Entertainment software industry boosts Utah's economic growth, report says

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 10 2010 11:46 p.m. MDT

John Dean, executive producer for Electronic Arts Salt Lake, speaks at the opening of a new development studio in July.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's entertainment software sector has grown about six times as fast as the state's economy as a whole over the past five years, according to a national report released Tuesday.

Annual growth in Utah's electronic game industry has been almost 15 percent since 2005, according to the report from the Entertainment Software Association.

Game publishers and developers added about $91 million to the state's economy in 2009, the report said.

The news comes on the heels of multiple technology firms' request for state tax breaks and other incentives similar to those received by the film industry.

Otherwise, fledgling companies may be lured to places like Texas or even outside the country for more favorable conditions, said Clark Stacey, Smart Bomb Interactive vice president of business development.

Software publishers and developers in Utah filled about 650 full-time jobs in 2009, with an average pay around $83,000 per year, according to the ESA report. Together, the workers accounted for $106 million in direct and indirect compensation.

Utah is one of 34 states with high concentrations of game developers and publishers, according to the ESA report. Nationally, the computer and video game software industry added $4.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2009.

Data for the report was derived from public sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and privately-owned databases such as the one found on www.gamedevmap.com. That site listed 11 Utah companies that participate in game creation and publishing, including Electronic Arts Salt Lake, which just relocated to downtown Salt Lake City; Avalanche Software; Ninjabee; and Smart Bomb, which just released a 3-D game featuring the "Peanuts" character Snoopy.

The national report found that California is the largest employer of computer and video game personnel in the nation, providing more than $2.6 billion in direct and indirect compensation to the Golden State in 2009. Texas came in second, with about 13,500 employees, while New York, Massachusetts and Illinois rounded out the top five.

e-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com

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