Anticipation was high for the 13th annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, because for the first time, the general public was allowed to attend. Held from June 13-15 in downtown Los Angeles, the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) video game expo and showcase drew more than 68,000 people to see the latest games and products from the industry, including the release of a new Mario Brothers game, Mario Brothers Odyssey, from Nintendo and a new Xbox One from Microsoft.
This year was the first time that the general public could purchase tickets and attend the event alongside industry executives, press and retailers. Many people waited in line for over an hour just to sample the newest games before they were released.
Several entertainment industry leaders from Georgia attended the event, including Asante Bradford of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment office of the Department of Economic Development; Patrick Bentley from the Savannah Economic Development Authority; and Stephen Weizenecker of Barnes & Thornburg, who was there in his role as tax policy counsel for ESA.
There were a number of private industry-only events hosted in enclosed areas inside the massive trade-show. One company had a booth that resembled a New York loft, complete with an indoor pool, a pool table, bar, a living room and private meeting rooms. Many of the creatures from Super Mario Odyssey and Mario + Rabids were seen traversing the expo. The Assassin from Assassin’s Creed looked menacingly at the crowd following a performance by dancers from Just Dance.
Spiderman, who is no stranger to Georgia because of the upcoming movie Spiderman: Homecoming, was in attendance atop a helicopter.
The attendees from Georgia were part of group looking to attract interactive entertainment developers, studios and distributors to the state. ESA member companies were excited to share their plans and to discuss their ability to work in various states. Asante shared the latest news on the amendments to Georgia’s Interactive Entertainment Incentive and the growing infrastructure in the state. Paul shared information about Savannah’s local incentives aimed at attracting the interactive entertainment industry to the coast of Georgia and highlighted Savannah’s educational resources like SCAD.
“We’re benefiting from a time in Georgia where all the pieces are coming together for the video game industry to blossom: the entertainment tax credit, state leadership, and the desire to make Georgia a digital media capital,” Asante said. “Right now is the time to continue growing our digital entertainment market. The newly revised entertainment tax credit not only helps game developers hire engineers and artists, but it also helps lure investors to help grow our creative economy.”
Patrick encouraged expo attendees he met to check out Savannah. “Savannah is aggressively seeking to attract high-tech companies to the area. In addition to the attractive state tax credits, Savannah is also offering a local incentive for companies employing at least five people in the Savannah area,” he said. “The incentive is a combination of cash grant, relocation assistance, facility rental assistance and tac abatements. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers a great pipeline for talent especially for game development companies.”
Overall it was a well-done event. As Stephen said, “There is a lot of potential to attract and grow the interactive entertainment industry to Georgia. We have an improved incentive program, a large workforce from our educational institutions like Emory, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University and SCAD, and a lower cost of living compared to New York, LA and Silicon Valley.”
Weizenecker, who also serves on Georgia’s Governor’s Advisory Commission on Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment, continued: “Moreover, we are already hosts to great companies like Hi-Rez Studios, Trip Wire, CCP Games and Scuff Gaming. This is the time for Georgia to rise up as a leader in the interactive entertainment industry like we have with film and television and music. Our legislators have put forth attractive incentives for the entire entertainment industry to thrive in Georgia.”
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