Mike Worth says his deja vu moment came in March, at the Game Developers Conference in California.
“When you went down the opening flight of steps, there was a huge banner, 80 feet wide, that said ‘INVEST IN CANADA,” says Worth.
All Worth saw was what could have been for Philadelphia.
At the same conference in 2009, Worth and other Philadelphia developers had the idea to put Philadelphia on that giant banner. Along with a handful of other local video game developers and business owners, Worth help co-found the Video game Growth Initiative in 2009 to help Philadelphia leverage tax incentives and other benefits to help lore large video game studios to Philadelphia.
Back then, the motivation stemmed from attending GDC in 2009.
After all, Philadelphia is home to the only Ivy League graduate-level video game development program in the country at Penn, has a cheap cost of living compared to other video game industry cities like Boston and San Francisco and is sandwiched oh-so-perfectly between the European and West Coast time zones.
However, two years after VGI was first presented its ideas as a PowerPoint to state and city officials, the city’s video game community has decided to matters into their own hands.
“I was so focused on getting a studio to move here and hire me, then we thought: ‘why not build a studio and hire yourself?” says Worth.
Along with CEO Leo Tranchitella, Chief Creative Officer Brandon Van Slyke, and CTO Albert Vazquez, Worth has founded Play Eternal, Philadelphia’s first “AAA” studio designed to produce high-budget games for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and the PC. Currently the studio is beta-testing its first demo that it hopes leads to a publishing deal that would allow the company to hire more than 20 employees.
Along with Center City-based game studio Burst Online and a handful of smaller, independent shops, VGI Philly hopes that having studios grow organically is the best way to attract outside attention to Philadelphia.
And it’s already working. Armed with two announcements from Burst Online and Play Eternal at this year’s GDC, Worth says that he was constantly being approached by Philly expats asking how they can help put Philly on the map.
“We haven’t had that homerun of getting a [large studio like] Activision to move here,” he says, “so we’re focusing on getting us all on base.” he says.
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