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How big is the esports industry in New Zealand?

by | Jan 23, 2023

Reading Time: 3 min.
Reading Time: 3 min.

Esports are taking over the world, but how is New Zealand keeping up with the trend of competitive gaming?

New Zealand isn’t exactly the global capital of gaming competitions. Still, the country has managed to stay relevant thanks to its casual consumption of esports titles and contributions to professional play. In addition, the country’s developed gambling laws have allowed the esports gambling industry to establish a foothold in the region. Here’s what games are most popular in New Zealand, how the country fares competitively, and how betting has influenced the nation’s growth.

Casual gaming is the gateway to more competitive pursuits, and New Zealand is on par with Europe and the Americas for participation. As of 2020, 67% of New Zealanders said that they play video games in some capacity. In 2019, they spent more than $500 million on gaming devices and software. 

As for the most popular video games in the country, casual games like Grand Theft Auto V and Minecraft are the most common. For multiplayer, New Zealanders show a preference for sports simulation titles, with FIFA often topping sales charts. Minecraft is also quite popular, though exact player numbers are difficult to parse. Mobile gaming and gambling also have a presence in the country, though they may be less socially significant than AAA releases.

Despite having less than one-fifth of Australia’s population, New Zealand is an equal player in the domestic and global gaming markets. Several developers, including NinjaKiwi, A44, and Grinding Gear, call the country home. Esports developer Valve’s co-founder and president, Gabe Newell, currently resides in New Zealand and has repeatedly stated his love for the country. 

New Zealand pros have earned more than $2 million

In addition to a thriving casual scene, New Zealand also fields representatives in multiple major esports. In terms of earnings, the most successful titles are Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Rocket League. World of Warcraft is also notable, with several prominent raid-racers and PVP players hailing from the Oceanic nation. There doesn’t appear to be any one particular genre that competitive gamers gather around in New Zealand, which results in a healthy spread of names and faces across dozens of games.

The two highest-earning esports players from New Zealand do an excellent job of demonstrating this diversity. The highest-earning esports pro in the country is Cameron “Kamii” Ingram, who currently plays Rocket League for James Cheese. His fourth-place finish at RLCS Season 6 Finals has greatly contributed to his total prize money earnings of just under $126,000. Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai is the second richest kiwi gamer with estimated career earnings of $123,891. Gratisfaction’s biggest CSGO prize was a surprise podium finish at the 2019 Berlin Major.

How gambling has affected esports in New Zealand

Gambling is extremely well-regulated in New Zealand compared to most of the western world with clear guidelines for sites and protection for players. As a result, the online betting and esports gaming industries have grown in tandem. New Zealand was one of the first countries to legalize online betting with the 2003 Gambling Act formally, and all rules for traditional sports apply to their video game counterparts.

As a result, New Zealand punters enjoy a wide range of betting sites to pick from. These range from dedicated esports sportsbooks to hybrid sites featuring traditional sports offerings and some of the best payout casinos on the market.

With gambling so popular, New Zealand-based companies are more likely to get involved with both sides of the industry. Esports sponsors like E Blacks, Chorus, Hyperfibre, and more have poured money into putting kiwi players and events on the world stage. The country’s government has even gotten involved, setting up regulatory bodies like the New Zealand Esports Federation to keep competition fair. As esports grow even more popular, adjacent industries, from sponsors to sportsbooks, will continue to grow with it.

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