Behind the scenes of the most visited destination in the world, Orlando’s entertainment ecosystem has fostered a thriving game technology industry. Fueled by the creative minds behind world-class entertainment technology, Orlando ranked No. 1 Metro with the Most STEM Job Growth and No. 2 Best City for Gamers. With year-over-year growth in tech jobs at 149%, a median age of 37, and one of the most unique communities for independent game developers in the county, Orlando is on the verge of explosive growth in its game technology sector.
The availability of tech talent is a huge reason why game companies like Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) and Iron Galaxy Studios have pushed play on Orlando as a business location. EA SPORTS produces Madden NFL™ and NBA LIVE™ just ten miles outside downtown Orlando, hiring a large majority of its workforce from Orlando’s top-ranked schools. Iron Galaxy Studios, one of the world’s largest independent video game developers, designs and develops many of their games in their downtown Orlando studio.
“We opened up a studio in Orlando due to the vibrancy of the city and the collection of talent in the area, and it’s safe to say we have not been disappointed,” said Tom Carbone, general manager of Iron Galaxy's Orlando studio.
Finding the best tech talent in any industry is difficult; however, the variety of programs specific to game development in Orlando directly feed the industry with indispensable talent. Orlando houses nationally ranked schools including The Digital Animation and Visual Effects (DAVE) school, University of Central Florida’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) and Full Sail University. UCF’s FIEA and Full Sail University are consistently ranked every year in the Princeton Review’s Top Game Design Schools.
Game development students using motion graphic software at FIEA.
While these top-notch game development programs attract talent to Orlando, it is the unique community of game tech professionals and developers that retains this talented workforce. Orlando fosters a tight-knit game tech community with a multitude of meetups, conferences and even a game tech-focused co-working space called Orlando Game Space.
“The teamwork aspect is a really neat thing about Orlando. We have businesses working very close together with our educational partners, as well as our government and civic leaders to create an ecosystem where we can grow together,” explains vice president and group chief operating officer of EA SPORTS, Daryl Holt.
Another large part of this collaborative ecosystem is Indienomicon, Orlando’s independent games association that hosts monthly meetups, game jams and events to celebrate creativity in games. Each year, Indienominon partners with Space Florida to host Indie Galactic Space Jam. This one-of-a-kind event combines the region’s astronautical industry with game development to inspire entertainment about space travel and exploration. This unconventional and collaborative culture distinguishes Orlando from other tech markets.
The word about Orlando’s game tech hub is getting out, and its gaming technology cluster is growing exponentially. Recent additions to the Orlando game tech community just in the past year include: Topps Digital, a mobile game app division of the classic American sports company, and HypSports, a sports and eSport game app developer. HypSports secured a close to $2 million investment from Orlando-based FAN Fund.
“Orlando is a great place for the game industry because of the sheer density of talent, education, and industries we have here,” says Kunal Patel, cofounder of Orlando-based video and animation game company, BrandVR and cofounder/director of Indienomicon. “You have UCF, Full Sail, DAVE school producing top tier talent and the good weather and lower cost of living are really just the cream on top. The truly amazing thing for me is when you can go down the street and interact with the leaders of Space, Health, Simulation, Tourism industries all in one region, that's pretty special.”