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Posts Tagged ‘Boston game developers’

bstnalbumcoverAmid all of last week’s fanfare (particularly in mainstream press) surrounding The Beatles: Rock Band release, I missed this gem – a gubernatorial proclamation from Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick making last Thursday (9.9.09) Video Game Innovation Day.

I work in marketing, and have seen my fair share of appreciation days, town takeovers, and key-to-the-city fluffy publicity stunts.  I mean, just look at some of the language in Patrick’s decree!  But Boston walks the walk in this case.  They’ve managed to retain a healthy amount of area university grads, and stay in the conversation by nurturing hot startups (like 38 Studios and pre-Guitar Hero Harmonix)  and larger studios (2K Boston).  They even flirted with the idea of tax incentives for developers last summer, and will likely revisit the issue in some form in the future.

The longer this industry weathers the economic storm, the smarter state and local officials look in investing in its future for their constituents.  There are some promising first steps to attract talent in Georgia, Louisiana, and my desperately cash-strapped home state of Michigan.  With the right participation at the University level, those investments may bear fruit and incubate a living, breathing development community between the coasts.  There are even some promising first steps being taken to organize devs in NYC.  California and Washington can only satisfy the talent needs of such a robust industry for so long.  Where will the next industry hotbed be?

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It’s a real rarity to see insider games industry coverage from our dailies here in NYC, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the all the attention that local think tank the Center for an Urban Future generated for their study, “Getting in the Game.”

You can grab the .PDF at their site (and it’s certainly worth a read), but the Cliffs Notes of the report boil down to a very logical conclusion – and a somewhat obvious one, if you follow the industry closely: “The fast-growing video game industry represents a promising opportunity for New York City’s economy, but the sector faces significant challenges and still lags well behind established gaming hubs like Seattle, Los Angeles and Montreal.” The coverage wound up in every reputable game blog (naturally), but more importantly, it made the cover of at least one of the dailies, and Sewell Chan posted on it in the excellent NY Times City Room blog.

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the lack of a big game development scene in NYC, indie or otherwise. The creativity and talent is here, and the post-bust Silicon Alley community is keeping up with the west coast Joneses when it comes to attracting VC funding. We even have a few superb full-time games journalists residing in the 5 boroughs.

As the report shows, the handful of publishers that have set up some sort of base in the city (Take 2, Atari, and a few small developers) are mostly staffing marketing and C-level operations out of New York, and leaving the development to guys out west/across the pond/anywhere but here.

The fastest-growing entertainment industry can’t stay confined to the west coast forever, but a mass migration to NYC is no inevitability either. The same day that the Center for an Urban Future study went public, the office of Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue announced his state’s new incentives package for entertainment industry investment, with a ton of language specific to the games industry. Not to be outdone, Boston kicked off their inaugural conference focused on wooing more developers to the city last year, with a similar event in the works for 2008.

It’s great to see individual cities pushing for more developers in their locale, but what’s getting lost in the mix here is just how much the industry, as a whole, would benefit from moving a few creative eggs outside of the Bay Area basket. Just as Austin, TX filmmakers developed their own look and feel and the Atlanta Atlanta hip-hop artists pioneered their own sound.  What would their games play like?hip-hop scene became a powerful force in music, the infusion of local developers from all over the map could lead to the discovery of some hot, undiscovered talent.

Services like Steam, Xbox Live, WiiWare and PSN now eliminate the most expensive parts of distribution, so as long as the ideas are good enough (and the developers are savvy about interacting with passionate gamers), the sky’s the limit.

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