Wellington video game developer joins collective in $ 175 million deal
Renowned Lower Hutt A44-based video game developer, best known for its role-playing game Ashen, has been sold to an international collective of digital studios in a $ 175 million deal.
Under the agreement, founder and CEO Derek Bradley becomes one of the seven co-owners of Kepler Interactive. The arrangement allows the founding companies to maintain their creative independence.
Bradley said funding and support from its international partner studios would better position A44 on the growing international gaming scene.
“What you do as an independent business is you are constantly looking for money to produce games – we don’t have to anymore,” he said.
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Ash, released in 2018, has over a million players worldwide.
New Zealand’s video game industry is expected to reach $ 1 billion in exports by 2025, while the global industry was worth nearly $ 180 billion last year.
With the deal, A44 would only have access to resources and operational support through a full acquisition, Bradley said. Taking on time-consuming tasks like marketing and publishing allowed A44 to spend more time on its products.
“You run a video game business so you can create video games. It… allows us to get bigger and better, and to really focus on the process of making video games, ”Bradley said.
“Kepler is extremely innovative in that it is a parent company run by developers. Models like this don’t exist anywhere else in the gaming industry.
The collective is headquartered in the United Kingdom and is present in the United States, France and Japan. Partner studios include Shapefarm, Timberline and Awaceb.
Bradley recently revealed that A44 is planning to open another studio in Melbourne to access the Australian talent pool following ongoing issues with the recognition of video game development credentials of potential team members for work visas. Covid-19 had made matters worse, with limited MIQ spaces available for critical workers.
The company’s current studio will remain in New Zealand, and Bradley has said up to 40 new employees – some of whom will be based in Melbourne – could be hired, bringing the number of employees to around 100.
“We’ll be able to develop a greater depth of talent – more niche roles being established and more specialists… we’ll be able to do more than one game at a time,” Bradley said.
A44 was formed as a three-person team working in a rented house in Featherston in 2013. During the development of Ashen, the company was contacted by Microsoft, who entered into a contract to publish exclusively Ash on Xbox.
Chelsea Rapp, President of the NZ Game Developers Association, said it was exciting to see foreign direct investment opportunities in the game industry in New Zealand.
“It shows the value of the game. A lot of the time it’s hard to see the broader value it brings to our economy.