Australia’s largest independent games studio Mighty Kingdom is the embodiment of its moniker. Since forming in 2010, the Adelaide-based studio has released more than 50 games played by over 50 million players worldwide. It has created games for global giants such as Disney, LEGO, Snapchat, Moose Toys (creator of Shopkins), Funcom and Rogue.
In April 2021, Mighty Kingdom took a mighty step towards its next stage of growth. The company became the second Australian digital games company to list on the ASX, raising A$18 million.
‘I want to grow Mighty Kingdom into a global entertainment company powered by original content,’ says Managing Director and CEO Philip Mayes. ‘We are proudly Australian, and we will stay and grow our presence here.’
The IPO has given Mighty Kingdom the freedom to flex its creative muscle and explore new opportunities to develop its own games. The company has grown from 65 people in 2019 to 162 in 2022, who are currently developing eight games. To help realise its vision, it has recruited major names in the Australian media and entertainment industries to its board. They include former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie as chair.
‘We have a global reputation for family-friendly games,’ says Chief Operating Officer Tony Lawrence. ‘We aren’t going to shy away from that. But we also want to broaden the scope of what we do.’
The company launched its first console and PC game, Conan Chop Chop, in March 2022. Mayes explains a console game is a big step for a studio known as a developer of mobile games for kids.
‘Good content is available everywhere,’ he says. ‘People want to play on whatever platform is at hand, whether it’s a phone, PC or console. A lot of our forward-looking product development acknowledges this. Our games are developed for the platform that best supports them.’
With a studio of 162 people, coming up with ideas is easy. Knowing which ideas to develop is harder. Mighty Kingdom takes an analytical approach, using data to interrogate the idea, the audience and the mechanics. To help guide the process, Mighty Kingdom has an internal division that keeps an eye on what’s trending and what it should be looking at.
Mighty Kingdom sees engaging storytelling as key to creating worlds that draw people in. Mayes says narratives that invite audience participation creates passionate followers that help build a brand over time.
‘It comes down to a mix of gut instinct and hard facts,’ says Mayes. ‘That’s what separates the great games from the good games.’
Mighty Kingdom is willing to explore new genres. It is developing a horror game based on an upcoming Australian film. ‘Horror is not a genre we are associated with,’ says Lawrence. ‘The new product allows us to show partners we can do a broad range of games – with the Mighty Kingdom touch.’
These partners include Canada’s East Side Games Group. The two companies will co-develop games under a two-year partnership. The two are now working on a mobile game based on Star Trek: Lower Decks, due for global launch in 2022.
Mighty Kingdom is at a scale where it can give graduates their first break in the industry. Its graduate program attracts applicants from across Australia. The studio has partnered with IGEA to develop guidelines for studios interested in starting their own program.
‘The high standard of education in Australia is producing top-quality graduates,’ says Lawrence. ‘We’ve had graduates who have shown so much talent in their first three months that we’ve made them the lead on a project.’
Mighty Kingdom also invests in training and recruits internally for new projects. Progressive policies also ensure diversity: 42% of the studio’s staff are women, double the industry average.
‘Our churn rate is very low,’ says Lawrence. ‘We have more people asking for jobs than we have roles.’
Mayes believes the Digital Games Tax Offset (DGTO) will have a positive impact on the industry. The DGTO is a 30% refundable tax offset on eligible expenditure for businesses that spend a minimum of A$500,000 on games development.
‘The DGTO comes at a great time for us,’ says Mayes. ‘It will allow us to accelerate our development plans and invest more in our games to make them bigger and better.
‘It will also make investment in the industry more attractive,’ says Mayes. ‘The DGTO will help us double or even triple the number of people who work in the industry in five years. It will be a sea change for the industry.
‘With the right structure and opportunities, there’s no reason why Australia can’t come up with the next global blockbuster,’ says Mayes.
International investors are buying into the Australian games industry. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is committed to helping international investors find opportunities.