Kiwi game studio founded by MDS Alumni raises $650,000 to develop cooperative games

New Zealand-based video-game developer Space Rock Games raises $650,000 from venture capital investors Hillfarrance and the New Zealand Growth Capital Partners to develop their debut game, Criminals Within. With this round closed, the company has become one of the first venture-backed gaming studios in the country.

Space Rock Games was originally founded by five university graduates in 2020 during the first lockdowns in Aotearoa New Zealand - when most of the major game and film studios closed their doors to new hires. Since then the studio has grown to 10 people and is expected to further expand to 12 developers by the end of the year.


“I think it's fair to say that no one expected the pandemic,” said Vanessa Pirok, co-founder and animator at Space Rock Games. “Before that, I never imagined that I would become an entrepreneur, but now I’m in love with it. Being able to create something of our own with no limits to our creativity is really exciting.“


The pandemic not only contributed to the creation of the studio but also sparked the idea for their debut game. The shift to working from home meant that a significant amount of people have become isolated from their friends and families.


Criminals Within is designed to connect people, by being a cooperative-only game that requires two players to complete. According to co-founder and game producer Zsombor Pirok, there will be no single-player mode.


“Going co-op-only means that we can design challenges that require players to work together. You wouldn’t be able to do that if one player has the ability to complete everything on their own”


The raise was led by New Zealand venture capital fund Hillfarrance, whose managing partner Rob Vickery jumped on the opportunity and is joining the company’s board.

“The video game industry continues to see explosive growth and developers are exploring new ways and formats to engage gamers who are thirsty for new content. When we first met Space Rock and heard that they are creating a studio and title that is pushing the frontiers of multiplayer gaming, we were excited to jump on board. From a New Zealand Inc. perspective, the Space Rock team represents some of the finest new minds in the Aotearoa gaming industry and we hope that they inspire a new generation of people to get into game development in the Land of the Long White Cloud.”


While the news about the gaming industry is filled with worker exploitation, Space Rock Games is committed to developing games ethically. That means zero tolerance for harassment, abuse and having a no-crunch policy. Crunch in the video games industry is where game developers work incredibly long hours for months or even years before a game’s release to meet deadlines born from bad planning. This often leads to talented developers burning out and leaving the industry altogether.


Co-founder and creative director Kieran Dunn says, “When it comes to our team, they are the number one priority for us - healthy teams make the best games.”

New Zealand Growth Capital Partners have also joined this round: “We’re impressed with the founders’ passion and vision for creating a medieval fantasy co-op experience. Their focus on building a collaborative and positive culture positions them well to grow into a world-class studio within the rapidly growing New Zealand games market.” says Jason Roche, Associate Investment Director at NZGCP.

Chelsea Rapp, chairperson of the New Zealand Game Developers Association was delighted to hear about the successful raise and pointed out the opportunity for further investment within the industry: “Creating a game studio during a nationwide lockdown is incredibly challenging, but it's a testament to the incredible amount of talent and skill we have here in Aotearoa. I hope that the success of this partnership encourages other investors to explore the numerous opportunities available in this space, and I look forward to seeing more from the talented team at Space Rock Games.“


About Space Rock Games

Space Rock Games is a fully-remote game development studio based in New Zealand. They are committed to ethical development practices with zero tolerance towards harassment and abuse and having a no-crunch policy. The studio's first game, Criminals Within, a 3rd person cooperative-only action game set in a medieval fantasy kingdom, is currently in development.

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Original Story via Space Rock Games

Criminals Within is a game currently being developed by Space Rock Games, founded and headed by MDS Alumni Zsombor Pirok