A couple of big events this week in the video game arena - the release of “Guild Wars 2″ and a new patch for World of Warcraft — might prompt a look at how the electronic entertainment industry plays in your local economy.
And even if your market isn’t home to one of the big game publishers, there might be a greater connection than you think, from app writers to hardware suppliers to retail game shops. According to this report in Forbes, the industry’s annual sales are approaching $70 billion, including nearly $3 billion in paychecks to industry workers. The article says growth in the 2005-2008 period was nearly 17 percent.
With a fair number of publicly traded players, such as Electronic Arts, the industry is followed by several market research firms including Nielsen and NPD; both sites are great resources for background material and statistics.
If you can’t get to this story now, despite the “Guild Wars 2″ news peg, store up the information for a holiday shopping angle: Recent reports say retail game sales have hit a slump — down 20 percent in July, according to a Wall Street Journal report, in a trend that began late in 2011. That can’t bode well for bricks-and-mortar merchants that rely on game sales, such as GameStop, big box electronics stores and any independent video stores that may still exist. Talk with commercial real estate brokers about any holes in their malls or strip centers left by fading packaged-game sellers as digital downloads replace the need to buy software. This NPR interview also explains current trends.
Your best bet for finding local software angles is in mobile apps development; the barriers are somewhat lower and local shops can create games or game accessories and plug them right into the apps store with little cost. They can be low-profile and difficult to locate; best bet is to Google “app developer” with a local geographic term; I turned up quite a few this way.
To find local developers and other industry members, check the exhibitor list of the big conferences, including the Entertainment Software Association’s huge annual meeting and UBM Techweb’s Game Developers Conference. Unfortunately I didn’t see an advance search function on either site’s exhibitor list pages, but I’d try contacting the organizers; perhaps they can connect you with members from your state or region.
One cool angle, which you can spin as a careers or workplace story: According to an industry association, video-game courses and/or degree programs now are available at colleges in all 50 states. Who knew? Here’s a state-by-state listing from the Entertainment Software Association; I’d jump on this with the new school year about to get under way. Where do the instructors come from, what can they tell you about the local ties to the video game industry, how are placement rates and what have some recent graduates ended up doing — and earning?