Industry veterans Mark Zaloumis and Tony Lay started Ultimate Studio in Melbourne in 2018. They wanted to create games that were ‘remarkable and long-lasting’. Racing games was their speciality.
In early 2022, Ultimate Studio triumphed. Its first game, ‘Hot Lap League’, debuted on April 11, 2022 and scored amazing reviews: 4.9 on iOS and 4.5 Android.
Players clocked up 1 million races during the first five weeks. There was global competition for world record laps.
Ultimate Studio’s success highlights the re-invigoration of Australia’s digital games industry. With multi-million dollar backing from Finnish games-funder, Supercell the company shows how startup Australian studios can attract major global investment and produce smash-hit games.
Ultimate Studio’s success follows partnership with a long-term, strategic investor.
‘When I first spoke to Supercell in 2018, we just had a logo and an idea,’ says Lay. ‘But we were highly experienced, and we wanted to create a studio that made remarkable and long-lasting games. Supercell invested in us because they liked our distinctive approach.’
Lay wanted to create top-grade developer teams and give them maximum autonomy.
‘What makes us different is that we allow our teams to make the big calls,’ he says. ‘Supercell has a similar culture. That’s helped a small Australian startup to sustain support from a A$20 billion European investor.’
Supercell provided initial seed funding in 2018. Three more funding rounds followed, each supported by Supercell. This has enabled Ultimate Studio to build a 19-strong studio of engineers and artists in Melbourne.
Lay says that Australia has a long history of making top-grade racing games.
‘Beam Software was famous for racing games in the early 2000s and that success generated lots of local capability,’ he says. ‘There’s still plenty of experienced games developers around – especially in Melbourne. We’re known for our talent and quality.
‘Our games capture global interest,’ he says. ‘I think that’s due to local culture and our unique games-development history.’
Talent is a major drawcard for investors, according to Lay. In his own studio, employees have an average 16 years’ industry experience.
‘Australian studios are at an international level in terms of skills,’ he says. ‘We have the people to develop our own games. Our studios create great IP.
‘Also, our studios have established global leadership in certain areas – especially in mobile games. Global success shows how resourceful we are.’
Tax rebates also help. The Australian Federal Government offers a 30% tax offset on games development. Individual states provide additional rebates and grants. This financial support makes Australian games development globally competitive.
‘The industry is booming and that’s partly due to rebates,’ says Lay. ‘Here in Melbourne, the games industry is really taking off. There’s lots of investment and lots of startups, and the big studios are in town.
‘The combination of great talent and high-value rebates makes Australian studios very competitive,’ he adds. ‘Recent growth is amazing. That’s very attractive to investors who want to build or partner with Australian studios.’
International investors are buying into the Australian games industry. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is committed to helping international investors find opportunities.