UPDATE: Since this blog post was first published in 2014, the past two years have seen some awesome progress in video game development in Cincinnati thanks to some awesome companies and people. We now have both an IGDA Chapter and a CGDA Chapter. The team over at ChoreMonster has done a lot to lead the way. And we’ve seen the successful Kickstarter of Project Resurgence from Nectar Game Studios. While we haven’t been as involved as we want to be in the community, we’ve been hard at work on our next game which we’ll be announcing soon. For all those who have made this little rant of mine a reality, I salute you. You know who you are and you are EPIC.

 

Cincinnati Zombie Image by Tony Moore for CincyComicon

It may surprise you — Cincinnati is ranked as NUMBER 8 in the TOP 10 US cities that spend the most on video games. We are a city of gamers and we are a city of geeks. We love comics and geek culture so much that we have two conventions every year. You can’t throw a rock without hitting at least one GameStop as we have over 40 stores in the Greater Cincinnati Area.

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However, with all of this consumer passion about video games, you would think that Cincinnati would have a vibrant game development scene. Amazingly, that’s just not the case. In fact, before IndiePub (formerly Zoo Entertainment, Inc.) laid off its development team this past year…Cincinnati had not boasted a decently sized video game development studio since Pyrotechnix, which closed its doors in 1999. For a city that has such a rich history of game and toy development, why has the video game industry been so lackluster?

Cincinnati houses some of the best and brightest in the creative industry — 3D artists, animators, developers and illustrators.

The talent is here but the industry is focused on marketing and design. We are a product of the Fortune 500 companies that have defined this city and continue to reign supreme here. So under the shadow of this big business, video game endeavors have simply failed to take root.

Please forgive me, I don’t mean to seem inconsiderate to the industry that has fed me for 15 years. The companies here and the agency community has been a big portion of my life and I am thankful for it. Yet it is a fact, it’s tough for any tech start-up in a city where the agencies and the Fortune 500 companies can aggressively compete against you in the salary war. But while that is frustrating, it is not necessarily without it’s positive spin. The employees you manage to retain are often not part of your company for the money…they come in every day for the passion and love of what you are doing.

We often hear from those in the game industry (and those just entering the industry) that they would love to stay in Cincinnati but there simply aren’t any game development jobs here. It’s frustrating to hear this story, quite literally, every month. And it’s sad, because these are Cincinnatians who WANT to stay. Those that do stay, give up their aspirations for entering the game industry. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We have the consumer power, we have the talent — we need bold individuals to form and fund studios and become advocates for video game development in the Queen City.

At the risk of sounding egotistical or boastful, I know that Loreful is a company of bold individuals set to do just that. But honestly, it’s not REALLY about how bold, dedicated or even how creative we are. As with most success, it’s about timing. We believe that Pyrotechnix and Zoo Games were simply too early — they were great companies, with great people and great ideas but their roots were founded in an industry before the advent of mobile gaming and digital distribution. They were the product of a brick and mortar industry. A time of publishers and developers, where game development was often held hostage by the publishing execs who ruled it. The time was simply not right for them.

But things have changed.

Digital distribution is stronger today than it ever has been — and it is growing at an uncanny rate. 34% of game sales in 2013 were contributed to digital distribution. The growth is moving so fast that Gamasutra has dubbed 2014 as the Year of Digital Acceptance.  The evidence is all around us. Gamestop closed 250 stores in 2013 and closed 57 just in January and February of 2014. Cincinnati has lost about four of those stores. The brick and mortar stores of the world are struggling to stay relevant in an age where you can buy and download any game you want from the Apple App Store and STEAM (and about 4 or 5 other great digital distribution platforms). As such, independent developers have realized that they don’t need publishers to dictate the kinds of games they want to produce. They can publish themselves, retain their IP rights and a lion’s share of the percentage of revenue. Perhaps most importantly, they can also make the games that their fans truly want. Not the games that are determined by sales and marketing data alone. The indie game movement is showing such strong growth that it has been at the center of the next-gen console war, with XBOX and Playstation vying for developer support.

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The $70.4BN video game industry is larger than Hollywood with over 1.2 Billion Gamers world-wide and 6% growth year over year.  As digital distribution explodes and our global user base grows, it is time to take video game development seriously. And the time to nurture game development in Cincinnati is now.

At Loreful, we see a future where Cincinnati is teeming with indie studios. We envision a future where there are as many meet ups around game development as there are for tech and marketing. We envision our own Convention(s) with 100% focus on Video Games. We envision a place where the young entrepreneur wanting to build their own game startup will have the resources and community support to learn the basics of game development, business management and marketing. Because nurturing a creative culture of game development in Cincinnati is not just about us at Loreful. It’s about the gamer and developer finding their place in a city that doesn’t realize how prevalent this industry is. It is about creating a culture of innovation and believing that video games aren’t just great for the economy, they CAN change the world.

– Aharon Cagle, Founder / Creative Director