Sledgehammer Games’s Aussie offshoot powers ahead

Austrade

In 2019, US-based Sledgehammer Games chose Melbourne as a first stop in its global expansion program. After just three years, the Melbourne studio helped launch the latest first-person shooter game in the Call of Duty series: Call of Duty®: Vanguard.

Staffing levels in Melbourne now exceed 150. According to Chief Operating Officer, Andy Wilson, rapid growth in Australia is due to amazing talent and a passion for diversity.

‘There’s a freshness within Australia’s game development scene that is appreciated by our international colleagues,’ says Andy Wilson, Sledgehammer Games’ Chief Operating Officer ‘Australian game developers are thirsty for opportunity: they want to create awesome cultures within games.’

Rapid growth in Melbourne

Sledgehammer Games was founded in 2009 and is based in Foster City, California. It is best known for its contribution to the Call of Duty game franchise. Today, the company also has studios in Toronto, Canada and Guilford, UK.

When Sledgehammer first opened in Melbourne in 2019, it operated as a small team of engineers, but growth has been ultra-rapid. Three years later, and the Melbourne studio has grown exponentially and delivers the full gamut of AAA studio services.

‘We have grown into all core functions, including rendering, gameplay, audio and online,’ says Wilson. ‘We have rounded out the content and support side of the business with environment artists, concept artists, lighting artists, VFX artists, UI/UX developers and level designers.’

Talent and diversity

The Melbourne studio is built on talent and diversity, according to Wilson. He says the depth of talent in Australia would be extremely difficult to match elsewhere.

‘Australia is a melting pot of cultures and industries,’ he says. ‘It offers the possibility of finding talent that we could not otherwise access.’

Diversity is a big part of local success.

‘We believe strongly that diversity delivers value and richness,’ says Wilson. ‘We are working with fantastic intern partners that help us attract and engage candidates of varied experience.’

Returning Aussies skill up local studios

Wilson reports that Australian talent is also returning from overseas. This helps accelerate the build-up of local capabilities.

‘The scale of opportunity in the Australian games industry makes it an increasingly attractive choice for key ex-pat talent,’ he says.

‘The sheer number of experienced, talented developers we’ve been able to attract within a short time frame would be very difficult in other markets.’

Grants and incentives

Government support is also a factor. The renaissance in Australia’s games industry is partly due to the increased number of tax breaks and tax offsets available from the Federal Government, and from individual states and territories. This includes arts-funding bodies in Victoria.

‘VicScreen gave us a grant for our work on COD Vanguard,‘ says Wilson. ‘This grant helped us offset some of our development costs – which were considerable.

‘More importantly, we have developed relationships with VicScreen that are ongoing and mutually beneficial.’

Australia’s core strengths

Sledgehammer Games now operates out of four countries. Wilson says that Australia brings its own, unique flavour to this creative mix.

‘Australia is a great place to make video games,’ says Wilson. ‘The talent, the support and the general attitude towards new entrants have all exceeded our expectations.’

Wilson says the prospects for the games industry in Australia are excellent.

‘All the factors that brought us here are still going strong,’ he says. ‘We have an eager, experienced and diverse pool of talent. We have supportive federal and state governments. And as each new player gains a foothold, the games industry gets stronger and creates rich new opportunities.’

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