Internet firm invests in RocketWerkz

Rocketwerkz founder Dean Hall (left) and communications director Will Overgard stand in front of...
Rocketwerkz founder Dean Hall (left) and communications director Will Overgard stand in front of some of the growing team at the Dunedin gaming studio. Photo: Gerard O'Brien.
Dunedin games developer Dean Hall is not content with slow and steady expansion.

Since he set up his studio, RocketWerkz, in Dunedin 18 months ago it has expanded to 27 staff.

That breakneck pace of growth is set to continue after an announcement this week the company has attracted a capital injection from Chinese company Tencent, which is one of the largest internet companies in the world.

Mr Hall, who was brought up in Oamaru, said the investment was a vote of confidence in what the company was doing and allowed it to continue expanding, employing both locals and talent from around the world, as it set to work on a "triple-A"  multiplayer game.

He wants to grow the studio in the Jade Building in Wharf St to about 150 staff members, but in the short term the plan was to employ one or two new staff a week for the rest of this year.

Originally the plan had been to shift at least part of the studio to Queenstown, but he had settled on having a permanent presence in Dunedin after finding it much easier to attract staff to the city than he first thought.

"People want to come to a place like this, particularly the way the world is."

Global uncertainty had definitely helped attract staff, with a Swedish technical artist based in the United Kingdom signing up to work for the company after Mr Hall put out a joke tweet in the Brexit aftermath.

"He just wanted to get out."

He was not content with "little expectations and little goals", like many other New Zealand companies.

"We have got to go big. There is no reason we can’t compete with these huge United States studios.

"We’ve got the people, arguably we’ve got a better city location, and gigabit internet."

The desire to make it big fast — he wants to replicate what Sir Peter Jackson did for New Zealand’s film industry with gaming — comes after he reached great heights with the zombie survival game he created, DayZ.

While that game was selling about 4 million copies, he climbed Mt Everest in 2013.

Now he is training for an expedition to the South Pole and when he says one of the reasons he wants RocketWerkz to make the big time is because he wants to travel to Mars, it is hard to tell if he is joking.

"There are so many video games I want to make and it’s almost painful that they are not made.

"We need more teams, more people, to make these games."

The deal with Tencent, which was signed off recently, had been about two years in the making, after Mr Hall first made contact before he set up in Dunedin.

One of the best things about Tencent was it took a hands-off approach and allowed RocketWerkz to continue developing games in a unique way.

"We courted a few large companies and Tencent were the ones we really felt just got it."

That unique way of working included having an "experimental culture", giving people the freedom to come up with their own ideas and giving staff unlimited annual leave.

The investment also meant he was not paying all the bills out of his own pocket.

Another plus was that it opened up the massive Chinese market.

Tencent is behind  instant messaging service Tencent QQ, which has more than 800 million active users, and multiplayer game League of Legends, which is one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world.

Companies Office records show it owns 25% of Rocketwerkz.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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