Whether you’re looking to move, visit, or potentially even kick off a career in gaming sometime in the future, it’s likely you’ve wondered what cities to look into. After all, AAA is kind of the big leagues of game development. And some indie studios really do have . . . well, studios! Filled with up to 30 people all chipping away at a game together.
As such, you’ll need to be relatively close to the office! That means living close to Naughty Dog, 2020 Venture, Bethesda Softworks, or Blizzard, in a city where there are plenty of other game developers to hang out with after work.
Here’s where to start:
San Francisco, CA
This is one of the motherloads of gamedev companies. One of the top 3, really. There’s a huge indie scene, as well as AAA scene, and most of all, there’s many surrounding cities with more gaming companies too.
- 2020 Venture, an indie team creating games for iOS, Android, Steam, Oculus, and PS4.
- Blizzard Entertainment, you know, that billion dollar company behind World of Warcraft, Overwatch and the Diablo series, to name a few.
- Capcom, the creatives behind Devil May Cry, Mega Man, Street Fighter, Dead Rising and more.
Los Angeles, CA
Think of LA as the indie mecca of California, which is somewhat surprising. After all, they’re as mainstream as it gets in Los Angeles. However, the vibrant indie community is extensive here and in surrounding areas like Pasadena and Santa Monica.
- Heavy Iron Studios, the studio behind Disney Infinity, Fat City and Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse.
- Legacy Games, a small indie studio creating casual games.
- Cadenza Interactive, another small indie studio creating games like The Wanderer and Sol Survivor.
This has to be in the top three, along with San Francisco and Austin. Seattle not only has all the tech you’d ever want, plus Microsoft and Amazon, but it’s also a giant hub of both AAA and indie companies in and around it. Nintendo of America is right around the corner in Redmond. PopCap is here, along with King, Big Fish, Epic, and Riot Games (in Bellevue).
- 17-Bit, an indie team behind games like Galak-z (PS4 and PC) and Skulls of the Shogun.
- Niantic, the studio behind Pokemon Go.
- NCSoft West, the creators of Aion, WildStar and Lineage II.
New York, NY
When you think of the east coast, you don’t think gaming companies. You think . . . retail, government work, corporate, publishing, and art. However, NY is full of surprises. Not only is there always something open regardless of the day or time of night, it’s also filled with diversity. As such, there’s tons of gaming! Even the IGDA New York City Chapter is here.
Note, for those wondering about the Rockville, MD area due to Bethesda Softworks, please note, that’s basically your only option for gaming companies in Maryland. They are consistently hiring for QA, and they keep their team nice and small, so you have to be very qualified for anything else.
- Avalanche Studios, the creatives behind Just Cause 3, Mad Max and the Hunter Primal.
- Disney Interactive is in NY. They make children’s games, like Frozen Rush, Agent P: Rebel Spy and the adorable Panda Party.
- Gameloft, the studio behind Zombie Anarchy, City Mania, Nova Legacy and Iron Blade.
Austin finishes rounding out the top 3 cities for game development in the entire country. And this one might take the cake, maybe even more so than San Francisco. Maybe even . . . Seattle? It’s a close call. Think of Austin as the city with the games, the artists, the health nuts, and the gamers—along with the hipsters and music fiends. It’s a creative nerve center, so obviously there are tons of gaming companies!
- BioWare Austin, the studio behind the Mass Effect series, the Dragon Age series, and Anthem.
- EA Sports Austin is behind Madden 18, NBA Live 18, NHL 18, UFC 2, etc..
- Arkane Studios, the studio behind Prey, Dishonored, and Arx Fatalis.
Helpful Tips Before You Go
It’s easy to look at this list and assume that this is it; this is all there is out there. However, just because it didn’t make our list, it doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of more cities to consider.
Philadelphia, Atlanta, Reno, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Portland (shoutout to the Portland Indie Game Squad) should all be looked into. Some cities offer more than others (hint, Portland doesn’t have much, and it’s indie, not AAA), but you never know what you might find. Ultimately, it’s up to you to consider other factors, like the city itself, and it’s cost of living. Pay attention to rent, market trends, surrounding entertainment, insurance costs, taxes, and even traffic regulations. Crime is another factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
And if you’re looking for international cities, well, a) you clicked on the wrong article, but b) I’m nice and amazing, so pay attention to . . .
- And anywhere in Japan, but especially Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka (stick to the island, not so much inland where Seoul is). Also, side note, if you choose Japan, learn the language. It’s difficult, but it’s cordial, not to mention, it will help with business endeavors. Just remember, gaming in Japan is on a whole other level, and unless you’re prepared to adhere to their cultural standards, you’ll find yourself facing several closed doors.
Best of luck!
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