MA. Considering Incentives for the Video Game Industry

January 18, 2011 -

Correction: I erroneously wrote earlier that "Massachusetts has a thriving video games industry - mostly in the Western part of the state in and around Boston." This is quite incorrect and doubly embarrassing because I actually live in Massachusetts (I do know where Boston is, for the record). A revised story below:

Massachusetts may join Texas, Georgia and countless other states that offer some sort of tax incentives to the interactive entertainment industry. According to a report in the Boston Herald, supports of the effort want to expand the "the state’s $2 billion video game industry to $20 billion" within the next five years. To do that, the state will have to be willing to invest in incentives, but opponents say the state is already in the red.

One of the initiative’s supporters, State Rep. Vincent Pedone (D-Worcester) said it is too early to say what the effort would cost, but wants to expand the industry:

"Twenty-five or 30 years ago, no one in the Commonwealth knew what biotechnology was, and it has now become a critical part of our Massachusetts economy," said Pedone. "We think the video game design industry has equal potential."

Massachusetts has a thriving video games industry - mostly in the Eastern part of the state in and around Boston. Companies such as Turbine and Harmonix are long-time studios that have managed to survive despite the lack of incentives and the not-so-pro-business atmosphere in the state. Approximately 1,295 people are directly employed by video game developers or publishers, according to the Entertainment Software Association. That places the state fifth behind California, Texas, Washington and New York.

Turbine says that local colleges and universities offer a decent talent pool that fits the industry’s needs: "Our world is really a combination of everything creative, from visual to storytelling to game play, combined with good, old-fashioned sophisticated software engineering," said Ken Surdan, vice president of operations for Needham-based Turbine, Inc., maker of the online "Lord of the Rings" game.

But Harmonix sees its business constrained by high costs in Massachusetts that tend to inhibit startups and firms looking to expand.

Florian Hunziker, chief operating officer for Cambridge-based Harmonix Music Systems, said his company is often forced to outsource work to out-of-state studios: "It’s difficult for some of the Massachusetts development companies to be cost competitive with studios that are either in a state where there is a tax break or studios that are in place where there is a lower cost of living," he said.

Meanwhile opponents of new tax incentives for the game industry point to past failures with tax incentives, as well as a budget that is already stretched beyond belief.

Rep. Bradley Jones, the House Republican leader, said he’s not against cutting taxes for companies, but doesn’t believe the state should pick "winners and losers" in the private sector: "Do we go pick an industry, or do we focus our energies on more broad-based initiatives that would help all companies?" he asked.

He also pointed to last week’s announcement that Evergreen Solar planned to close its solar panel factory in Devens and lay off 800 workers. He notes that the company received $58 million in state aid in 2007.

Still, the news that someone on Beacon Hill is thinking about the industry probably gives companies like Turbine and Harmonix hope that someday the environment for business might improve. After all, it's obvious that these companies -- and others like Irrational Games - love the state; if they didn't they'd probably be headquartered in Texas by now..

Source: Boston Herald


 
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E. Zachary KnightTeachers unions are just as bad as police unions, except of course you are far less likely to be killed by a teacher on duty than you are a cop. But they also protect bad teachers from being fired.07/07/2015 - 6:29pm
E. Zachary KnightGoth, so you agree they are still union members. Thankfully we have a first ammendment that protects people from being forced to join groups they don't support (in most cases any way.)07/07/2015 - 6:27pm
E. Zachary KnightAh, police unions. The reason why cops can't get fired when they beat a defenseless mentally ill homeless person to death. Or when they throw a grenade into a baby's crib. Or when theykill people they were called in to help not hurt themselves.07/07/2015 - 6:26pm
Goth_SkunkeZeek: Non-union employees have no right to attend meetings or union convention/AGM, or influence policy. The only time they get to vote is whether or not to strike.07/07/2015 - 6:24pm
Infophile(cont'd) about non-union police officers being given hell until they joined the union.07/07/2015 - 4:58pm
InfophileParadoxically, the drive in the US to get rid of unions seems to have left only the most corrupt surviving. They seem to be the only ones that can find ways to browbeat employees into joining when paying dues isn't mandatory. I've heard some stories ...07/07/2015 - 4:57pm
Matthew WilsonI am old school on this. I believe its a conflict of interest to have public sector unions. that being said, I do not have a positive look on unions in general.07/07/2015 - 3:59pm
TechnogeekWhat's best for the employee tends to be good for the employer; other way around, not so much. So long as that's the case, there's going to be a far stronger incentive for management to behave in such a way that invites retalitation than for the union to.07/07/2015 - 3:10pm
TechnogeekTeachers' unions? State legislatures. UAW? Just look at GM's middle management.07/07/2015 - 3:05pm
TechnogeekIn many ways it seems that the worse a union tends to behave, the worse that the company's management has behaved in the past.07/07/2015 - 3:02pm
james_fudgeCharity starts at home ;)07/07/2015 - 2:49pm
james_fudgeSo mandatory charity? That sounds shitty to me07/07/2015 - 2:49pm
E. Zachary KnightGoth, if Union dues are automatically withdrawn, then there is no such thing as a non-union employee.07/07/2015 - 2:38pm
Goth_Skunka mutually agreed upon charity instead.07/07/2015 - 2:33pm
Goth_Skunkyou enjoy the benefits of working in a union environment. If working in a union is against your religious beliefs or just something you wholeheartedly object to, dues will still be deducted from your pay, but you can instruct that they be directed towards07/07/2015 - 2:33pm
Goth_SkunkBasically, if you are employed in a business where employees are represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining, whether or not you are a union member, you will have union dues deducted from your pay, since regardless of membership,07/07/2015 - 2:32pm
Goth_SkunkIt's something that has existed in Canada since 1946. You can read more on it here: http://ow.ly/PiHWR07/07/2015 - 2:27pm
Goth_SkunkSee, we have something similar in Canada, called a "Rand Employee." This is an employee who benefits from the collective bargaining efforts of a union, despite not wanting to be a part of it for whatever reason.07/07/2015 - 2:22pm
Matthew Wilson@info depends on the sector. for example, have you looked at how powerful unions are in the public sector? I will make the argument they have too much power in that sector.07/07/2015 - 12:39pm
InfophileIt's easy to worry about unions having too much power and causing harm. The odd thing is, why do people seem to worry about that more than the fact that business-owners can have too much power and do harm, particularly at a time when unions have no power?07/07/2015 - 12:31pm
 

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