Are The Game Makers Leaving Utah?

You might think so, with the very sad news that CastAR is closing its Salt Lake City game studio, less than a year after opening it. This, on the heels of EA and Disney leaving. But each of these closures happened for a different reason. While some game companies may be leaving, the game makers are not - but we do need to change the way we work if we want to stop this cycle.

It goes without saying that UDEN will do it can to help the employees affected by the CastAR shutdown to find a new job - and hopefully one here in Utah! (https://www.polygon.com/2017/6/26/15877804/castar-shut-down).  The timing is bad, following the closure of the State's two biggest game studios - Electronic Arts Salt Lake facility in March and Disney's studio last year. It's a familiar pattern over the past twenty years in Utah: in that time, other big names including Acclaim and Microsoft, have come for a while then left again.

Each of these studios closed for different reasons, and while it really isn't fair to say that Utah is a cause, it must be a factor.

FACTS:

  • there is a lot of game talent here and a lot of game development happening in Utah, even with these closures - WildWorks and Wahoo are good examples of home grown studios that continue
  • many developers choose to remain in Utah and startup something new - witness the continuation of Avalanche (formerly Disney), now with Warner Bros Games
  • The average salary in game development in Utah is 2 - 3x higher than the state average salary; it's an attractive payroll for tax revenue
  • Utah is home to some of the best sources for game talent - the University of Utah and BYU, for example
  • Utah is known as a place where game companies come "shopping" for their talent, luring away some of the brightest to other States or countries

UDEN has long argued that Utah hasn't yet attained a critical mass in game industry terms, for the eco-system to be self-sustaining. By this, we mean that we need multiple studios to have long term commercial and critical success, and we need to stop the brain drain.  What we have seen where there has been success is an isolation; these companies keeping themselves unto themselves.  Is this a Utah thing, because it appears to be the same in film here, as well.  

UDEN was founded from a frustration at this cycle of events: we believe that in games and film, we need to come together as a community of entertainment creators, collaborating and helping each another, to move faster than we could solo, and gain competitive advantage.  To build a stronger foundation for the longer term, a community that helps itself rise, not rely on the passing opportunistic whims of mega corporations from elsewhere.  Austin, Montreal, New York, London - all examples of entertainment communities that have done just this. We can in Utah. We just need to want to.

Which brings us full circle to AR/VR technologies! They offer commercial opportunity and could be the catalyst for our entertainment community to rally behind. Hence our focus on them this year.  

Which brings us to you: you need to help us build this community. Support us (see UDEN #16, for example). Be active. Help others. Change the way we work by working together.


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  • This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m currently a student about to graduate with a degree in software and game development, and was hoping to find a good game development studio here in Utah to start working with. This news hurts for two reasons, because now there are less game development jobs to go around, and I’m also competing with all of the developers who got laid off and have way more experience than I do. All of these things have kind of forced me to reconsider my plans, and start looking at other options. However, if anyone has any advice, or any leads on studios that might consider consider hiring recent grads, I would greatly appreciate it!