Frisco’s video game industry levels up with new company relocations

Frisco understands the value of the sports industry, said Dave Quinn, Frisco Economic Development Corp. vice president. Sporting events and other attractions held at sports venues help draw thousands of people and millions of dollars to the city every year.

However, Quinn said the city is starting to recognize the value of another industry that has the potential to be even bigger than sports: video games.

This year 1.3 million concurrent users streamed the Super Bowl online, according to NBC Sports Group. Comparatively, more than 100 million users use Twitch, an online social video platform and community for video gamers, each month.

“It’s becoming a legitimate industry,” Quinn said.

The video game industry has started to make a presence in Frisco this past year. Gearbox Software, a major video game developer known for games such as “Halo” and “Borderlands”, moved its headquarters from Plano to Frisco Square in September. Additionally the National Videogame Museum is expected to open at the Frisco Discovery Center by late December.

With companies such as Gearbox calling Frisco home, the FEDC and the Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau say the growing video game industry has the potential to draw more businesses, events and residents to the city.

“When you land a company with the notoriety and size of Gearbox, I think it does elevate your marketability and the manner in which you’re attractive to other related IT companies,” FEDC President Jim Gandy said.

Industry potential

In July, Frisco hosted SGC, a national video-gaming convention, at the Embassy Suites. It was Frisco’s first video game-specific event, and the estimated economic impact of the event was $800,000, CVB Senior Sales Manager Maureen Gutierrez said.

For several years, the city has also hosted the Texas Pinball Festival, which had an estimated economic impact of nearly $400,000 this year. Though it is not a video game-specific event, the festival’s success illustrates the interest in the gaming industry, said Ryan Callison, CVB marketing and communications director.

“[The video game industry] is a new avenue for us,” Callison said. “We’re mainly a shopping destination right now. We’re just adding another leisure aspect to our lineup and offering something different to a market we hadn’t been able to talk to before.”

Frisco’s video game industry levels up with new company relocationsThe impact of gaming events such as SGC and the Texas Pinball Festival took the CVB by surprise because it was not a market the organization had actively thought about before, CVB Executive Director Marla Roe said. The CVB is now mentioning the different aspects of the video game industry in Frisco in its marketing materials, she said.

Considering the various venues within the city, Frisco has the potential to host more video gaming events, Gandy said.

“We’ve had some meetings with our Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we’re looking at opportunities in which we could work on putting in some bids and attracting those type of gaming events being held in Frisco,” he said.

The FEDC has also been actively trying to attract more gaming and technology companies, using the companies already in the city as a marketing point, Gandy said.

“We’ve been doing that since we landed Gearbox,” he said. “We’re looking to leverage that opportunity, as other companies want to be where other similar companies are successful.”

Frisco’s assets

When looking for a place to move his company, Gearbox President Randy Pitchford said he considered an array of options, including moving out of the country. But Pitchford eventually decided on Frisco.

“Frisco, it turned out, was the most exciting for us for a lot of reasons,” he said. “It’s really neat what’s going on here. Almost every aspect of the community, we feel, has some advantages over the other options we considered.”

Pitchford noted Frisco ISD, which his son has been attending his whole life, as a plus. He also said the ability to have shopping and dining near Gearbox’s new office was significant draw.

“We wanted to feel like more in a community,” he said. “In Frisco Square, there’s times where it can feel alive.”

The educated workforce available in Frisco can also be a strong draw for companies, Gandy said. In a labor market study published in 2014, Frisco was found to have a strong concentration of information technology workers.

“[It’s] a really strong asset for Frisco for attracting companies that need that type of talent,” Gandy said.

Frisco’s video game industry levels up with new company relocations

This talent pool has been present in Plano for some time and is now moving its way north into Frisco, said Kevin Harris, a lecturer at Southern Methodist University’s Guildhall, which offers a graduate video game education program. Harris is starting a coding boot camp in Frisco next year to help those interested in software development build a portfolio.

“A lot of the game industry is on the East and West Coast, and if you look in the middle the only other place where there’s a considerable growth is basically Dallas, Austin and Houston,” Harris said. “… The talent pool here is decent, and we hope to make it grow more with these courses.”

FISD, through its courses at the Career and Technical Education Center, and Collin College have also aided in growing the technology talent pool, Quinn said. If Frisco continues to provide these educational opportunities for its residents, technology and video game companies will come.

“If you’re a family and your kid’s into gaming, you can choose to live in different places in the Metroplex,” he said. “But Frisco has this whole ecosystem for gamers, and they take it seriously.”