New Zealand\u2019s video game studios created 134 new high-tech creative jobs in the last financial year, according to an independent survey by the New Zealand Game Developers Association.\nEmployment of game programmers and artists grew significantly to 568 full-time jobs as studios invested in new product development, says Stephen Knightly, chairperson of the Game Developers Association. Chairperson.\n Instead of chasing more but smaller visual effects projects, we could attract higher margin, multi-million dollar game projects. Stephen Knightly, Game Developers Association\nHe pointed out the sector earned $78.7 million in FY2015, up 3 per cent on the previous year, with 82 per cent of revenue coming from digital exports.\nThe survey shows that established game studios continue to do well but the overall sector\u2019s growth has slowed due to a lack of new businesses being established by either local startups or international investors, he states.\n\u201cWe expect a good year ahead for the established games studios, but we\u2019re concerned that our pipeline of up and coming studios has dried up,\u201d explains Knightly.\nKnightly says 27 New Zealand video game developers responded to the survey which was conducted by Tim Thorpe Consulting. The figures were for the financial year ending 31 March 2015.\nFilling the pipeline\nKnightly says recent New Zealand-made game launches include Outsmart\u2019s Bloodgate, Ice Age Avalanche by Gameloft Auckland, Monsters Ate My Metropolis by Pikpok and Path of Exile\u2019s The Awakening expansion.\n\u201cTellingly, every local games business with more than 10 employees is at least six years old. We haven\u2019t seen another local success scale up in recent years,\u201d says Knightly.\n\u201cAlthough we have a proven track record, skills and the ability to reach global markets digitally, the survey highlights a scarcity of startups on track to become the next generation of sustainable studios,\u201d he states.\n\u201cSince games are global and digital in nature, with a good prototype it is possible to attract crowdfunding, publishing deals or private investment. But a gap in investment at the early stage is preventing small independent developers from even getting that far.\u201d\n\nTo address this, the Association and sponsors have created the KiwiGameStarter where one promising games business will receive funding, software, and business mentoring support worth over $25,000. A second studio will also win $5000 plus software.\nThe KiwiGameStarter competition aims to help early-stage games businesses develop prototypes ready for investment or crowdfunding.\nIt is supported by Callaghan Innovation, ISP BigPipe, Microsoft, game development tool makers Autodesk and Unity 3D, Pursuit Public Relations and Hudson Gavin Martin lawyers.\nPlayable prototypes and business plans for the competition are due on 28 August.\nDespite international interest, New Zealand is also missing out on international game visual effects productions because they are excluded from the relevant visual effects incentive.\nThe Postproduction, Digital and Visual Effects scheme offers a 20 per cent rebate on visual effects productions completed in New Zealand.\nThe government recently announced a reduction in the qualifying expenditure threshold from $1 million to $500,000 to stimulate demand for post-production and smaller visual effects companies.\n\u201cExisting programmes could simply be modernised to include comparable games visual effects and generate a greater economic benefit for New Zealand,\u201d says Knightly.\n\u201cInstead of chasing more but smaller visual effects projects, we could attract higher margin, multi-million dollar game projects. Video game and film visual effects work are comparable and only one criteria needs to be revised to make games eligible.\u201d\nSend news tips and comments to email@example.com\nFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap\nFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz\nSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.\nJoin us on Facebook.