Asante Bradford promotes video game development for Georgia. Eight years ago, he says, there were only about six gaming companies in all of metro-Atlanta. Now, there are more than 70.
“Every time we put together a list, it changes that quickly," Bradford says.
He says one reason may be that there are more gaming conventions being held in Atlanta, giving the city more exposure. And there’s a lot of local talent. The Savannah College of Art & Design and Georgia Tech are ranked among the top schools for game design.
Nikhil Deshpande teaches game development at SCAD in Atlanta. He says alumni of these schools are the ones who help create a strong network in the city.
“Retaining talent has helped the overall gaming landscape here," Deshpande says.
So when it comes time to finding a job, it’s not that hard, he says.
Take Hi-Rez Studios. Its 50 new jobs will help push out a new a mythology-themed video game on a new platform, XBOX One, and in a new market, China. They also plan to build a new studio so people can watch others play.
“People play video games, but over the last two years, it’s actually become quite popular for people to spectate video games," says Hi-Rez Studios Chief Operating Officer Todd Harris.
Harris says it helps that Georgia’s popular film tax credit – which was just renewed for another three years – extends to digital entertainment, and that living in bigger markets, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, is becoming more difficult.
“Georgia’s low cost of living has been very effective in recruiting experienced game developers, and then you combine that with really, really strong entry-level talent out of our universities and technical colleges,” Harris says.
The average starting salary at Hi-Rez Studios is about $58,000 – in line with the national average.