Aussie maker of Moving Out turns local creativity into global exports

12 October 2022

SMG Studio (SMG) is a showcase for Australian digital games talent. With 50 Australia-based employees and a growing overseas team, the studio has delivered 12 games over the past 9 years.

‘Today, we live in a world of digital free trade, and we are part of a great Australian export success story,’ says founder, Ashley Ringrose. ‘Exports account for over 97% of our sales, and our chief markets are the US, the UK and Asia.’

‘Our digital games export industry is built on talent. Creativity is borderless, and digital games sell as easily in America as Australia. Our last game sold over 1 million copies. We hope Moving Out 2 will do even better.’

Major co-developer grows quickly in Sydney

SMG is a video game developer based in Sydney. It was founded in 2013 by Ashley Ringrose. Today it has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with a satellite office in Los Angeles.  

‘An overseas presence is great for retention,’ says Ringrose. ‘Young developers are adventurous. They often want to go and work overseas. Being part of a global group helps us accommodate that.’

The studio is also a showcase for developer talent in Australia.

‘We are a little bit unique,’ says Ringrose. ‘We have our own IP, but we also co-develop games, and in the case of RISK, we licence our IP. We build games for multiple platforms, including PC, mobile and all consoles.’

Some games are smash hits. The company’s 2020 hit, Moving Out sold over one million copies.

Australian lifestyle a magnet for new and returning talent

Ringrose says the resurgence of Australia’s games industry is due to multiple factors.

‘We have a great lifestyle,’ he says. ‘We can attract talent to Australia because it’s a great place to live and work. Compared to other games hubs, the lifestyle here is unique.’

Also, there’s an influx of executive expertise. Ringrose says adds depth to Australia’s games industry.

‘People who left 10 or 15 years ago and who now have kids are returning to Australia,’ he says. ‘This is because Australia is a safe place to raise a family. But it’s also because the industry here is growing so quickly.’

This helps new arrivals and returning veterans build long-term careers in Australia.

‘We now have major games ecosystems – including in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – and a handful of AAA studios like Ubisoft and Activision. This means there’s plenty of room to move around at a senior level. This wasn’t the case 5 years ago.’

A ‘born-global’ export industry

Today, SMG is a part of a booming export-driven business. Ringrose estimate that well over 90% of the company’s sales are overseas.

‘The Australian market is literally just a drop in the ocean in terms of sales,’ he says. ‘Approximately 40% of our sales are in the US; maybe another 25% are in the UK. Most of the rest are in Asia. So, we are almost entirely an export-driven industry.’

‘In fact we are natural exporters. Digital Games has got to be one of the world’s most borderless markets. There are hardly any barriers — physical or cultural. We think of great ideas; we make them happen; and we sell them overseas.’

Australia’s advantage

For the future, Ringrose says Australia makes a unique contribution to the global games industry. This is partly because of the startup studio tradition in Australia.

‘Much of our talent was nurtured in tiny studios and geared for mobile,’ he says. ‘We are original, we are funny, and we generate great ideas. This means we have fresh ways of approaching games. It’s what makes us unique.’ 

The company’s follow-on game, Moving Out 2 will include online multiplayer, the number one requested feature from the first game. It will launch in 2023.

Go further, faster with Austrade

International investors are buying into the Australian games industry. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is committed to helping international investors find opportunities.

Find out why Australia is a great investment destination for digital games: Digital games | Global Australia