Gameloft Opens Game Studio In NOLA
Gameloft will develop software in New Orleans
Published: Monday, August 15, 2011, 2:02 PM Updated: Monday, August 15, 2011, 5:31 PM
By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune
Mobile and online video game developer Gameloft is expanding into New Orleans with the opening of a software development studio in the Crescent City, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Monday.
Gameloft, which is based in France, is expected to employ about 20 people in its first year in New Orleans and grow to a staff of 146 in 10 years, said David Hague, studio manager for the New Orleans office.
"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 company creates games designed to be played on mobile devices including the iPhone, Android and other portable gadgets. Software developers will earn an average salary of $69,000 plus benefits. The company is now hiring employees.
The Gameloft outfit will differ from that of its gaming counterpart Electronic Arts, which established a software testing facility in Baton Rouge in 2008. Instead of testing games, Gameloft employees will be creating them, a job that requires employees with a more complex skill set, Jindal said.
Monday's announcement was the culmination of a yearlong wooing period that saw Louisiana move from completely off of Gameloft's radar to the top slot on company's site list.
While Gameloft executives believed that Louisiana's incentive program and culture were attractive enough, they weren't convinced that New Orleans could supply the number of qualified employees it needed to build a top-level software development studio.
"The main concern was that there's not a lot of gaming industry here," Hague said. "To make a good game, you need experienced veterans. Without that, it was a major concern whether we would be able to attract it."
But Gameloft's position changed after the state's office of economic development launched an online recruitment campaign on Gameloft's behalf, before the company even agreed to settle here. Using Facebook and other social media, the state advertised software development jobs with Gameloft in New Orleans. Users were invited to submit their resumes online. The idea was to demonstrate that the state could attract the level of talent Gameloft desired if the company agreed to expand here.
In eight weeks, the jobs page received about 1,350 resumes, said Jeff Lynn, executive director of Louisiana FastStart, the state workforce training program that oversaw the effort. Gameloft considered 700 of those as legitimately qualified applicants, Lynn said.
That result made Louisiana and New Orleans the "clear choice," Gameloft executive Samir El Agili said.
As a software developer, Gameloft qualifies for the Digital Media and Software Incentive program, which provides a tax credit of 25 percent of qualified digital interactive media expenditures made in Louisiana and 35 percent tax credit for payroll expenditures for Louisiana residents.
Gameloft also will receive a discretionary incentive package worth $3.7 million. The bulk of that money, $3.5 million will be paid out over 10 years and go toward offsetting the company's facility's cost, Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret said. The remaining $200,000, for moving expenses, is available immediately.
Gameloft employs 4,000 worldwide and sells about three games every second, El Agili said. The company's games include N.O.V.A 2, Star Battalion and Assassin's Creed. Gameloft has only one other domestic software development unit in New York City.
Gameloft will operate from a temporary site in downtown New Orleans for six months, before settling in a yet-to-be decided location in either the CBD or Warehouse District, Hague said.
Hague said he's eager to get to work developing in New Orleans because of the unique perspective the city will provide developers.
"What makes a game is the little details," Hague said, adding that it wouldn't be unlikely to find bits of New Orleans' architecture or events in the company's upcoming games. "Being in San Francisco, you don't see something like the Red Dress Run."
Economic development officials hope New Orleans won't just become a character in Gameloft's games, but a serious contender in the gaming industry. Michael Hecht, president of regional economic development agency Greater New Orleans Inc., said he believes the company will act as a sort of "fertilizer" for the regional digital media industry, readying the area for like companies.
"It sets the stage for the future," Hecht said. "This is an outstanding opportunity to nurture and grow a new industry."
Jaquetta White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3494.