New Orleans video game company launches second studio, cuts local hiring plan | Economic news



West Coast gaming guru Jeff Strain, who moved to New Orleans last year with the intention of creating dozens of high-paying jobs, has opened a second studio under parent company Prytania Media with $25 million backing from a venture capital fund.

And while the strain will retain the company’s headquarters here, it has scaled back plans that originally called for 75 people to be hired locally. He said that due to changes in the way people work in the industry, it will allow developers, writers, artists, actors and other professionals to live and work wherever they want in the world.

The remote work experiment that was forced on many companies at the start of the pandemic was already a growing practice among creative game developer types, he said, and accelerated the trend.

“For games, it was a ‘proof case’ that it could actually work at scale and over time,” Strain said.

Prytania Media’s first studio, Possibility Space, hired its developers from everywhere and allowed them to work remotely. Strain said the same approach will be followed for the new studio, Crop Circle Games. Office space rented at the Pan-American Life Center last year has been abandoned, and there is now only one virtual address at The Warehouse shared workspace in the Warehouse District.

“Like sister studio Possibility Space, Crop Circle is a fully distributed studio, allowing each CCG developer to live and work where they are happiest,” the company said in a prepared statement.

The news is bittersweet for the area’s economic development proponents, who had hailed Strain’s decision to move to New Orleans as a real boost for the city in its bid to become a hub for the game. emerging in the world of technological media.

The game’s growth means its $200 billion in annual global revenue exceeds that of TV and movies combined.

Local hits include TurboSquid, an image database startup that sold for $75 million last year. Others are virtual reality company StrikerVR, inXile Entertainment (acquired by Microsoft in 2018), High Voltage Software, Testronic and, in Baton Rouge, Electronic Arts.

Strain said the business and all of its support functions will always remain in New Orleans, where he moved with his wife, Annie, a Loyola University graduate, and their five children.

“New Orleans is our headquarters and our home,” he said. “We live in New Orleans and call it home because we love it. We didn’t move there for the LED program or for any other reason; we feel a strong emotional connection to the city.”

Paperwork story?

Strain, a native of Temple, Texas, has been in the gaming industry since his early days in the mid-1990s, when he joined Irvine, Calif.-based Blizzard Entertainment shortly after forming. He later served as the lead developer of the company’s hit World of Warcraft game and developed its StarCraft and Diablo games.

Moving to Seattle 20 years ago, he went on to found ArenaNet, the creator of Guild Wars, another hit series sold to NCsoft in 2008. He then founded another Seattle-based company, Undead Labs, creator of State of Decay, which was sold to Microsoft in 2018.

Industry trackers estimate he made over $100 million selling his businesses.

With the new studios, he said he was developing “Gen-Z” focused games. This means a more peaceful and life-enhancing philosophy rather than the survival and death and destruction themes of previous games. Details of new games, which usually take several years to develop, are still under wraps.

Strain also said that while hiring plans had been reduced primarily due to changes in work practices, the incentives offered by Louisiana Economic Development to attract media and technology companies were difficult to manage.

Video game designer Jeff Strain, left, at his home in New Orleans watching a Saints game with his family and friends in October 2021. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate) ORG XMIT: BAT2111051658210180

The company expected to be eligible for the public interactive digital media and software program, which reimburses 25% of payroll for higher-paying software development jobs, as well as 18% of related production costs, including the rent; and the Entertainment Jobs Program, which reimburses 15% to 20% of payroll for non-developer jobs.

Strain said managing the bureaucracy was proving too “combative” and cumbersome, with demands such as accounting for his individual working hours in the state.

“I think anyone who’s attracted to this program is likely to be very surprised and not thrilled with the details of the implementation,” he said. “For us, the business rationale for establishing our company and studios was unclear when we went into detail.”

LED officials were not immediately available for comment.

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