INTRODUCTION TO GEORGIA’S GROWTH AS A GAMING HUB
Georgia’s growth as a game development hub continues to grow. In 2019, the game development industry employed just over 4,000 employees in studios from Savannah to Columbus, and from Valdosta to North Georgia. These high-quality and high-paying jobs feature average salaries above $70,000, not including benefits. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this means that the average job in the video game industry in Georgia pays about 20% higher than the median household income in Georgia.
The video game industry continues to also show impressive growth in gross revenues. When the Georgia Game Developers Association (GGDA) first started producing its annual report on the economic contributions of the industry five years ago, the gross revenues totaled approximately $275 million. In 2019, the gross revenues grew to just under $480 million. Moreover, gross revenues have increased by more than 10% in four of the last five years. While many industries have been hurt by the 2020 COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, early indicators suggest that sales in the video game industry improved. Early indicators based on research conducted by The NPD Group suggest that year-over-year US video game sales rose by more than 25% during the first several months of the pandemic.
For the past several years the GGDA has tracked Georgia firms that qualify for the Chapter 159-1 Film Tax Credits for Film, Video or Interactive Entertainment Production. It then used data gathered from primary and secondary research efforts to estimate the economic contributions of the industry by using a standard regional input-output-model using RIMS II multipliers established by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The impact of the video game industry in Georgia does not only affect the economy through its gross revenues, but it also affects the economy in other ways. Once the direct, indirect and inducement effects are considered, the economic contributions of the video game industry in Georgia exceeded $925 million in total output in 2019. Direct output consists of output generated specifically by the video game industry. An easy way to think about the direct output is to think about the gross revenues. Indirect output is generated through business-to-business transactions resulting from local input purchases. For example, many of Georgia’s video game companies will outsource some of their production to other Georgia-based companies. Finally, induced output results when the more than 4,000 people employed in the video game industry in Georgia spend their money throughout the Georgia economy. This spending then ripples across the entire Georgia economy.
Ultimately, the growth of the industry, the vast and reliable infrastructure that produces a high-quality labor market, and the benefits of the Chapter 159-1 Film Tax Credits for Film, Video or Interactive Entertainment Production are proving to attract new business to Georgia. During an interview with a firm that relocated from California to Georgia recently interviewed as a part of the GGDA’s research to produce the annual report on the economic contributions of the video game industry in Georgia, the tax credits were mentioned as a major reason for the relocation but the person being interviewed also noted the cost of living in Georgia and the educational infrastructure as two other welcome features of the area that he believes will help continue to sustain the long-term success of the industry in Georgia.
SUCCESS IN GEORGIA GAME CAREERS
Kevin Dressel began his game career with some of the biggest companies in the world, including such world-renowned companies as EA and Zynga. While some game creators think of working for such industry giants as the pinnacle of a long career, Dressel chose an alternate route.
“I enjoyed working on some of the most famous games in the world. I enjoyed learning from the best game developers even more. However, I had too many game ideas of my own rolling around in my head. Georgia offered the perfect mix of affordability and supportive community for me to start my own company,” said Dressel, Founder of Shiny Dolphin Games.
Some of Georgia’s game studios, like Hi-Rez Studios and Tripwire Interactive, have become industry leaders, with millions of players around the globe enjoying their games. Others, like Shiny Dolphin, have carved out a niche in the highly competitive indie game space, developing games that might not have the same number of players as their larger cousins but develop just as much loyalty and devotion in their fans.
At the beginning of the GGDA’s birth year, 2005, Georgia had just five game studios in the entire state, hiring less than 50 people. Fast forward to 2021, and more than 160 companies work in game development, stretching across the state from north to south and east to west. They make their games for PCs, consoles, mobile devices, web sites, VR and more.
Hi-Rez commands the largest legion of players, with more than 70 million people having enjoyed their games. When Hi-Rez launched its latest game, Rogue Company, it picked up a company-record 15 million players when it launched. Tripwire’s latest release, Chivalry 2, sold more than a million copies in just over two months. Every player sees the Georgia peach logo every time they boot up the game, not having to wait until the credits to see its source.
Even Georgia studios with just one developer enjoy outsized success. Joe Cassavaugh, owner of Puzzles by Joe, proudly extols the virtues of being a single-person studio, as well as the community that has developed around his Clutter series of games. Even before launching Ki11er Clutter in September, his games brought in an average of more than $16,000/month, with loyal fans buying each new version of the game.
Georgia continues to grow promising new studios. Karen Williams, a Columbus State University graduate, founded Hiccup Interactive and livestreams her game development on Twitch. Williams left her first software job with a battery distribution company to follow her passion for making games. Now president of Atlanta’s chapter of the International Game Developers Association, Williams offers advice for others following her path. “Don’t get sidetracked because you have a big-girl job now,” said Williams. “You want to protect what you’re creating. It’s your baby. Take pride in it.”
Even Georgia’s oldest game studios continue to find new fans. Holistic Design Inc. still sells its “Machiavelli the Prince” (published in 1994) and “Emperor of the Fading Suns” (published in 1996) games. “Good games are timeless,” said Chris Wiese, President of Holistic Design. “Just like some people still warmly remember games like Pong and Pac-Man, so too will people be enjoying Georgia games for decades to come.”