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Posts Tagged ‘video 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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In case you missed it earlier this week, be sure to check out this superb Wall Street Journal article on Tomonobu Itagaki’s sudden (and fierce) departure from Tecmo. He’s best known for stylish series like Dead or Alive and the revived Ninja Gaiden, both of which cater to hardcore fans without apology. Along with Hideo Kojima and Shigeru Miyamato, Itagaki’s one of a very few big name Japanese producers still active in the industry.

The fact that a dispute over a completion bonus led to Itagaki’s decision to leave (and sue Tecmo, to boot) shows that this industry still has a lot to learn about how to treat talent, especially if video game companies want to play in the same league as movie studios and music labels. When was the last time Steven Spielberg or Jay-Z had to sue a studio to get a bonus out of them?

Itagaki produced some really groundbreaking games during his run at the helm of Tecmo’s Team Ninja, and helped move plenty of Dreamcasts for Sega, PlayStation 2’s for Sony, and Xboxes (and then 360s) for Microsoft over the years. Love them or hate them, every one of Itagaki’s games had a unique voice and visual flare that was distinctively his. Is Tecmo so stocked with talent that they can afford to just let him walk out the door? Not likely.

The WSJ article touches on how Itagaki (and other visionaries in the industry) favors working with a smaller team of 100 or so programmers and designers that “get” the vision, rather than a small army of code monkies updating last year’s game and plugging in new graphics. The fact is, we need this type of passionate, creative producer to remain committed to building new, breathtaking experiences and expanding their original IP to draw in new audiences and keep influential, hardcore gamers in love with the hobby.

We’ve (hopefully) come a long way from the EA Spouse days, the novelty of producing games will wear off in time, and the industry needs to figure out how to nurture and maintain the creative people that keep it moving forward.

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