Game Change

Last week a local architect forwarded an interesting press release from Greater New Orleans, Inc., an economic development alliance for the region. It announced, with great hyperventilating fanfare, that Gameloft, “one of the world’s largest publishers of digital and social gaming,” would establish a new video game development studio in New Orleans. This was one of those Richard Florida-type stories that seemed too good to be true. And maybe an indication that the Crescent City had indeed become a draw for the coveted “creative class.”

So I called Gameloft’s Dave Hague in New York—home of the company’s only American studio—and asked a simple question: Why New Orleans?  “To be honest, the city was initially not on our list,” says Hague, a senior producer who will move south and head up the new studio.  At the outset, they looked in all the predictable places for gaming talent: Texas (Austin), California, Seattle. Then Gameloft got a call from the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) agency, who began dangling a slew of incentives—specifically, “digital media tax credits.” Gameloft wasn’t entirely convinced. “It’s one thing for it to make economic sense,” Hague says. “But what’s really important to us is being able to attract top talent.” Gameloft came down for a two-day visit and found a thriving city, but the talent question remained.

LED’s Faststart—a state agency designed to help companies recruit and train employees—answered the question by putting up a blind Facebook job post. More than 1000 gamers applied; Gameloft deemed about 500 of them qualified. “We got some responses from the New Orleans area, but also candidates from all over the U.S. as well as international interest,” Hague says.

In the end, Gameloft will receive approximately $3.7-million in economic incentives over a 10-year period. But if the press release is to be believed, and the company creates “146 jobs during the next decade, with an average salary of $69,000 plus benefits,” then this deal more than pencils out. It looks, in fact, like a classic win-win.

View the job listings page for Gameloft’s New Orleans studio here.

Categories: Cities