Kiwi gaming companies need a "piece of the action", according to the government, and online game developer SmallWorlds is about to be even better placed to capitalise on this fast-growing space with a $1.8 million cash injection.
SmallWorlds is an Auckland-based award-winning social game with more than 6.5 million users worldwide, and first received financial support from the government soon after its inception in 2008.
“This is a great example of how the government’s investment in a high-potential business has paid off,” said science and innovation minister Wayne Mapp. “SmallWorlds has been able to triple its revenue and double its employees since it received the initial investment.”
He said New Zealand was a "hotbed" of innovation and the gaming industry was a particularly lucrative sector.
"New Zealand businesses in this space need to get a piece of the action."
Gaming is the fastest growing entertainment sector in the world, and now generates more revenue than the music and film industry.
Global growth is now on the cards for SmallWorlds – which counts Disney and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan among its backers – with plans to hire new staff, launch into new markets and develop new products.
Cofounder Mitch Olson said the ministry's support would enable the company to invest in infrastructure earlier than it might otherwise have, meaning it could respond more readily to business opportunities and enter new markets sooner.
"Those windows of opportunity are continually moving," he said. "The MSI funding is accelerating companies to be able to take advantage of proven and immediate opportunities before those are lost."
With the latest investment, SmallWorlds will develop a scalable cloud-based platform that will allow the site to handle more users. The game is currently based on Amazon's EC2 cloud-based infrastructure, but Olson said it was vital to enhance its scalability and portability.
He said SmallWorlds planned to expand into non-English speaking countries, starting with Brazil, and needed to be able to move its servers around (which are currently based in the US).
According to Olson, of the nightmare scenarios for a business was growing too quickly and being unable to provide a consistent service to users, becoming a victim of its own success.
In addition, R&D will get a boost, with a view to building a "state-of-the-art" analytics system and utilising
the next generation of 3D technology.
"We've got a proven lead in the area of 3D social gaming and we're looking to leverage that to ensure we stay on the leading bleeding edge."
He said the scale of the game meant there was a significant amount of data around players' habits that needed to be captured.
"One of the things that's quite unique about online gaming is that we build the feedback loops into our software," he said.
"Because you've got hundreds of thousands of users, effectively you're ultimately trying to capture data on what they're doing, not just on a minute-to-minute but almost a second-to-second basis."