were now generating a combined $203million in revenues, about 96% from exports.

That is a 10-fold increase on the $19million it was worth in 2012 — a 42% annualised growth rate.

According to the survey, 59% of game developers expect "significant growth" of greater than 10% in the coming year.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said interactive media was exactly the kind of industry the Government wanted to foster. "It is scalable, with huge future potential and our Government wants to see the sector continue to strengthen and grow."

He said the Government would help the industry directly address its skill shortages through its reform of vocational education.

"The game development industry will for the first time be able to influence training and the type of courses offered by vocational education providers through the formation of new Work Development Councils."

"I think it’s awesome the Government is looking at our industry to see what they can do. If the Government provides opportunity for the regions we are able to capitalise on that. If not we have a foot in Auckland," Mr Hall said.


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