New Orleans is well-known as a sports destination, but lately it’s a different type of game that has people looking to the Crescent City. Economic development officials are pursuing computer game development and other digital media as sectors for job growth, and they recently turned heads with the news that one global player in the industry will expand here.  

The Paris-based company Gameloft SA, which develops games for mobile phones and other devices, plans to open a New Orleans studio this month. The Gameloft jobs will have average salaries of $69,000. The company will staff its office with 20 people during its first year and reach 100 employees within four years.

The company has been on a site search for a United States expansion for some time, though the unique culture of New Orleans was one factor that brought the city to the top of the list.  

“The area has a lot of appeal nationally, so attracting talent to the area is on par with attracting talent to New York, you just get a slightly different crowd,” says Samir El Agili, Gameloft’s U.S. studio manager.

Before the company selected New Orleans for its new site, economic development officials and Gameloft started recruiting on social media outlets to see if the company could attract the right work force here. The effort netted some 700 qualified applicants in two months.  

While New Orleans isn’t known as a technology hub, El Agili says Gameloft is excited to play a role in building a new industry in the area. 

“We see a lot of potential for the area and that’s why we decided to move forward with a New Orleans studio,” he says.  

A recent analysis commissioned by the state concluded that Louisiana could create up to 23,000 jobs in the digital media and software industry in the next 20 years. The state has been trying to harness that with a new package of tax incentives and tax credits, which Gameloft tapped for this move.

“Gameloft’s decision to open a major studio in greater New Orleans is an emphatic validation of the potential for software development in our region,” says Michael Hecht, President and CEO of the economic development group GNO, Inc.