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CODE’s inaugural national funding round supports game developers with $1M in grants

New Zealand’s Dunedin-headquartered Centre of Digital Excellence supports 14 studios with prototype and production funding.

The New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) today revealed the recipients of grants for its seventh round – the first for teams outside the Dunedin city limits after CODE received additional funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to extend its ground-breaking programme nationwide.

Launched in Dunedin in 2020 as a regional economic development initiative, CODE is designed from the ground up to help build a sustainable game development ecosystem with grant funding for early-stage studios, capability programmes for industry, and supporting pathways for rangatahi into jobs in the sector.

A total of $399,629 was awarded to ten studios within the Kickstart grant funding category for the creation of innovative, commercially viable game prototypes. A further $600,000 was allocated to four studios in the Start Up funding category to support production work for titles already in development.

“We received 60 applications for Round 7, many of which had benefitted from CODE’s capability programme opening up to teams nationally earlier in the year. As a result, it was a challenging task for the independent assessment panel to select the teams that made the cut for the first national funding round,” explained Chief Executive of CODE, Tim Ponting. “We’re excited to be able to nurture these projects through their commercialisation journeys. We’re also proud that over 60% of these teams are led by people from groups underrepresented in the games industry of Aotearoa, working on projects that will appeal to a broad range of consumers around the world as weightless exports.”

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich says the success of the national programme is reflective of the thriving game development ecosystem established in Dunedin over the past few years as the headquarters of CODE.

The outcomes of previous CODE grants are coming to fruition, with multiple Dunedin studios planning to launch games in the international market, or striking deals with publishers.

“The process, pathways, relationships and expertise from Dunedin is supporting the wider economic goal of creating a $1b sector in New Zealand. CODE has delivered a range of outcomes in Dunedin including the creation of more than 20 studios and 120 jobs since its conception.”

CODE’s eighth grant round is also now under way, with nineteen expressions of interest having been received and teams busy preparing their full applications for an April deadline.

The new national funding for game developers outside of Dunedin is supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, while the allocation for Dunedin-based studios continues to be funded through CODE’s original $10 million Provincial Growth Fund grant from Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit.


In Round 7, CODE received 99 expressions of interest and 60 full applications were submitted. These were assessed by an external, independent assessment panel drawn from global industry experts and 14 were recommended for funding.

Details on Kickstart category recipients and game projects:

Studio: Liquid Static Studio (Wellington)

Project (working title): Absolute Zero

Grant: $40,000

Absolute Zero is a lightspeed-fast space-racing game about delivering goods on time and resisting imperialism at all costs. Befriend the locals, take odd jobs, customise your spaceship, outrun the cops, and blow up the Dyson sphere in the centre of the solar system.

Studio: Stormcloak Games (Wellington)

Project (working title): Adaptory

Grant: $40,000

Adaptory is a 2D base-building/simulation game where your crew of four have crash landed on a mysterious planetoid deep in uncharted space. Using the planet’s limited resources and your creativity, you must keep your motley team alive, explore your surroundings, build a thriving base, rebuild your ship, and ultimately get home.

Studio: Mischief Makers Studio (Auckland)

Project (working title): Burger Bois

Grant: $40,000

Life got you in a pickle? Are you always hanging on ’til fry-day? Got beef? Burger Bois is a food truck simulator game about flavour, not labour. Start a new life in the world's first designer burger truck, turning your customers’ most vague requests into culinary masterpieces (or disaster-pieces).

Studio: Cold Out Interactive (Auckland)

Project (working title): CORPOREAL

Grant: $40,000

CORPOREAL is an eerie narrative horror-mystery game where you explore a cursed family photo album. As the sole survivor of a childhood tragedy in late-90s New Zealand, you will manipulate time, speak to the dead and uncover overlapping memories in order to solve the mysteries of your past.

Studio: DEATH LTD (Wellington)

Project (working title): Doomtide

Grant: $39,995

Doomtide is a game set in a dark world filled with cultists, unspeakable horrors, arcane secrets beyond understanding, and a lust for power. As a newly initiated occult leader, employ a crew of unsavoury characters to brave the seas in a quest for relics, treasure, and ancient mysteries.

Studio: Tiny Kiwi Games (Christchurch)

Project (working title): Magic Rooms

Grant: $40,000

In this cozy story-based game, you play as Dalia, a young witch who simply loves to decorate! Help her design whimsical spaces, meet other witches and wizards, and even encounter a few furry familiars along the way. Who knows what stories they have to tell?

Studio: Headplug Games (Christchurch)

Project (working title): Middle Management

Grant: $39,820 Middle Management is an adorable management-strategy game, with sinister secrets. Spread your tentacles through the office. Ascend the corporate ladder. Become the best squishy pink manager you can be.

Studio: Dead Teapot (Wellington)

Project (working title): Shape Sender Deluxe

Grant: $39,814 Place tools to bounce, pull, teleport, and float shapes from A to B in the colourfully minimalist puzzle game Shape Sender Deluxe. Your helpful companion helps you through the puzzles but they’re starting to act a little strange as you continue to craft your solutions.

Studio: Grapefruit Games (Auckland)

Project (working title): Tryhard

Grant: $40,000

Tryhard is a rugby chess rom-com video game set in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Turn your failing rugby club around, outsmart the old boys, and tackle your hopeless little love life.

Studio: Wildboy Studios (Wellington)

Project (working title): Tunnel Tactics

Grant: $40,000 In Tunnel Tactics, players delve into a captivating 2D sci-fi realm blending survival, real-time tactics, and roguelike elements. Set in the underground tunnels of Aotearoa, players combat the Hyper Flora infestation while expanding their base and uncovering mysteries.

Details on Start Up category recipients and game projects:

Studio: Astronaut Diaries (Auckland)

Project (working title): Denari

Grant: $150,000 Denari is a narrative action game about a boy with telekinetic powers who must fight to save his people from the invasion of an empire.

Studio: Metia Interactive (Auckland)

Project (working title): Guardian Maia

Grant: $150,000 Guardian Maia is a 3rd person action-packed adventure game where science fiction and traditional Indigenous Māori culture collide. Save your people from a mutant tyrant as you journey across the unforgiving post-apocalyptic landscape of New Zealand’s South Island in a game where your choices matter.

Studio: Fnife Games (Christchurch)

Project (working title): ShelfLife: Art School Detective

Grant: $150,000

ShelfLife: Art School Detective is an adventure game set at a fictional Kiwi Art School. You play as a psychic art student, on the hunt for a fine arts vandal that’s terrorising your campus! You must investigate and befriend your weirdo classmates to uncover the truth of this art school mystery.

Studio: Thousand Tonic (Auckland)

Project (working title): Ten Thousand Coins: The Golden Merchant

Grant: $150,000 Ten Thousand Coins: The Golden Merchant is a 2D hand-drawn strategy game where you must trade goods, earn coins, and unravel a riveting tale spanning two timelines as a forsaken fox merchant searches for a way home.


Various assets including videos, art and screenshots for 12 of the 14 games may be downloaded for media use from here. For access to any of the teams, please contact Tim Ponting, for initial contacts and introductions.

About CODE

CODE is the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence – a Dunedin-based hub designed to progress the sustainable growth of New Zealand’s video game development industry. CODE’s regional programme in Dunedin is funded by Kānoa – the Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit – and its national expansion by Hīkina Whakatutuki, the Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment.


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