The crucial work of the New Zealand Game Developers Association

A gamer playing a video game while holding a black controller.
Credit: Sam Pak on Upsplash

A gamer playing a video game while holding a black controller.
Credit: Sam Pak on Upsplash

When it comes to supporting the games industry at a grassroots level, few organisations are as important as the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA). As a not-for-profit society focused on helping games companies of all sizes and levels of experience, it's an invaluable resource for supporting and promoting video game developers in New Zealand.

The history of the NZGDA

The NZGDA was formed in 2001 with one key purpose: to uplift games companies in New Zealand. Upon its inception the aim was to put this small nation's gaming output on the map, by improving communications with other nations, aiding with release organisation and strategy, and generally giving New Zealand game developers the voice they may not have had prior.

Of course, the gaming industry was very different back in 2001, and we've come a long way since then. The NZGDA has been forced to adapt to new technologies, but has done so seamlessly throughout its two decade history. These days it is finely attuned to contemporary shifts in the gaming landscape, with support and guidance available for growing markets like mobile gaming and virtual reality.

Best of all, it's clear that having a unified industry body like the NZGDA has done wonders for the visibility of New Zealand's gaming industry. A 2020 survey conducted by the NZGDA revealed that from 2019 to 2020, New Zealand game companies earned $271 million, proving just how fast it has grown in the years since the Association was founded.

The mission and vision of the NZGDA

The mission of the NZGDA is clear. As per the official website, it's a simple one: "to champion, support and grow video game development in New Zealand."

Of course, this is easier said than done, so the NZGDA has various approaches to make this happen. On a production level, it offers monthly developer meetups, where anyone from freelance game designers to indie dev teams can network and organise upcoming projects. It also holds annual conventions focused on upskilling, to develop newcomers to the scene and help them find their perfect role. On top of that, it gives a voice to often marginalised identities within gaming, to help make New Zealand's gaming scene more representative and diverse.

But the work of the NZGDA is far from complete. In February 2023, it published its strategic goals for the year. Its four key pillars remain the same: to support businesses within the industry, give a boost to individuals, help train the next generation of games industry professionals, and promote diversity.

This year there's also more of a focus on expanding the annual NZGDC conference, alongside more government lobbying and consultation to help show just how valuable New Zealand's games industry is.

Membership and benefits

As of 2023, the NZGDA has over 3,000 individual members and 50 studios signed up, which adds at least another 700 onto the tally. Some of the games companies on its roster include Ninja Kiwi, known for the Bloons tower defence games, and Grinding Gear Games, who developed Path of Exile and continue to do so after it was acquired by Tencent.

As of June 2022, the NZGDA moves to a paid membership model for the first time. Individual fees range from $50 to $75 NZD, while companies with over 100 employees will pay $12,000 NZD annually.

This membership grants access to the NZGDA's range of networking resources, discounts on tickets to industry events, and expertise in marketing and business. Alongside that, members can access an exclusive industry job board, free business resources, and industry-specific discounts.

Does NZGDA cover casino video game developers?

One thing to note is that the NZGDA has no relation to casino game developers. There's nothing on their website to indicate these games and their developers fall under their umbrella, or that this may change in the future.

In New Zealand, casino game developers instead fall under gambling authorities, and are regulated by these bodies instead. Therefore, online casino operators in New Zealand don't interact with the NZGDA as it stands.

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Future prospects and challenges

Fortunately, the NZGDA seems to have itself future-proofed already. Given how popular VR and augmented reality are becoming in the industry, professionals in those fields are already able to sign up and receive support from the NZGDA. Equally, as social media and the increasing digitisation of games conferences continue to pervade within the industry, it makes it even easier for geographically distant companies and cultures to spread their message on a global scale.

The next challenge for the society will be to scale up its efforts and continue to put New Zealand games on the map. It's no easy feat given how dominated the industry is by American and Japanese output, but if its success so far proves anything, it's that diversity in gaming is something to be cherished.

As it stands, the NZGDA is one of the most positive and forward-thinking industry bodies on the globe. Thanks to its networking events, professional development schemes, and centralised hub for all things gaming in New Zealand, it's paving the way for a brighter and more diverse gaming industry.

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