Stirfire’s virtual reality offering delivering real-world potential

10/08/2017 - 13:05

Stirfire Studios is set to join the ranks of publicly traded games companies such as Japan’s Sony and Nintendo, and Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard in the US.

Vee Pendergrast is taking Stirfire Studios to the world stage. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Stirfire Studios is set to join the ranks of publicly traded games companies such as Japan’s Sony and Nintendo, and Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard in the US.

Based in Western Australia, Stirfire, which creates content for virtual reality (VR) and desktop, launched its IPO on August 1.

In a raising organised by RM Corporate Finance, which is part of Subiaco-based RM Capital, Stirfire is issuing 35 million shares at 20 cents a piece. The offer will close September 15 and the company will debut on the Australian Securities Exchange on September 29.

Globally, the games industry is expected to be worth about $US109 billion this year, according to one of the sector’s leading providers of market intelligence, Newzoo.

According to Stirfire chief executive Vee Pendergrast, this is the first time an Australian-owned games studio has gone public, and the second Aussie game IPO. The first was iCandy Interactive, a maker of casual games for mobile headquartered in Melbourne and owned by Malaysian/Singaporean interests.

Stirfire was founded in 2010, and in 2013 one of its games, Freedom Fall, was the first game to receive a WA Screen Award.

Its latest release, the boundary pushing VR title ‘Symphony of the Machine’, has launched on PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift.

The release positions Stirfire to capitalise on the emerging VR market, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting will be the next computing platform. The global VR market is expected to reach $US4.7 billion by the end of 2017 and nearly $US75 billion by 2021, according to VR market research firm Greenlight Insights.

Stirfire is among about 20 studios working in the games or VR space in WA. Despite lack of state government support, WA produces 7 per cent of Australia’s games, according to a Senate report from early 2016 on the Australian games industry. Victoria, whose local industry has enjoyed strong state government support for many years, produces about 47 per cent.

While the Stirfire IPO marks the maturation of the WA games industry, it’s also demonstrative of the growing clout of the industry nationally, and comes on the heels of other local successes.

Black Lab Games, also from WA, recently announced ‘Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock’, a game based on Universal Television’s blockbuster series of the same name. The game is a 3D space strategy game that follows Black Lab’s previous success, ‘Starhammer: The Vanguard Prophecy’.

‘Battlestar Galatica: Deadlock’ already has sci-fi fans quite excited and been featured on top games sites, Polygon and Kotaku. The game will be released on August 31 through Steam, an app store for PC games.

Local up and comer Oscar Brittain’s ‘Desert Child’ was recently selected to be in the IndieCade Showcase @ E3, a massive video game industry expo and conference held each year in Los Angeles.

Mr Brittain describes ‘Desert Child’ as a “cowboy bebop-style” desert racing game. Not yet released, the game is already getting lots of coverage on key industry sites like iGN and Rock Paper Shotgun.

More importantly, Mr Brittain’s visit to LA has resulted in a lot of interest from number of international publishers, a few of which he proudly tells me he’s already turned down.

Among the companies he’s still talking to is Nintendo, which is considering putting his game on the Switch, Nintendo’s new hybrid console/portable device, which has been selling like hotcakes. ‘Desert Child’ will be out early to mid 2018.

Another local studio having some success is the two-person ByteSprite, which received the Film and Television Institute’s OOMPF Games funding in 2015 for its game, ‘BrambleLash’. The game is a local multiplayer cooperative game, which means people play together in the same room.

The studio’s developers, Liam Hunt and Sam Zeid, are heading to the Tokyo Games Show at the end of September, where they will launch ‘BrambleLash’ for PC. The event is the third largest games show in the world, with attendee numbers topping 250,000 each year. ‘BrambleLash’ will also be released on Microsoft’s Xbox early 2018.

Lastly, the Perth Games Festival just announced its return to the Perth Town Hall (November 25). This will be the fourth year for the free event and organisers are expecting 3,000 enthusiasts to come through the doors to view displays from 35 developers booked to show off their games.

In terms of what’s next for the WA games industry, WA has a perfect opportunity to leverage and accelerate these successes, the same way Victoria has.

The new Labor government’s ICT policy promised games industry support if elected. The local industry is eagerly awaiting news of how this will be structured, which is expected to be announced in next month’s state budget.

• Kate Raynes-Goldie is a game designer and an innovation and disruptive technology specialist. She is the founder of Games We Play.

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