Cities and states get their game on
Video game development is one of the fastest growing industries of the 21st century, showing growth despite the ongoing recession. Several state and local governments now are wooing the industry with tax breaks to draw the job-creating businesses to their areas.
The entertainment software industry employs more than 80,000 people across the country, according to the Washington-based Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Computer and video game software sales grew 22.9 percent in 2008 to $11.7 billion.
The entertainment software industry’s resilience is what motivated Baton Rouge, La., to partner with the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and Louisiana State University (LSU) to create the Baton Rouge Area Digital Industry Consortium three years ago, says Adam Knapp, the chamber’s CEO. “We had a paper written by an intern back in 2005 – 2006, suggesting that the video game development market is an incredibly hot market for growth opportunities,” Knapp says. “The wage levels are very high, and it was still nascent in terms of an economic development opportunity.”
Each consortium partner invests $100,000 annually to attract game design companies to locate in the city, and LSU began the Red Stick Animation Festival to attract workers in the industry. The consortium’s efforts were augmented when the state passed a 25 percent digital media tax credit in 2005. Several other states, including Michigan, Georgia, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, have passed similar incentives.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Electronic Arts was the first blue chip company to open a facility in the Baton Rouge area in August 2008, and since then, four other smaller companies have set up shop. Electronic Arts has created 200 jobs in the area, and the other startups have created 100 jobs total. “Job creation is absolutely the bottom line here,” Knapp says. “The opportunity for a high-growth, knowledge-based industry like video game development is incredibly attractive. Job creation and payroll are how you produce a public return on investment in economic development.”
Hands on the Joystick
68 percent of American households play computer or video games.
The average video game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.
Women make up 40 percent of the U.S. game-playing population.
In 2009, 25 percent of Americans over 50 played video games.
Source: Entertainment Software Association