NSW Govt funds Fruit Ninja Sydney studio

news Leading Australian game developers Halfbrick Studios are opening a new Sydney office and will be developing the next edition of their internationally acclaimed app Fruit Ninja in the city, announced NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner yesterday, with the support of funding from the State Government.

Halfbrick’s current Brisbane office had created the original Fruit Ninja, which recently exceeded over 100 million downloads across various platforms — primarily Apple’s iOS operating system used on iPhones and iPads.

Stoner stated that the NSW Government had made the investment through the new Interactive Media Fund that has been set up to support creative digital content, including electronic games and transmedia projects.

Earlier, in October the NSW Government had announced the formation of a taskforce to help create a 10-year action plan for developing the NSW digital economy. Along with this, Stoner had also revealed the allocation of $3 million by the Government into the Interactive Media Fund.

Fruit Ninja was named by Time magazine as one of the 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011. Stoner predicted that the worldwide gaming phenomenon Fruit Ninja would grow even larger with the project spearheaded by the newly formed Sydney team of Halfbrick Studios. A team of talented games developers for the new studio is being put together by Sydney-based developer Aidan Millott and colleague Dale Freya. The new Sydney team will progress towards evolving the Fruit Ninja games franchise. The new game will entail players releasing a series of fruit to knock ninjas off their towers in a 3D world, with each fruit having special powers.

The game’s latest edition is due out in 2012; it will initially be developed for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Later it will be provided for other platforms including Android.

Speaking about the fund, Stoner said that it would help NSW build its share of the high-value digital games sector, which would have increasing importance in developing serious business and educational tools in addition to entertaining games like the new Fruit Ninja project. “The global digital games market is expected to more than double to $53 billion by 2016 and mobile gaming to triple to $17.5 billion,” Stoner said.

Other Interactive Media Fund projects that the NSW Government is supporting include:

Dog Money World: An advanced mobile games platform encompassing augmented reality, social components and real-time location gaming. A narrative can be wrapped around the technology for an integrated audience-experience linked to any film or television show. Players become part of the story, undertaking virtual missions in real locations and competing against friends and other users to become the top-ranked player. While developed with crime fiction in mind, the white label platform can support any story theme from vampires and werewolves to fairies and elves.

Flashcards for iPad by INKIDS: An expansion to the Flashcards educational software title designed for children 2–10 years old to help them learn the alphabet, new words and new languages. INKIDS will build on their concept to create cross-platform titles with the goal to make Flashcards the best children’s learning application in the portable device educational software category across many languages and countries.

CADMAP (working title) by Ambulance Research Institute: A serious game to assist paramedics in their clinical decision-making skills by simulating emergencies from the safety of their mobile phones.

Expansion of Nnooo: An expansion to the indie game developer’s staff will see the employment of two junior programmers, allowing the company to grow more quickly through rapid development of its software. The new programmers will develop Nnooo’s new game escapeVektor for the Nintendo 3DS and PC/Mac or Playstation Vita.

Tag Town by MOD Productions: A location-based game that is played cross-platform using mobile apps and desktop web browsers. At its core is a social mobile experience where players identify locations from photographic clues as they move around in the real world.

Habitat: the Game by Australian Documentaries: Habitat is an online and mobile game for 8–12 year olds, supported by an animation series, which encourages players to reduce their environmental footprint and help their very own online wild animal survive and flourish.

I continue to be impressed by the NSW Government’s commitment to making Sydney the home of independent technology development, especially in the fast-growing and highly dynamic video gaming sector. Since the Coalition won government in the state earlier this year, it has really made this area a priority, reversing a lengthy period of inaction in the area from Labor. Kudos to NSW for this effort; keep it up!

Image credit: Halfbrick. Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay


  1. Alas, government support comes too late for companies like Team Bondi… there’s always next time ;)

    • Team Bondi should have gone down. Well, not the team, the tosser running it. Met him years ago. Approach a company I worked for when it was for sale. Then took details of the employees and emailed them all offering them jobs in total contempt of the agreement he signed not to do so. I also had friends who work with him. Doesn’t deserve to run a company. They would have been better off saving someone like Blue Tongue whose main reason for dimise seemed to be that Canada was offering huge tax benefits to have studios there.

    • Actually Dave, Team Bondi received a heap of NSW government support. Way more than it deserved in my own opinion.

      Renee, a lot of the work in setting up these funds and programs was done by Industry & Investment NSW under the previous government, the O’Farrell government deserves credit for continuing the support and building these initiatives.

      If we’re going to get stuck in pointless NSW-Victorian rivalries then the observation I’d make was that the Bracks-Brumby Vic governments were far better at announcing things than the Iemma-Rees-Kenneally NSW governments. None of them had a particularly good record of building skills and capacity in the digital industries.

      Don’t start me on the Federal Liberal and Labor governments…….

      • As a disclaimer, I should put on the record that I worked for Industry & Investment NSW for 19 months putting together the Digital Sydney project and helping put together these programs although I’d left by the time they had got the green light.

        • Hi Paul. It’s interesting you should voice that opinion, because it’s wrong. Team Bondi *never* received any more support from the NSW government than any other business is entitled to. Despite years of lobbying to get NSW on an even footing with Queensland and Victoria with regards to game development.

          What you’re probably referring to is Depth Analysis, which is the company responsible for MotionScan, which was a technology used in L.A. Noire. Depth Analysis is a separate company and is still up and running.

          And Noddy, we’ll have to disagree on your opinion, because while Brendan’s driven and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he still helped ship the biggest game ever made in Australia and it wouldn’t have happened without his dogged determination to see it done. Plus he’s nice once you get to know him.

          Disclaimer: I worked for Team Bondi for 7 years, up until its unfortunate closure. And I just checked my facts with Team Bondi’s former General Manager.

          • Dave, that’s a nice choice of words. I never claimed Team Bondi received money it wasn’t entitled to. I pointed out that Team Bondi did receive support from the NSW Government, contrary to the myths that are being peddled.

            The question of whether it was or wasn’t the same as the Victorian or Queensland support is another matter.

            In terms of writing big fat cheques to attract game studios, Victoria and Queensland were definitely doing more of that than NSW who were more interested in the movie industries. The success of all three states with that strategy over the last decade is quite obvious.

          • Sorry, I must have my facts wrong. What kind of support did Team Bondi receive? You said it was “a heap”, and “Way more than it deserved”, but then say “I never claimed Team Bondi received money it wasn’t entitled to”. If we’re just talking about standard tax breaks that *any* business is entitled to, how is it “Way more than it deserved”?

          • Dave, my personal view is that fat chunks of payroll tax subsidies would be better spent elsewhere or simply abolishing this tax on jobs altogether.

            Selectively giving out subsidies to one business while others pay full freight is inequitable and unfair.

            That’s my personal view, not that of of my previous employer or any of that agency’s staff.

          • Ok cool, so it’s not specific to Team Bondi, you believe that *any* business shouldn’t receive those kinds of subsidies. That’s fair enough.

            I get antsy about attacks on Team Bondi, because 99% of them come from a place of ignorance :)

          • Sorry if you like the guy. But I will make up my own opinions based on his behaviour when I have met him and what people I worked with for years before they went to Team Bondi tell me. I am not even taking to a account what a douche he makes of himself every time he answers the accusations of bad treatment of employees.
            Sorry but I will believe close friends who worked with and have been in the industry for 20-30 years over some random guy posting on a forum. He has a track record for time and cost blowouts on everything he’s been involved in. 7 years for LA Noire? Seriously?

          • One the 7 year thing. He had been working on it for 2 years when he show me and others what had been done and what he wanted to do and then how he planned to finish it in 9 more months. It was a joke. What had been done was rubbish, most people could knock up that in less than a month. His planned game was rediculous and could never be done (and incidentally wasn’t, LA Noire bares no resemblance to his original plan). When he present his case we declined his offer to buy our studio. The next day all the employees got email job offers. No one took it up. Every project he has worked on has blown out to 5-7 years and burnt huge sums of money, each time it took the studio down.

          • Hi Noddy. You’re absolutely entitled to your opinion about Brendan… I won’t try to defend us taking 7 years to make L.A. Noire, it took too long and we had to change scope along the way. You *are* wrong about Brendan’s track record though. Where did you get your info? Brendan’s project before L.A. Noire, at Team Soho in London, was The Getaway and it took 3-4 years to make. It was very successful and was followed by a sequel from the same studio (hence it didn’t take the studio down).

            Not trying to change your mind about Brendan, but there’s a lot of incorrect info on the net and I’m just doing my bit to help make it a better place :)

          • The games industry is weird.

            I reckon Brendan gets a harsh rap. Was he hard to work with? There seems to be pretty broad agreement that: yes he was. Does that make him worthy of the highly public personal attacks he has received? I think that is a little unreasonable.

            I’ve spent a bit of time working in enterprise IT project land and had the privilege to work with many gifted and experienced managers, as well as a smaller number ranging from simply incompetent to bloody minded, conniving and bullying. It is the nature of the job (probably all jobs) that there is variety of quality in the leadership.

            And yet I don’t read about them in the paper and nor do I think it appropriate that I should.

            My real problem though is that Brendan would not have received the public criticism that he did if LA Noire been less successful. He was able to get his team to ship code and has been crucified for it.

            @Dave nice game by the way. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.

          • Your opinion would also have a bit more value if it wasn’t the only person you have ever worked with. BTW. Sorry if it was you that was responsible for the code I ragged on, just noticed you’ve been there long enough. But really what was demostrated to Melbourne House was embarassing. Not that we did much better going with Krome. They were more organised and had some clue of how long it took to do things. It’s a shame the owner didn’t have a clue what made a good game and was too deadline driven. Also having staff that had made one or two relatively embarassing games over a few years making a studio that has been going for 25-30 and produced a lot of number one selling games use their development methodologies… Well the result bares that out. MH made the highest scoring game they ever produced even though the game the premium games to QLD.

          • I am not getting my information from the internet. I am getting it from people who have worked with him in the UK.

      • “Renee, a lot of the work in setting up these funds and programs was done by Industry & Investment NSW under the previous government, the O’Farrell government deserves credit for continuing the support and building these initiatives.”


        Frankly, every time I approached the Labor NSW Government over most of the past decade, they appeared to have no idea what the word “technology” meant. Now I see deputy premier Stoner at every single IT event he can get his hands on. Frankly, there is a massive difference between the two governments when it comes to IT, and it shows.

        • Renee, I’m not saying it wasn’t a hard education process by a lot of people in the industry and in the relevant government agencies to turn around long established attitudes towards IT and creative industries within the NSW Government.

          Credit should go to certain people in the NSW public service for carrying over the initiatives through a change of government.

          Minister Stoner deserves kudos for being hands on in this field, as does the Premier for showing a commitment to small and start up business. Hopefully it will see a lot of good things happen in the state.

          My point is a lot what we’re seeing now is the culmination of hard work by a group of industry leaders, associations and dedicated public servants who understand the issues.

          • Paul,

            firstly, I am appalled by your apparent inability to spell my name correctly, despite the fact that it is posted on comments right in front of your face.

            Secondly, you’re wrong. The NSW State Government’s commitment to the technology sector goes far beyond anything which was planned prior to their ascension, and was in fact an election promise from quite a while back. This is something which is being driven personally by the passion of the politicians, not a bunch of bureaucrats.

            Sure, “industry leaders” — I assume you mean the AIIA — and public servants helped. But, unlikely as it seems, it’s the politicians leading this one. And they’re doing a great job of it. Your attempt to take that credit and reapply it to others is ridiculous. These guys are devoting their personal time to showing up at tiny industry IT events to push the message. That’s something no industry development bureaucrat has ever done, that I’ve seen. This one is coming from the top.


          • Sorry Renai, I should have proof read my comment before posting. My apologies.

            If you want to discount the hard work done by the industry and various individuals in convincing politicians of both sides, that’s your call. It’s your website.

            However, I did get to see the process first hand and up close.

            Have a great Christmas.



  2. Yeah the government should have supported and given my tax dollars to Team Bondi a failed business that couldn’t profit in Australia any longer… great idea. I don’t know why tax money is given away by governments like this, you should either make it on your own with a sucessful idea and business and a crapload of hard work or you fail. Having a government throw cash at you is just a recipe for the government doing what it always does, throwing good money down the drain. Why on earth throw money at Halfbrick studio’s when its surely got plenty of cash with its current cash flow from its apps. And all those other developers look like they will be about as profitable and useful as most Art grants. No chance of taxes ever coming down with money wasted like this.

  3. *A serious game to assist paramedics in their clinical decision-making skills by simulating emergencies from the safety of their mobile phones.*

    huge market for that. at least 100mln downloads across all platforms.


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