SXSW Interactive addresses local gaming industry, entrepreneurship

If Austin wants to grow its significant but mercurial gaming industry, it could offer economic development deals to smaller companies and try to lure publishers to headquarter in the capital city, Fred Schmidt said.

Schmidt was an executive partner in Origin Systems, the company that produced "Ultima," "Wing Commander" and "Omega." He is the co-founder/CEO of Portalarium, a company that makes games for mobile and social networks, and CEO of Wild About Music Galleries, a store on Sixth Street.

He spoke during "Building Headquarter Gaming Companies in Austin," a panel held on March 12 during the South by Southwest Interactive festival.

The creative industries—everything from video games to the arts—have a $4.3 billion economic impact on Austin, Schmidt said.

While Austin game developers have had a hand in producing successful titles such as "Epic Mickey," the city has not generated a blockbuster hit the way that "Angry Birds" has benefited Finland's Rovio Entertainment Ltd. or "World of Tanks" has benefited Belarus' Wargaming.net.

Austin is home to game development and various studios, but the publishers and parent companies are located elsewhere, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he believes that getting or cultivating an anchor company or long-term entrepreneurial effort would make it easier to recruit talent.

Gaming is a $200 billion global industry, Schmidt said.

2012 was a rough year for gaming nationwide, Schmidt said. Gaming attracted $835 million in venture capital, down 58 percent from 2011's record $2 billion, Schmidt said.

2012 was alsvvo a rough year for Austin game development, he said. Austin lost about 1,000 jobs in gaming; the total local industry has 7,000–8,000 jobs, he said.

Red Fly Studios, Heatwave Interactive, Zynga, Edge of Reality, LightBox Interactive and Portalarium had to lay off some employees in recent years, Schmidt said.

There are new companies arriving, however: Kabam, Bethesda Softworks and Cloud Imperium. Schmidt said it is easy to convince talent to relocate, settle or return to Austin.

Austin called an entrepreneurial hub

In a separate SXSW Interactive panel, two Austin startup veterans and representatives from the City of Austin and Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce said the city has a healthy environment that encourages entrepreneurship.

"This is one of the best entrepreneurial hubs in the country," said Susan Davenport, the chamber's senior vice president for Global Technologies Strategy.

Davenport said Austin added 5,500 new technology jobs in the first three quarters of 2012 and has more than 4,400 tech companies.

Jim Butler, creative industries development manager for the city's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, said the city partners with the chamber to offer a host of services for small businesses and to retain and help companies grow in Austin.

Bijoy Goswami, who founded BootstrapU as well as several startups, said Austin is about being yourself.

"What people are doing in Austin is all of us are working on that, figuring out our identity," he said.

By Joe Olivieri
Joe covered Southwest Austin news for Community Impact Newspaper from January 2011 to April 2015. His reporting focused on new businesses, development, transportation, industry and Travis County issues. He was named the paper's managing editor in April 2015. Joe hails from New Jersey.


MOST RECENT

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
88 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 1 set single-day high

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro.

Director of Elementary Schools Monica Gonzalez said June 1 that the district is looking into training teachers this summer to prepare for partial or full-time virtual learning. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD planning for blended teaching approach for school year beginning Aug. 18

A blended approach would allow the district to switch from in-person learning to virtual learning when needed.

Protesters and Texas Rangers stood face to face during demonstrations at the Texas Capitol on May 31. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
National, state, local officials continue to blame outside agitators for turning protests violent over the weekend

As violence erupted in Austin and cities across the country over the weekend, leaders from all ranks said outside groups usurped the demonstrations and turned them chaotic.

Richard Rhodes, the president and CEO of Austin Community College, said June 1 that the district is prioritizing the hiring of a new chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Austin Community College prioritizing hiring equity officer despite ongoing hiring freeze

The district brought up the hiring during a discussion about protests and demonstrations that have taken place over the past weekend.

Businesses shuttering their doors due to coronavirus restrictions lowered the sales tax revenue collected by cities in May compared to May 2019. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas comptroller reports 13.2% year-over-year state sales tax revenue drop in May

Tax collection revenue fell significantly in several sectors from May 2019 to May 2020, according to the comptroller's office.

Bull Creek
UT study finds water runoff in Austin responsible for more than half of stream flow into Bull Creek

A recent study found municipal water sources, such as irrigation runoff or wastewater leakage, account for at least half of Bull Creek’s stream flow in some urban areas.

Austin-based taco restaurant Veracruz All Natural added a downtown walk-up window location in late May. (Courtesy Veracruz All Natural)
Veracruz All Natural opens new walk-up window at The Line Hotel

The other locations of the local taco restaurant remain open.

Demonstrators gathered at the Texas Capitol on May 31 to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas officials respond to demonstrations, unrest in wake of George Floyd killing

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster in Texas on May 31, while various city officials and law enforcment responded to protests and violence over the weekend.

Austin City Hall was one of several downtown buildings to be vandalized during this past weekend's protests. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin leaders, representatives react to weekend protests

Local, state and federal representatives took to social media throughout the weekend to voice their opinions.

Wanderlust Wine Co. is now open in downtown Austin. (Courtesy Wanderlust Wine Co.)
Wanderlust Wine Co. now open in downtown Austin

The self-pour wine bar is open in a limited capacity. Owner Sammy Lam said he is planning a grand opening once coronavirus restrictions are lifted completely.

Protesters march toward the Texas Capitol. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
PHOTOS: Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol as protests against police brutality continued nationwide

Protests against the killings of Goerge Floyd and Michael Ramos took place throughout the weekend in Austin.

There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Weekend update: Austin metro coronavirus hospitalizations drop to lowest level since April 28

There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011.