Government support for games

If you live in the United States, gaming is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of government-supported industries. (Unless, of course, you count casinos.) I’m not talking about California or Washington (think EA and Microsoft) which combined make up more than 50% of the U.S. game industry, but rather states that you don’t normally associate with gaming– such as Georgia, Texas, or Massachusetts.

Texas recently passed a law (HB873) that further supports the entertainment industry. Going into effect on Sept.1, the bill increases existing incentives on film, television, and– yes– game production (Games fall under “digital interactive media production”). According to this bill, any game developer that takes on a project worth $100,000 or more will receive state support of 5% for their expenses. In order to receive this support, more than 60% of the game must be produced within Texas and more than 70% of the employees working on the game have to be Texas residents.

The Texan government is implementing this legislation, because, believe it or not, gaming is an important industry for the state, but growth has been slowing down lately. The Texas government’s game industry amounts to more than $1.49 million a year (according to a report by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts). The state houses about 90 game companies.

It is also competing with other states such as Georgia, which started offering 20% tax credit for 20 percent of in-state spending for game developers working on projects worth $500,000 or more late last year.  What’s more, if the game developer is willing to put the state’s peach logo into its content, it gets another 10% tax discount. Georgia Trend–a local business magazine–says that  the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce is planning a digital entertainment incubator, and that the Savannah Economic Development Authority is offering one year of free rent for digital media companies. It’s no wonder that EA has been expanding its presence in Atlanta!

Massachusetts is also supporting game companies through its Create Boston program. With its proximity to many great educational institutes, it is perhaps natural that Boston be the nurturing ground for up and coming game companies. Harmonix, developer of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, is one of Boston’s recent success stories.

Although Boston accounts for less than 5% of the national game designer pool, government officials are hoping to expand the gaming industry and hopefully attract people from the west coast. The Create Boston program is targeting smaller firms, offering loans ranging from $15,000 to $150,000 for ambitious entrepreneurs seeking to establish a new business, or for businesses that are willing to relocate to Boston.

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