In this case study on Dinosaur Polo Club, a Wellington based indie game studio, we hear about their remarkable story now working with many of the biggest US based platforms such as Microsoft, Nintendo USA and Valve.
Executive Director, NZUS Council
The future of New Zealand services exports to the US is likely to be characterised by innovative small and medium enterprises in the tech sector. Champions of digital exports, such as Xero, are being joined by start-ups in the local gaming industry. Dinosaur Polo Club is a Wellington based indie studio, and number 12 in the Deloitte Fast 50 2021 index.
They rose to prominence in 2016 with the release of in their first title, Mini Metro. This minimalist subway simulation game struck a chord with gamers, winning a suite of awards, including a nomination for best debut in the 2016 BAFTA games awards. The studio has followed this success with Mini Motorways, another well received game, and has further releases in production.
Mini Motorways was developed in partnership with Apple, who sought out Dinosaur Polo Club to develop a flagship product for the launch of Apple Arcade. This is one example of the value of building relationships with major publishers, platforms and other game studios. The studio has formed partnerships with many of the major US based platforms, such as Microsoft, Nintendo USA, and Valve, and 40% of its audience is from the US.
The gaming industry benefits from some unique characteristics of digital services, with effectively borderless trade across the internet. With no physical product to ship, the industry can scale rapidly, leveraging New Zealand’s rapid fibre network to do global business locally. As a result, it is a fast-moving industry and new players can emerge and grow rapidly as Wellington’s technology hub continues to expand and diversify.
The industry does face a major challenge in securing the talent needed to power growth. The challenge of high global competition for game development skills is compounded by the relative lack of senior talent within New Zealand. There are few options in the tertiary education sector for developing specialised and essential skills such as game design and user experience.
This, combined with the fact that many of these roles are not on the government’s skills shortage lists, adds a further challenge to sourcing international talent. Partnerships with US companies have proven to be essential in bridging funding and skills gaps.