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MAGIC: Lobbying in Albany

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Video Game Developers: New York Must Nurture Industry Growth

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Upstate New York is home to one of the country’s top training centers for video game design, but developers say New York will miss out on its chunk of a nearly $100 billion video game industry if it doesn’t encourage companies to plant their roots in the state.

Game design experts on Tuesday urged Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to accept Assembly and the Senate proposals that would provide tax incentives of up to $25 million for music production and video game development.

Supporters say tax incentives would increase the number of developers in the state and, in turn, retain creative people from programs such as Rochester Institute of Technology’s game design and development program, which is ranked in the top two programs of its kind in the country by the Princeton Review.

Jennifer Hinton, assistant director of the school’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity said the program of about 180 students loses two out of every three graduates to jobs on the west coast, where job options are more plentiful.

Guha Bala, co-founder of New York’s largest computer and game design company, Vicarious Visions, said companies would rather settle in industry hubs such as Quebec or Austin, Texas, both of which offer tax incentives for game developing companies. Most video game developers set their companies in locations that already have a network of related businesses.

Bala founded Vicarious Visions with his brother in 1991 and said the company now employs 150 people and has fostered Capital-region investments from studios like Activision Blizzard and Warner Brothers. The company is most famous for supporting rock-band simulator “Guitar Hero.”

But Bala said the Albany-based company has had difficulties recruiting qualified workers because of how few similar videogame developers exist in New York. Bala said a stronger base of developers could make New York a magnet for game design talent across the East Coast.

“We’ve got the universities; we’ve got raw talent,” Bala said. “It’s New York, it’s a good place to be, but what we don’t have are all the elements to say ‘let’s bring the businesses here.'”

Cuomo vetoed a similar bill last year because it was not accompanied by funding. This year the proposals have been included in both Senate and Assembly budgets. The two houses hope to agree on a joint budget by April 1.

New York already has a tax credit for film production companies through the Empire State Development program.

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