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As Mobile Games Soar, New Orleans Becomes a Player

The year is 2088, and your spaceship has just landed on the planet Mochwoi, which has an atmosphere similar to Earth’s but no intelligent life forms. The mission assigned to you by Galaxy Patrol: Investigate and colonize the planet.

As you accept your new responsibilities you join a cadre of individuals who have come to enjoy playing “Cosmic Colony” on an iPhone, iPad or Android phone. If you live in New Orleans you also have the distinction of residing in the highly rated game’s hometown.

“Cosmic Colony” is the first release by worldwide digital game designer Gameloft from its fledgling studio in New Orleans. In line with today’s most popular digital games, “Cosmic Colony” presents space-themed challenges to players of all ages. As they become space pioneers, the players participate with some 50 million other users who regularly play Gameloft games.

The release of “Cosmic Colony” last fall was a landmark for the local studio, which opened in 2011 to much fanfare among state and local economic development officials. One of the largest mobile game publishers in the world, Gameloft operates from locations around the globe, and until it opened in New Orleans, its only U.S. location was in New York.
Plopping a studio in New Orleans was a big deal from an economic developer’s standpoint, essentially putting the city on the digital gaming map via one of the foremost names in the business.

Mobile gaming is one of the fastest-growing segments of the multibillion-dollar video game industry. Both mobile and online gaming have steadily gobbled more of the retail gaming market in recent years, as users have shifted away from packaged games played on a PlayStation or Nintendo Wii and have instead shown a preference for gaming apps that they can download and play on a smartphone or tablet device.

Mobile games today are the No. 1 category of sales at Apple Inc.’s App Store. According to the mobile analytics firm Flurry, tablet users spend two-thirds of their time on the devices playing games, while smartphone users dedicate almost 40 percent of their time to games.

Such figures bode well for Gameloft, and by extension New Orleans, where Gameloft’s United States and Latin America production vice president says the company sees promise.
“‘Cosmic Colony’ represents the first of many games that we anticipate launching in the upcoming years, and I foresee a lot of new and innovative projects being released from our New Orleans location,” Samir El Agili said in announcing the title’s release. In addition to working on an assortment of existing games in the Gameloft catalog, the company plans to continue developing local talent, he says.

Gameloft tapped into help from Louisiana Economic Development’s FastStart training program to attract resumes for the few dozen jobs initially available in the New Orleans studio. The company expects to continue growing its 140-person local workforce, and economic developers say the rising demand for developers and designers will feed into a trend that’s helping to diversify the local economy in new directions.

Michael Hecht, CEO of business development organization Greater New Orleans Inc., says more digital media companies are landing in New Orleans because of attractive assets the city offers, including a lifestyle and culture that appeal to young people who work in the sector; low costs of living and doing business here; and rich cash incentives offered by the state to digital media companies.

Louisiana’s Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive program may be the strongest such program in the nation, offering bottom-line savings in the form of a 25 percent tax credit for qualified digital media production expenditures and a 35 percent credit for Louisiana resident labor expenditures.

The incentive was originally envisioned as a way to cultivate the video game industry in Louisiana, but in 2009, the state expanded the definition of “digital interactive media” to make the program more effective for all digital companies.

Hecht says the program meshes well with the local business climate to create a compelling package for companies looking to relocate or expand in Louisiana. He notes that digital game development also fits well with other types of businesses at home in New Orleans, including music production and recording, video production and the fast-growing film production business.

Expansion of companies such as Gameloft into the local market is part of what has placed the city high on numerous rankings published by the national business press, including an accolade Hecht recently touted from employment website Bright.com. The website listed the Greater New Orleans area as No. 3 in the country for technology job growth.

Hecht says New Orleans is well-positioned to build on the economic growth it has seen in recent years. Historically a hub for the oil and gas industry, the city has easy access to an ample supply of cheap natural gas that could help ensure prosperity in the energy sector, he says. Meanwhile, the local boom in digital media shows no sign of slowing down. “Energy and digital media should keep all of Louisiana well placed for the next decade,” Hecht says.

Gameloft’s “Cosmic Colony” game is available from both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.


Digital Business Growth

Louisiana tax credit program for digital media businesses has provided strong incentives for companies to start or expand in the local area. Some of the area’s creative and digital media companies that operate in New Orleans include:

  • Gameloft (mobile video game developer)
  • Turbosquid (on-line marketplace for 3D images)
  • Bayou FX (visual effects studio)
  • Factory VFX (visual effects studio)
  • Storyville (post production)
  • Maison Post (post production)
  • Du Monde (visual effects studio)
  • Susco Solutions (software development)
  • Touch Studios (app designer)
  • Orphmedia (digital media agency)
  • Receivables Exchange (electronic marketplace for trading accounts receivable)
  • Carrollton Technology Partners (programming and web/app development)
  • iSeatz (on-line travel and entertainment solutions)
  • Federated Sample (market research technology firm)
  • Bipolar Bear Productions (post house)
  • Incendi (3D design house)
  • The Mothership FX (post house)
     

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