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Video games could be NZ's next big thing

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/04/2017 Karen Sweeney

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Video games could be New Zealand's next big export with no limit on how big the industry could become Green Party MP Gareth Hughes believes.

A steady stream of MPs were unable to resist the game setup in the Beehive on Wednesday where Mr. Hughes was spruiking the opportunity to grow it into a multi-billion dollar sector.

The industry earned $89 million last year but with investment and support, Mr. Hughes suggested New Zealand could even achieve Finland's current industry earnings of $2.4 billion.

"It kind of flows beneath the radar because we don't have a Sir Peter Jackson like we do in the film industry but it's a huge growth potential - it's great, clean, weightless exports overseas," he said.

"There's a limit to how many cows we can cram in our paddocks ... there's a limit to how many tourists we can cram down the Fiordland, there's no limit to the amount of software or services or video games we could be exporting."

Video games could be New Zealand's next big export: MP Gareth Hughes © Hannah Peters/Getty Images Video games could be New Zealand's next big export: MP Gareth Hughes As well as educational and entertainment purposes, Mr. Hughes said one game by a New Zealand developer also provided injury rehabilitation as a perk.

Canadian James Everett moved to Wellington to be part of the industry here and is now working with Magic Leap and Weta Workshop in co-production on a game for a new hardware platform.

"That's an exciting opportunity I couldn't pass up," he said.

"There's so, so much potential here in New Zealand for this. The talent is here, the excitement is here, the drive is here and ... the quality of work is just outstanding, it's world class."

Last year's revenue came from 36 studios and was 96 per cent export driven, Mr. Everett said.

He too believe's there is room to grow with more access to capital.

The cost of developing a game ranges from $25,000 to tens of millions.

Finland has spent around 79 million Euro (NZ$120 million) over a decade in funding programmes to support developers and grow their industry.

"In dollar terms, I think we can start significantly smaller than that and grow as the industry grows alongside it," Mr. Everett said.

He said funding could be 50 per cent matched then paid back into the fund over time to make the fund self-sustaining.

Additionally, Mr. Everett would like to see tax rebate programmes, already available for other creative industries in New Zealand, expanded to include video games.

"Access to that will make a huge difference to grow our studios," he said.

The industry will go on show to the public during the International Games Festival in Wellington later this month, which includes the annual Play by Play awards.

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