Where to Locate Your Game Company - Game Developing

This is a question that does not apply to many of us when we are starting our company. More than likely the place where we start our company is where we are currently located. Usually the founding employees all know each other professionally and already live in the same city. However, there are a few things to consider when deciding where to locate your company like local tax laws, availability of talent, and proximity to game publishers.

Optimizing for tax laws may be one of the more interesting ideas to think about. It is my understanding that Ireland has special promotions for film and game companies. According to my sources your company and your employees are currently not required to pay federal taxes in Ireland as an incentive to bring business to Ireland.

Similarly, there have been tax incentives from the Canadian government in the past. The South Korean government invests heavily in game companies, and I am sure there are a host of places you could locate your company to take advantage of the local tax laws. Westwood employees enjoy the no state income tax in Nevada. However, at the end of the day I do not believe that optimizing for tax purposes is a good reason to relocate your company to an offbeat locale. There is a basic reason why these tax breaks are offered; it is because that local economy is suffering from a lack of business in the hi-tech and entertainment fields.

It is most important to be near potential publishers, especially when you are starting your company. Publishers are risking real amounts of capital on young, creative people (the people it takes to make games), and more often than not they lose a bunch of money. For all publishers it is such a relief to be able to send their producer down to your shop for the afternoon on short notice that that alone could make or break your deal compared to if you set up shop in Montana. The West Coast is where it’s at for major publishers: Seattle, the Bay Area of California, and Southern California. If you have space, employees, and some good visual material, you should have no problem convincing several publishers to come out and visit you. However, if you are just a state away in Arizona, you might have to subsist on small contract work for quite a while before someone gets curious enough to want to come out and see your shop. Despite being located in Southern California, I think that this is an annoying attitude; a publisher should be willing to go to Shanghai, Moscow, or Santa Fe to find a developer, but the truth is Santa Monica is a car drive away from Activision, Sony, THQ, Infogrames, Interplay, Midway, Blizzard, Universal, Vivendi, TDK, Conspiracy, Crave, Encore, Sammy, and perhaps a couple more publishers that I could not recall off the top of my head. Do good work in one of the three main West Coast areas and you will continue to get good work.

The other aspect of locating your company is to find someplace where there is abundant talent for games. Conveniently enough, this happens to be the same place the game publishers are located. Plenty of strong universities and a deep, vibrant hi-tech industry base are the raw materials of the Southern California, Bay Area, and Seattle communities.

Of course, there are many examples of successful game companies that are not located in these areas. If you choose to live outside these areas, such as the game development scene in Texas, you and your employees should enjoy the lower costs of living and be able to have a greater command of the local development talent. Again, in the end you will likely start your company around the location of your founding opportunity.


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