Is Troy, N.Y. the United States’ Best Kept Secret Video Game Cluster?

Troy-based Velan Studios signs publishing deal with EA Partners

“After 28 years of making games, I realized I was doing it wrong,” Velan Studios CEO and co-founder Karthik Bala told GamesIndustry.biz. “What I realized was that we were missing a phase prior to pre-production. A true discovery phrase to find the magic, to find the fun; a phase to really prove or disprove concepts. It needs to be a very failure embracing process, where you’re iterating and seeing what works and being very divergent and lateral thinking in terms of approach.”

The Capital Region of New York State, centered around the State Capital of Albany, is home to 1.1 million people. The region has a storied past of companies that connected R&D to manufacturing, notably as the place Thomas Edison chose for General Electric’s home in Schenectady. And GE’s global research and development center, with over 1000 technologists is still located here. In the 2000's the region actively, aggressively and successfully pursued the semiconductor and nanotechnology industry under the moniker “Tech Valley.” AMD chose the region for a new Fab after fierce international competition. Fab 8 was built, starting in 2009, by GlobalFoundries in Saratoga at a cost of $3.6 billion. Today, the Fab can manufacture 60,000 300mm wafers/month.

The Video Game Jump Off

In 1991, brothers Karthik and Guha Bala started Vicarious Visions while in high school. Karthik’s decision to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has had a far reaching impact on the Capital Region. The tremendous successes that the Balas had creating and launching hit after hit from Marvel games to Tony Hawk, and a few billion dollar game franchises, such as Guitar Hero and Skylanders, and their sale to Activision, solidified the region’s place in the gaming world.

This collection of Victorian-era buildings in Downtown Troy, NY are the epicenter of the gaming economy in the Capital Region of New York State

Today, 5 large studios and 16 independent studios call the Capital Region home and 400+ people are directly employed in gaming. Over 425 games have been developed by local studios, including Vicarious Visions, 1st Playable, PUBG Mad Glory, WB Games NY to name a few. A number of the studios have launched or settled in Troy. New York State has invested in RPI and its efforts to become a Digital Gaming Hub, a critical undertaking as the region seeks to develop new talent. The Regional Economic Development Council declared the cultivation of the gaming industry as a regional priority.

$7 million in venture funding raised

While the Vicarious Visions/Activision studio remains vibrant and the region’s largest, the Balas started a new studio, Velan Studios, and quickly raised $7 million in Series A financing. While signing a major deal with a AAA publisher, EA Partners will ensure the studio grows well beyond its current 75-person team and recruit talent to the region, the money the brothers raised is geared to help them prototype new games, and that in turn will help attract a diversity of gaming enterprises.

Leaders in New York State and the Capital Region are committed to 10X growth in gaming. And we have started to develop the support system needed to support indie game companies looking to expand. Our coworking space and incubator at Troy Innovation Garage is one part of the system for the gaming industry being organized by the Center for Economic Growth (CEG), Innovate 518 and the Alliance for the Creative Economy. Lastly, CEG now releases a yearly report that tracks the gaming cluster, its economic impacts and the supports being built to accelerate expansion.

#dwyck