The New Zealand government has announced an immediate video game development funding boost to support the growth of local studios.
The announcement was made via the Beehive, the NZ government’s official website, through the offices of the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark, and the Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Stuart Nash.
The Government will now invest $NZ2.25 million per year until 2027 to expand the CODE program. CODE, which stands for the Centre of Digital Excellence, was already allocated $NZ1 million in funding this year, but this additional funding will allow it to significantly ramp up its efforts to grow studios in NZ. CODE was originally an election promise made in 2017, and was formally introduced in 2019. Its mission was, and remains, to bolster the Otago region’s growing game dev scene. To date, Dunedin has been CODE’s primary beneficiary with an explosion of games talent happening in the city. Having proven its value, today’s infusion of funding will allow CODE to expand its program across the entire country.
According to the New Zealand Government, its reasons for expanding the allocated funding is simple — its game development community is growing at a startling speed.
“New Zealand’s game development sector has been rapidly growing,” said Minister Clark in a statement. “The latest data from the New Zealand Game Developers Association shows the total revenue for the industry is $407 million, compared to $276 million a year ago.”
“We also want to drive innovation and create opportunities in our regions. Expanding CODE across New Zealand should pique the interest of burgeoning game developers, and provide them with a foot in the door,” said Minister Nash in the same statement.
The increase in funding is the result of government consultation with groups like the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA). “The expansion of CODE is something they have asked for, and we’ve listened,” said Minister Clark.
“The NZGDA is glad to hear about the expansion of remit and additional funding being provided to CODE,” said NZGDA Chairperson Chelsea Rapp in a statement to Kotaku Australia. “In just a few short years, the organisation has created nearly 80 jobs, so much so that Dunedin now accounts for more than 25% of the studios in New Zealand. This additional support will allow CODE to offer their incredible mentorship, training, and funding programmes to studios across New Zealand, and to make a measurable, lasting impact.”
“We would like to see these jobs, businesses, and highly skilled workers remaining here in Aotearoa, and we believe this announcement paves just one-half of the road to success.”
But there’s another factor, too — something that has affected New Zealand’s game dev scene as much as Australia’s: brain drain. Local developers in both countries are frequently lured overseas with competitive funding initiatives. For both, funding and incentives have become about giving developers homegrown incentives attractive enough to stop the exodus — and it’s created a microcosm of the larger problem. Significant new Australian initiatives like the Digital Games Tax Offset threaten to draw New Zealand’s brightest developers — trained on homegrown funding — toward their nearest neighbour. It’s a grave problem, one for which New Zealand does not yet have a solid answer. The NZGDA is urging the government to find one, and quickly.
“Funding for an industry development fund is something the NZGDA has been asking from Government for over 5 years, and while it’s great to see they’ve finally listened, it only solves part of the problem,” said Ms Rapp. “Without responding to the Digital Games Tax Offset offered in Australia, we fear that much of this funding will ultimately subsidise the training of talent that will move to Australia. The global talent shortage means that Aotearoa is the prime place for Australian studios to recruit their future workforce, and if the government doesn’t respond, then we will see a slow drain of our talent and the deflation of a growing industry.”
Minister Clark agrees. “I will continue to work with industry and my colleagues around what more we can do to nurture our local talent and keep them on home soil.”
You can read the full CODE announcement at the Beehive here.
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