Gaming: New Zealand’s next $1 billion industry

At the forefront of transforming learners into top-notch game developers, we were thrilled to see the latest stats from Digital New Zealand highlighting that more and more New Zealanders are embracing gaming.

The gaming industry provides huge employment opportunities in New Zealand and beyond. The industry is in a period of unparalleled growth due to the global demand for games. We’ve noticed over the past 18 months, the resilience of the New Zealand gaming industry throughout COVID-19, seeing unparalleled growth with global demand for digital and online content soaring. 

According to the The New Zealand Game Developers Survey 2020, the interactive media sector earned $271 million in the year to 1 April 2020 – with 96 per cent of local creators’ incoming coming from overseas audiences. New Zealand’s gaming industry is expected to hit $1 billion in exports by 2025, while the global industry rose 20% to nearly $180 billion last year alone. 

Media Design School’s dedicated gaming courses foster an environment where both programmers and artists are able to collaborate on projects for their portfolio with the potential to bring their games to market should they choose. With such a boom in New Zealand’s gaming culture, and its growth expected to continue, now is better than ever to become part of the industry. 

How have gamers in New Zealand changed

The latest Digital New Zealand report by Australia’s Interactive Games and Entertainment Association dug deep into the habits of New Zealand ‘gamers’ (whether they relate to such a label or not), with the stereotypical young male playing in his parents’ basement with his face lit in blue having been replaced by simply ‘The Average Joe’, or 73% of the New Zealand population. 

Though perhaps ‘The Average Joe’ should be replaced with ‘The Average Josie’. Among many of the surprising finds, one of them was the gender breakdown creeping closer to a 50/50 split. As of this report, 48% of New Zealand women now consider themselves ‘gamers’, 52% of men, with 1% identifying as non-binary. 

The report has shed light on almost every aspect of gaming, looking at average age, average session length by demographic, access to gaming devices in households and popularity in regards to other media. 

The impact that gaming has had has also extended far beyond its own sphere. Most evidently, the evolution of communication through games. With 76% of gamers choosing to play with others, digital socialisation is a valued aspect, despite the ability for people to shut themselves off from the rest of the world. This has led to the creation and spread of platforms such as Discord, and many games have chosen to promote communication by integrating such systems or even developing their own. In fact, many games have been designed to require a certain level of communication to be successful, which has led to the accelerated growth of the competitive side of games: the billion-dollar eSports industry, which was worth only half that in 2019, and almost non-existent in 2005.  

New Zealand is a big player in the Gaming Industry

New Zealand is no stranger to punching above its weight. While our minds wander to the success we have seen on the sports stage with the likes of: our fighters in the UFC – Dan Hooker, Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and current, reigning, defending Middleweight Champion Israel Adesenya; the infamous undefeated streak of the All Whites in the 2010 FIFA World Cup; and the consistent success of the All Blacks; or - perhaps a little more relevant, the astounding work that is created by Weta Workshop, paving the way for 3D and VFX in major blockbuster movies.

Perhaps, less widely known - we are also powerhouses when it comes to gaming with companies such as Grinding Gear Games, based in Henderson, responsible for creating Path of Exile, a hugely popular cross-platform RPG; Rocketwerkz and PikPok. We are proud to have close ties with many gaming studios, where our students are sought after for positions through organised interviews, giving all students a chance to break in to the industry after graduation and at worst brush up on much needed interview skills with organic and real practice. 

And with 96% of the revenues gained from export markets, there is a great opportunity for New Zealand to nurture and grow new export markets using digital technologies. New Zealand born and raised studio, Ninja Kiwi, developers of the cult-classic Bloons series was founded by MDS graduate Stephen Harris and his brother, that was recently acquired by Modern Times Group (MTG) for NZD$250 million.  

Media Design School champions innovation among our students, and we’re the first and only school in the country to partner with both Sony’s PlayStation and Unity Technology. Top studios tell us that skill shortages are their biggest barriers to growth. Our games development courses and game art courses respond to industry-wide shortages, so when you graduate, you’re sure to be in demand. 

I’ll go on record to say Media Design School produces the best graduates in the country for the games industry.” Mario Wynands, CEO - PikPok 

The industry employed 747 full time creative technologists, and expect to create another 142 new jobs this year. This is an increase of 9% from last year.  

For the studios that reported skills shortages:

  • 89% were seeking programmers, 33% 3D artists, 33% game designers, 15% 2D artists, 15% management, 11% producers, 4% quality assurance, 4% audio and 4% writers 

  • 61% of studios create games for PC, 48% for mobile devices, 36% for consoles, 27% for virtual reality, 18% for augmented reality and 24% for websites.  

  • The sector attracts staff from a variety of sources. 48% of studios said they had hired staff directly from tertiary education in the last year, 48% from another game studio, 45% from overseas, 35% from other creative or tech companies. 

"I’ve worked amongst other graduates from MDS - working alongside them. You could always tell who the MDS students were. In comparison to the other graduates, MDS students are always on it, always pushing.” Matt Gretton – Outerdawn 

Another statistic, that is growing, is that 23% of studio employees identified as female. Media Design School has been championing females in the industry, with our own Girls in Games initiative, that is looking into its tenth anniversary come 2022.  

Check out some of our Golden Grads below that broke into the industry after studying at MDS:

  • Josh Rawlings  

Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art) 2014 

Worked at Scarlett City, A44 and Mayday here in New Zealand. Landed a job at Blizzard last month! Check out some of Josh's artwork.

  • Alex Ujdur 

Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art) 2018 

One of the artists on Fork Knights, now working at Outerdawn 

  • Hayden Asplet 

Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming) 2016 

Director of Software Engineering at A44 

  • Logan Currin 

Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art) 2016 

Senior Production Artist at PikPok 

Check out some of Logan's artwork.

48% of studios said they had hired staff directly from tertiary education in the last year...” - New Zealand Game Developers Survey 2020 

Join Media Design School to build your skills from the ground up, to establish yourself as an integral part of a major studio, or look to create the next indie studio that will take the world by storm. 

Mario Wynands - CEO of Pikpok
Mario Wynands, CEO - PikPok

“I’ll go on record to say Media Design School produces the best graduates in the country for the games industry.”

Outerdawn Team and Jordan Browne
From Left: Outerdawn Team: Studio Manager Gustav Seymore, Art Director Matt Gretton and Technical Director Mike Page

"I’ve worked amongst other graduates from MDS - working alongside them. You could always tell who the MDS students were. In comparison to the other graduates, MDS students are always on it, always pushing.” Matt Gretton, Art Director – Outerdawn 

Fork Knights In-Game Shot
Fork Knights - created by Game Art students in 2018

You can download the game for PC on Steam free here: