At a press conference in the Central Business District Aug. 15, Gov. Bobby Jindal joined a cadre of legislators, businesspeople and video gamers to announce major mobile game developer Gameloft would be opening its second U.S. studio in New Orleans. "Gameloft is our biggest digital media win yet," Jindal said. "Companies like Gameloft are going to keep our young people right here in Louisiana."
The announcement was the culmination of nearly two years of work on the part of the city, the state and the business alliance Greater New Orleans Inc. (GNO Inc.) City boosters flew in Gameloft executives for interviews, found them places to live, introduced them around town and held barbecues.
France-based Gameloft is among the largest mobile game developers in the world, selling approximately three games every second. They have 24 studios worldwide. The company says it plans to hire 20 people in its first year in New Orleans, ultimately growing to 146 workers.
Michael Hecht, CEO of GNO Inc., says making this deal work is crucial to the economic future of the city — not just for the immediate jobs Gameloft will provide, but also for the message the company's decision sends to other businesses. State lawmakers recently enacted extensive tax credits to encourage the digital media gaming industry to set up shop in Louisiana. "This makes it a magnitude easier to attract the next firm," Hecht says. "When a firm learns about our incentives and gets to know our business case but has a question ... they can simply talk to Gameloft."
Originally, Gameloft executives expressed concerns they wouldn't be able to attract the same level of talent as they would in a city such as San Francisco or Austin, Texas. But when an online recruitment effort brought 1,300 resumes for 15 positions, Gameloft executives said they knew they could make it work.
According to Neel S. Sus, CEO of the New Orleans-based game developer Touch Studios, the talent pool isn't quite up to par with some bigger cities just yet, but it's expanding. "We're going to see things growing," he says. "After this, there's going to be more in the talent pool to go around."
Hecht says GNO Inc. is courting some unnamed but important studios: "With EA (Electronic Arts) in Baton Rouge and Gameloft here, if we get one more, that will take us past the point where we can be self-generating." — David Their