This Is What A Successful Australian Game Studio Looks Like

This Is What A Successful Australian Game Studio Looks Like

How do you define ‘success’? Well, if you’re a government body thinking about funding video games, about aiding growth, creating sustainable jobs — all that good stuff — this is what a successful Australian video game studio looks like.

As part of Senator Ludlam’s inquiry into the Australian games industry, Brisbane based studio Defiant Development tabled some pretty eye-opening information. These graphs essentially chart the four year growth of one small studio from a small three man team to a fully-fledged studio with almost 20 gainfully employed game developers.

There’s a lot of interesting info to parse here. First: the transition from work-for-hire to the creation of brand new IP. Defiant Development released Hand of Fate last year, which was obviously successful, but even before that Defiant’s growth was headed in a positive, sustainable direction.

According to Morgan Jaffit, co-founder of Defiant Development, these graphs were submitted to show how beneficial government support can be to Australian studios like Defiant. Morgan and his co-founders received a small amount of government funding in the beginning phase of Defiant Development and we’re now seeing the results of that early investment.

Interestingly — a massive, massive amount of Defiant’s revenue is coming from overseas.

Again, success takes many forms, and doesn’t necessarily need to mean commercial success, but if the Australian industry wants to receive more government funding success of this kind needs to be demonstrable — and it is demonstrable.

Such a fascinating insight into how quickly a video game studio can grow if given a little push in the beginning.


  • I always liked the idea of Australian game developers banding together moving en masse somewhere ala Silicon Valley (but you know, locally, and, you know, a little less douche) and working as a collective but still retaining separate companies/identities/etc.

    I think this may have happened already somewhat, in Melbourne and Adelaide CBD’s? Imagine if the hub of Aussie game development was wholly and solely in one place though.

      • That sounds like defeatist’s attitude.

        Aussie Rules Footy didn’t need the NBN

        ShadowRun didn’t need the NBN

        de Blob didn’t need the NBN

        Fruit Ninja didn’t need the NBN

        EscapeVektor didn’t need the NBN.

        The next great Aussie game won’t.

        • Like how the early settlers didn’t need cars? Horses do the job just fine.

          (can’t actually tell if facetious or not)

          • My original point still stands, I know how idealistic it sounds but I did add the caveat – this has begun to happen already. Someone in the know could probably shed more light on it though.

          • But just because something isn’t strictly necessary doesn’t mean it can’t help to an immense degree.

          • His point also still stands. Currently you require physical proximity, whereas we have the technology available to remove that barrier. Just saying that it wasn’t needed in the past is no reason to discount it’s potential value in the future.

            Yes, there are game development hubs, but the fact is if we had the NBN rolled out nationally they wouldn’t really be necessary.

        • Yeah, I didn’t say anything that would necessitate that reply. All I said was that with a proper NBN you wouldn’t need a central hub like you’re suggesting.

        • NES games didn’t need 16 bits.
          SNES games didn’t need 3D.
          N64 games didn’t need optical media storage.
          PS1 games didn’t need online connectivity.
          XBox games didn’t need Blu Ray media storage.
          PS3 games didn’t need to have the same increased visual quality and texture sizes as a PS4.
          Then we have VR on the horizon which brings with it an entirely new set of visual and rendering requirements.

          Yes, it’s entirely possible to continue on as we are without the NBN but that means people’s options are limited and if we want to be competitive in the AAA industry then that means games with bigger graphical files, larger sound files, videos, demonstrations, streams, VR conceptualisations and a whole lot of other network intensive data that needs to be pushed around. It’s especially important if you’re storing data or running tests on cloud servers. Saying “Well people are doing great stuff now so why bother pushing for change?” rather than “We have some really great ideas that could be realised faster with better network speeds.” kind of sounds like the defeatist attitude.

      • that would be great for regional nsw and regional australia in general because it would take away a lot the focus that western sydney and geelong get when it comes to how the country is run.

    • Lots of indie devs here and Adelaide because it’s cheap living. The downside is there’s no jobs and the internet sucks. Even in our office in Rundle Mall we still get slow speeds and frequent drop outs

  • Interesting graphs. Thanks for sharing! What does “Commissions & Agency Revenue” mean exactly? Work for Hire and Original IP is pretty straightforward but Agency Revenue sounds like Work for Hire?

    • I “think” it’s because Ski Safari wasn’t technically their game 100%, it was made in a collaborative relationship between Brendan Watts and Defiant’s Art Director Shawn Eustace. There was a story on Kotaku about it:

      I’d say there was obviously a revenue share agreement in place and that’s what they are counting under the “Commissions and Agency Revenue” tag. Defiant had another mobile game called Rocket Bunnies which wasn’t as big a hit released in the 2012 / 2013 period so I’d say that’s why their “Original IP” column is smaller in that period compared to it.

      Hand of Fate was released in 2015, was 100% their own IP and was very successful for them hence the big spike there.

      That’s just my complete guess at the data…

  • Those charts are pretty meaningless! How about adding some values on the axis. It could mean that their revenue growth by source was from 50c to 9$ for all we know.

    • A small company may not want to put values on their income/revenue streams on the Internet for anyone to see. The percentage increases are arguably more important to demonstrate the trend and changes in this case.

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