06.22.21

AFTER THIS MONTH’S VISIT TO TROY’S VELAN STUDIOS, SCHUMER CALLS SECRETARY OF COMMERCE RAIMONDO DIRECTLY TO PUSH FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN CAPITAL REGION’S GAME DEVELOPMENT INDUSTRY; SENATOR DOUBLES DOWN ON COMMITMENT TO BOOST TROY’S ASCENT AS LEADING TECH & GAMING HUB

Earlier This Month, Schumer Personally Visited Troy’s Velan Studios To Secure Federal Support For Game On Accelerator Program, Which Would Boost Local Economy & Bring Cutting-Edge Technology To Historic City

Senator Doubles Down On His Support & Calls Commerce Sec Directly To Push For A Federal Investment To Boost Capital Region’s Burgeoning Video Game Industry & Establish Region As Global Hub For Games 

Schumer: Federal Funding Is Vital To Help Capital Region Game Development Level Up

After recently visiting Velan Studios, best known for creating globally famous games such as Mario Kart Live and Knockout City, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer doubled down on his commitment to throw his support behind leveling up the Capital Region game development industry and spoke with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo last week to urge her to expeditiously approve federal investment into the Game On Accelerator Program. The program, which was proposed by the Center for Economic Growth (CEG), in collaboration with the Rensselaer County IDA, Velan Studios, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, seeks to create approximately 350 new, well-paying jobs in the Capital Region game development industry and encourage participants to launch their own companies. The program is seeking a $750,000 grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“The gaming industry generates hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the global economy and shows no signs of slowing down,” said Senator Schumer. “During my visit to Velan this month, I saw firsthand the industry’s potential to make the Capital Region a global hub for game development, turbocharge the local economy, and create hundreds of new, well-paying jobs, which is why I personally called Secretary Raimondo, to double down on my support and urge her to approve this federal investment that will level up the Capital Region.”

“The Center for Economic Growth thanks Senator Schumer for taking the time to visit Troy last week,” said Katie Newcombe, CEG’s Chief Economic Development Officer. “His advocacy, along with leadership from the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Authority, is helping the Capital Region’s digital gaming cluster grow into an internationally recognized ecosystem that will yield innovation, jobs and private capital investment. The cluster now has more than 500 workers at 24 studios. The EDA Build-to-Scale grant will take the Online Games Center of Excellence to the next level and help create a new generation of entrepreneurial talent in the Capital Region.”

“Thank you Senator Schumer for visiting us at Velan Studios to highlight that we can invest in high paying local jobs right here in the Capital Region that can have global impact,” said Suha and Karthik Bala, co-founders of Velan Studios. “We share your passion for creating robust, sustainable ecosystems for industries of the future like digital gaming. We have a promising start with our growing digital gaming cluster of 24 companies and over 500 employees. However, our region has the potential for so much more. With targeted investments like the Game On Accelerator, we can attract companies, entrepreneurs, recent graduates, and private capital to help make digital gaming an engine of the Upstate economy."

Global game sales in 2020 are estimated at $174.9 billion, with projections that they will top $217 billion by 2023. Even during the pandemic, game sales grew nearly 20%. An estimated 2.7 billion people worldwide spent roughly 7.4 billion hours on game streaming platforms last year alone. Therefore, Schumer says, with industry growth showing no signs of stopping, the EDA must quickly approve the CEG’s federal grant request and help ramp up the game development industry in the Capital Region.

Velan Studios was founded in 2016 by industry veterans Guha and Karthik Bala who are best known for their first company, Vicarious Visions. Velan Studios was the driving force behind the recently-released Knockout City and the extremely popular Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, which was sold out for months after its October 2020 release date.

Velan Studios is located in Troy’s historic downtown district. The increased presence of game development companies in Troy has led to increased occupancy of the city’s older Industrial Revolution-era buildings, bringing new life to the downtown area.

In addition to Velan Studios, the Capital Region is currently home to 23 game development companies, including Warner Brother Games, Activision, PUBG, MadGlory, and Agora Games, which collectively employ over 455 people. Games like Candy Crush, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Fortnite have all been at least partially developed in the Capital Region.

Senator Schumer’s original letter of support for the EDA grant request appears below:

Dear Secretary Raimondo,

I am writing to express my strong support for the Center for Economic Growth’s (CEG) recent application for a Build to Scale grant to help create a video game accelerator program in New York’s Capital Region.

The growth of the video game industry continues to expand rapidly worldwide. Global game sales in 2020 are estimated at $174.9 billion, with projections that they will top $217 billion by 2023. Even during the pandemic, game sales grew nearly 20%. An estimated 2.7 billion people worldwide spent roughly 7.4 billion hours on game streaming platforms last year alone. It is, quite simply, the fastest growing sector of the entertainment industry, and provides us with a myriad of opportunities to grow companies and create new jobs.

Troy, New York and the surrounding Capital Region have become a center for gaming development. Fostered by the creation of Vicarious Visions, by Guha and Karthik Bala, and their current venture Velan Studios, the region is home to 23 gaming companies, including Warner Brothers Games, Activision, PUBG, MadGlory, and Agora Games, who collectively employ over 455 people already. Some of the world’s biggest game titles, including Candy Crush, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Fortnite, Mario Cart Live, and the new Knockout City, all have been at least partially developed in this region. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, has nearly 200 students studying game design for their bachelor of science in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program and newly launched masters and doctoral programs in Critical Game Design. Additionally, SUNY Schenectady is launching an associate’s degree in game design. From the exciting and dynamic companies that are breathing new life into our downtown buildings, to the hundreds of jobs they have created, with an average salary of over $100,000, the Capital Region gaming cluster has already proven itself to be a successful economic driver.

CEG, in collaboration with the Rensselaer County IDA, Velan Studios and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has proposed to boost this growing sector even more with the creation of the Game On Accelerator Program. With academic training, industry expert mentorship, idea development, and an introduction to venture capital and co-working space, the program seeks to accelerate the development of 150 participants’ ideas over a five year period, with a goal of creating 200 additional new jobs in game development as the participants set out to commercialize their ideas and potentially create their own companies.

The City of Troy, home of Burden’s famous Iron Water Wheel, was once central to America’s Industrial Revolution. Their century old facades belie the cutting edge technology being advanced within. Now companies occupying those spaces, like Velan and Warner Brothers, are leading a new revolution in gaming technology with direct implications for the developing fields of artificial intelligence, smart and driverless automobiles, and drone technology, among many others.

I believe that the dynamism, innovation, and growth potential for the game design industry offers a tremendous opportunity for expanding our innovation economy and creating well-paying jobs. I wholeheartedly endorse CEG’s grant application and urge you to approve it, so that we may help grow this economic opportunity that has taken root here in New York’s Capital Region.

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