Georgia is East Coast hub for digital entertainment
Last weekend, Georgia hosted one of the largest eSports gaming events in the world, Xbox One’s SMITE World Championship.
eSports athletes gathered from all over the world on Jan 7th – 10th—including a few home-grown heroes like returning champion John “Barraccudda” Salter of Cartersville— to compete head-to-head for a cash-prize pool totaling $1,150,000*. Since the inaugural competition, SMITE had to move the competition into an arena facility at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, add an extra competition day and extend the competition to include two additional teams.
In the midst of a heated competition, SMITE raised $464,182 for charitable organizations and helped the Make-A-Wish foundation grant wishes for five children.
Behind the scenes, SMITE’s Alpharetta, Georgia-based game developer, Hi-Rez Studios, is responsible for the mounting success. In 2014, Hi-Rez employed 75 personnel. As of 2016, they doubled in size, commissioning more than 225 employees. Hi-Rez is also making plans to open a European headquarters operation in Brighton, England. This company growth correlates to the influx of registered SMITE players which grew from 6 million in 2015 to over $13 million.
A spokesperson for Hi-Rez says the company intends to bolster the gaming industry by helping create sustainable careers for their consumers—whether it be as a professional competitor, analyst, team owner or media personality.
Todd Harris, chief operating officer of Hi-Rez, attributes much of their success to Georgia’s thriving digital entertainment scene:
“Georgia’s strong talent pool and digital entertainment incentives have supported our growth to become one of the largest game developers in the Southeast…. And, given the current incentives, we plan on being in Georgia for the long term.”
What’s more, Hi-Rez is in good company. Other leading digital entertainment companies in Georgia include:
Georgia offers a unique environment for these businesses that invites networking, information sharing and connectivity through the following associations:
Fruitful collaboration from these associations led to the creation of annual industry events like the Digital Summit Atlanta, Geekend, Mobility LIVE!, SIEGE (the largest professional game development conference in southern U.S./attracts 500-1000 high school students interested in pursuing game development related degrees), SuperNova South, TiECON SE and Venture Atlanta.
As this industry continues to evolve in Georgia, there is a rising need for a qualified digital entertainment workforce. According to the Department of Labor, by 2022, Atlanta entertainment and media jobs are projected to increase 15%. Currently, Georgia ranks among the top ten states for high-tech job growth, top five states for software publishing employment and top twenty for overall high-tech employment.
To complement this growing need, Georgia’s universities, institutes and technical colleges offer an abundance of creative talent to help develop and secure talent for digital entertainment companies. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and the Georgia Institute of Technology rank in the top 25 schools for video game design.
With its business-friendly climate, collaborative partnerships and a robust talent pool, Georgia is the state to watch in the Digital Entertainment industry. For those who need assistance or information, the Georgia Department of Economic Development has a project manager designated to this sector, Asante Bradford. His contact information can be found here.
*The money breaks down into two categories, PC and Xbox.
SMITE is the online Battleground of the Gods, a mythology-themed action game for PC and Xbox One. Since launching in Europe and North America in March 2014, SMITE has quickly established itself as one of the Top 3 games in the rapidly growing MOBA genre, with over 13 million players. Themed around gods of mythology and offering a third-person camera and more game modes than any other leading game in its genre, the game provides a unique, action-packed experience that puts the player in the thick of the action. SMITE is free-to-play on both PC and Xbox One.
About Hi-Rez Studios
Atlanta-based Hi-Rez Studios was established in 2005 to create exceptional online interactive entertainment, and is now one of the largest video game studios in the Southeast United States. Its games include the squad-based shooter Global Agenda, the critically acclaimed Tribes: Ascend and SMITE, the Battleground of the Gods. Hi-Rez Studios also has two new games: Paladins, a fantasy FPS with progression using collectible cards currently in closed beta testing for PC, and Jetpack Fighter, a swipe-to-attack, high-speed platformer with gear progression. www.HiRezStudios.com.