The proliferation of smartphones and tablets, along with new free-to-play games luring a new audience of gamers, has helped the United States video game industry to see consistent growth despite a global recession. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry grew four times faster than the American economy between 2009 and 2012.
Video game jobs have flourished across the country, growing at 9% each year since 2009, thanks in part to tax incentives in a growing number of states and more video game programming at colleges and universities. The game industry directly employs more than 42,0000 people in 36 states, a more than 30% increase since the 2009 report.
It's not a bad gig, either. Industry employees earning an average annual compensation of up to $95,000, and total direct compensation for all workers directly employed in the video game software industry was more than $4 billion. In 2012, the game industry added $6.2 billion to the American economy.
But where is the money flowing? Here are the 10 states leading in video game development, based on total economic contribution in 2012, the most recent data available.
Economic contribution: $83.1 million
Though small, Pennsylvania is a growing video game destination with activity in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Bristol. The state has 19 development studios, including Schell Games, Broken Crayon Games, and Space Whale Studios. An employee can expect to make $87,922 per year on average and a game developer, direct or indirect, can expect to haul in $106,400. Pennsylvania saw a real annual growth rate of 25.66% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to new mobile and educational game studios.
Economic contribution: $107.1 million
Colorado is a growing video game destination with activity in Denver, Boulder, and Louisville. The state has two publishers and 17 development studios, including Backflip Studios, Riptide Games, and Leviathan Games. The average annual compensation for an employee is $87,922 and game developers make $142,174.
Economic contribution: $111 million
Oregon is home to a growing number of mobile game studios and has small hubs in Portland, Eugene, and Vancouver. The state has two publishers and 17 development studios, including Night & Day Studios, Soma Games, and Silver Creek Entertainment. Employees make $91,130 per year on average; game developers make $132,529. Oregon saw a real annual growth rate of 1.56% from 2009 through 2012.
Economic contribution: $158.6 million
With hubs in Chicago, Elk Grove, and Northbrook, Illinois is the birth place of the Mortal Kombat franchise. The state has two publishers and 27 development studios, including Day 1 Studios, Namco America, High Voltage Software, and NetherRealm Studios. Employees haul in $92,453 per year on average and game developers make $213,361. Illinois saw a real annual growth rate drop of 3.17% from 2009 through 2012 due to the closure of several game studios.
Economic contribution: $171.5 million
With hubs in Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville, and Miami, Florida is the home state of EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise. The state has two publishers and 31 development studios, including Trendy Entertainment, Nival Interactive, and Artix Entertainment. Employees make $89,540 per year on average and game developers rake in $217,139. Florida saw a real annual growth rate of 21.55% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to the rise of mobile gaming and the annual success of sports franchises from Electronic Arts Tiburon.
Economic contribution: $179.6 million
With hubs in Cambridge, Boston, and Newton, Massachusetts introduced Guitar Hero and Rock Band to the world, courtesy of Harmonix Music Systems. Massachusetts is home to one publisher and 35 development studios, including Turbine, Tilted Mill Entertainment, and Muzzy Lane. Employees make $93,174 per year on average and game developers make $226,638. Massachusetts saw a real annual growth rate drop of .57% from 2009 through 2012 due to the closure of Irrational Games, creators of the successful BioShock franchise.
4. NEW YORK
Economic contribution: $378.5 million
With a hub in Rochester and the majority of companies based in New York City, New York is home to Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games, the studio behind the Grand Theft Auto series. The State of New York is home to 11 publishers and 39 development studios, including Gameloft, Atari, King, and iWin. Employees take home $94,924 per year on average and game developers haul in $459,934. New York saw a real annual growth rate of 12.13% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to the success of mobile game companies like King and Zynga.
Economic contribution: $595.2 million
With hubs in Seattle, Redmond, and Bellevue, Washington State gave birth to Halo (courtesy of Bungie) and Half-Life (from Valve Software) and serves as the main headquarters of Microsoft and Nintendo USA. Washington is home to nine publishers and 86 development studios, including Amazon Game Studios, 343 Industries, Monolith Productions, and ArenaNet. Employees are paid $99,964 per year on average and game developers see $702,775. Washington saw a real annual growth rate of 7.49% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to the rise of virtual reality and a renewed focus on video games by Amazon.
Economic contribution: $764.9 million
Texas is the birthplace of the first-person shooter, courtesy of Wolfenstein 3D from id Software (now owned by Zenimax Media). Today, it has hubs in Dallas and Austin and is home to nine publishers and 118 development studios, including Gearbox Software, KingsIsle Entertainment, Portalarium, and Cloud Imperium Games. Employees are paid $101,349 per year on average and game developers see an average of $1.01 million. Texas saw a real annual growth rate of 15.93% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to the opening of many new game studios in the mobile and free-to-play categories.
Economic contribution: $2.78 billion
With gaming hubs spread across the state from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco, California is a mecca for American video games. The state is home to more than 61 game publishers and 314 development studios, including giants like Sony Computer Entertainment (San Francisco), Electronic Arts (San Francisco), Wargaming (San Francisco), Activision (Los Angeles), and Riot Games (Los Angeles). Employees are paid $103,071 per year on average and game developers—direct and indirect—saw an average of $3.67 million. California saw a real annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 through 2012 thanks to the expansion of established studios and the formation of new ones.