Posted in Contexts of Games and Play (Academic), Quiet Stories

New Zealand’s Small, But Growing, Game Development Scene

“The secret to successful teamwork is love. No, really. Now, by this, I don’t mean that if the team hold hands and sings “Kumbaya,” you are going to make a great game. I don’t even mean that you have to like the other people on the team, although it wouldn’t hurt. What I mean is that you have to love the game you are making. For if everyone on the team has a deep and true love for the game they are making together and for the audience they are making it for, all differences and disagreements will be set aside in service of bringing the game into existence and making it be as wonderful as it can possibly be.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design


Schell’s breakdown of a successful gave development team seems obvious. Why wouldn’t someone love games if they’ve made the effort to be a part of this industry? Yet there are in fact numerous scenarios in which game development studios are filled with individuals dispassionate and uninterested in the product they are creating.

Examples include;

  • People with no love for the game they are making or gamers in general. They see the work they do as a job, and nothing more.
  • Teams filled with developers who want to work on a different game, e.g. a fan of first person shooters working on a point and click adventure.
  • Teams filled with individuals who all have different visions for what the game they are making is trying to achieve.


It’s crucial that game development studios work at the art of satisfying the creative needs and desires of everyone in their team. Every single member of your team should be passionate about what they’re creating. However in small countries like New Zealand it is also crucial that we take this ideology a step further.

In a country like our own, where the game development scene is yet to flourish, we must not only love what we are creating individually, but celebrate the work of others in our community. There is no need to be competitive, when we can all help each other succeed. This week I want to show love to the games created by New Zealand developers. It’s time we demonstrated that although small, our country has a lot to offer this industry.



Path of Exile

Grinding Gear Games (GGG) is arguably New Zealand’s biggest developer. Founded in 2006 within Auckland City, the indie developer later went on to be purchased by Chinese tech company Tencent in 2018. The company’s only game is Path of Exile, a free to play RPG. Path of Exile originally launched on PC in 2013, and then on Xbox One in 2017.


Day Z

A more widely known New Zealand (NZ) product is in fact a mod rather than a game. In 2013 NZ game designer Dean Hall released the Day Z mod for the 2009 game Arma 2.  The mod pits players against each other, while forcing them to also survive in a zombie populated post-soviet state. The mod received widespread acclaim and publications such as Kotaku called it “possibly the best zombie game of all time.”



More recently Rainbite released Reverie on PlayStation 4 and Vita earlier this year. Inspired by the Maori legend of Maui and the Giant Fish, Reverie is an old school, Zelda inspired, dungeon exploration game. On top of being a solid indie experience, made by just 3 developers, this game does a lot to promote Kiwi culture.



Another New Zealand game made by a small team of Indie developers is Gyromag. The game totes a 3D pixel art style, gravity defying mechanics, and FPS arena combat. Gyromag was greenlit on Steam in 2016 and I’m personally looking forward to the final release.



Finally, a game many Dark Souls fans are looking forward to, Ashen. This action RPG is being developed by Wellington based studio Aurora44 and published by Annapurna Interactive (What Remains of Edith Finch, Gorogoa and Donut County). The Xbox One and PC title is scheduled for release in the near future, and besides toting combat similar to Dark Souls, its narrative is inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, and art style inspired by Shadow of the Colossus.

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