St. Louis turning into game development hub

St. Louis Business Journal
Noember 1, 2013
By Brian Feldt

Unless you’re plugged into the industry, you probably don’t know about St. Louis’ thriving video game development industry.

It’s not quite Austin or Seattle, said Jonathan Leek, chair of the International Game Developers Association’s St. Louis Chapter, but St. Louis is on a shortlist of cities that are quickly turning into a development hub for aspiring game makers.

This week’s Business Journal highlights a growing trend among indie game developers using Kickstarter to fund their latest projects.

This year alone, game developers have raised nearly $275,000 on Kickstarter. Leading that charge is Pixel Press, which over the summer raised $100,000 to fund its app that allows users to turn their physical drawings into video games.

Then in September, Upheaval Arts, a small video game development company based out of St. Louis, raised nearly $85,000 in September to fund its free-to-play science fiction web game called StarCraft Universe.

Leek said as St. Louis has transformed itself into an IT hub, the game developing community has followed suit.

“St. Louis has become this IT mecca... the startup scene has really started to take off over the past couple of years,” Leek said. “With all of that, we have these technical people and a lot of those tech jobs are just not that exciting. So these guys are starting to make games in their free time.”

Leek said the St. Louis Game Developers meetup group has grown from about 10 members five years ago to nearly 500 developers today.

Further, developers are coming from out of town to set up shop here in St. Louis.

That type of industry activity is only helping out the veteran gaming companies in St. Louis, too.

“We’re more than pleased to have more competitors here in St. Louis,” said Chris Moore, a senior producer with Simutronics, one of St. Louis’ oldest game development studios. “The bigger the industry the better. The only reason Austin has such a big (gaming) industry is because of one or two companies that at one point exploded (with a big game). And that turned into 70 gaming companies and then into what it is today.”

Leek said a breakout hit will be vital to growing St. Louis’ gaming community. Already, the Gateway City is home to the developers who created the most-played game on the planet, Riot Games’ League of Legends.

“When established companies can start getting big clients, that will bring a lot of attention to St. Louis,” Leek said. “We’re already starting to see more hires in St. Louis by some of those companies. But we still have a long ways to go.”

 
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