Feb. 15, 2012
BOSTON — The country’s biggest video game conference, PAX East, announced on Wednesday that it will call the Boston Convention Center home for the next 10 years. The commitment will pour millions of dollars into the local economy. But it could have an even bigger impact. It has the potential to make Massachusetts the video game capital of the country.
Convention center executive director Jim Rooney says PAX East’s 10-year commitment could make Massachusetts the center of the rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.
"The computer and video game industry is set for record growth with game sales expected to grow worldwide from 68 billion this year to 81 billion in 2016," Rooney says. "PAX East being linked to Boston is about making Massachusetts the center of the gaming industry."
The conference has drawn more than 70,000 programmers, developers and plain old geeks to Boston over the past two years. Game developer Ken Surdan of Turbine hopes the news will push those numbers even higher. If it does, he says it will be a game changer for companies like his that have already set up shop in Massachusetts.
"When the world is competing for locations and talent and customers, being able to say you’re bringing in 70, 80, 100,000 customers into Boston every year and all these associated developers and talent in the industry — that gives you a credibility that is just fantastic," he says.
As part of the deal, PAX East will give $325,000 to MassDiGI, a collaborative that promotes the game industry here in the state. Small video game developer Elliott Mitchell of Infrared5 says the investment sends a message that Massachusetts is the place for talented developers to work.
"You think there’d be a lot of people to choose from, but they’re in high demand," he says. "We’re always looking for programmers, technical artists, other game developers, studios to partner with. So having PAX East here and MassDIGI is going to increase the pool of people that we can draw from."
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray says he’s hopeful the news will have a ripple effect, convincing companies to set up shop on the East Coast instead of in Silicon Valley.
"There are certainly lessons that can be learned from companies that have been lost, but we also know that there’s a lot of companies in Massachusetts that are strong today that started small," he says. "So this is about us keeping and retaining our indigenous talent. It’s also attracting talent from other places."
In other words: Game on.
According to the PAX East press conference, 62 percent of households play video games. Is yours one of them? What's the big deal about video games, anyway? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.