The Best and Worst Gaming Startup Cities

San Francisco and the Bay Area seems to be the first thing people think of when the word “start-up” is uttered. However, there are successful startups everywhere. In the case of games, it seems a few cities have all the attention for good reason.


Seattle is the secret headquarters of the video game industry. It’s a place where console dinosaurs roam the earth casting a shadow over scrappy little start-up mammals scurrying beneath their feet. Giants of the previous generation are making bold new moves in secret. Not to mention Valve–a company who has consistently been able to capture and monetize disruption–has created some of the greatest games of all time and makes enough dough from Steam to invest in off the wall projects that will usher in another era of money hats for Gabe and his cohorts. Low taxes and living costs in addition to the developer culture of the area make the Pacific Northwest somewhat ideal.


The San Francisco games revolution may be over, but that just means imploding social giants are creating an exodus of talent that will form the next disruptive startups. That is, if they rein in the MBAs from designing games. Real estate prices and intense hiring competition make it tough to staff up a startup, but SF is one of the few places where investors inherently get the f2p gaming business model. Raising money and selling out in this town is still easier than anywhere else on the planet. Although, with Zynga stock well under $3, investment activity in games has started to shrink.


Los Angeles was the capital of the video game industry during the console heyday. When I first moved here in 1997, the boom was just beginning. The result of 15+ years of multi-million sellers has generated a culture of game developers accustomed to AAA cubicle veal pens despite the all-too-common “crunch & dump” cycle of big budget game development and rarely fulfilled dreams of profit-sharing. The entrepreneurial spirit seems vacant in most Los Angeles game developers, despite the raging success of Riot and Benchmark Capital’s winning string of investments. When one of the top Los Angeles start-ups is a shoe rental company, you know there’s a lot of wasted synapses out here.

If there’s anything Indie Game: The Movie showed, it’s that the next big success can come from anywhere. Still, there’s no substitute for face to face communication amongst a core team. This requires a city where like-minded developers can meet and collaborate. Where you choose to set up shop may have profound consequences for your game.

2 thoughts on “The Best and Worst Gaming Startup Cities

  1. Yes. San Francisco is dead. SF companies get a lot of media attention, but the most successful companies by revenue are over seas. Companies in Germany and other parts of Europe seem to understand the F2P space better than people in SF.

    SF investors are herd animals. They were investing in FB as companies started exiting and the cost per user started to exceed the average revenue per user. Then they rushed into mobile, where the companies were squeezed out of the market by asian mobile/MMO companies with billion dollar cash cows, who wanted to enter the western market and were prepared to lose money on every user.

    The four most successful F2P companies in SF are Linden, Kixeye, Zynga and Roblox. There has not been much cross over between mobile, desktop and social/FB strategies in the SF companies, especially compared to what asian and european companies are doing.

    SF does not have the ecosystem of talent, consultants or understanding of the F2P model to be a successful gaming hub. Japanese and Korean executives laugh at Zynga. Everytime they open their mouths its a blow to the balls about how “Zynga does not understand monetization” and how they monetize Chinese peasants better than Zynga monetizes affluent American soccer moms.

    However, SF is far ahead of LA. The console developers and work for hire developers in LA are clueless about the new business models. There are no experienced advisers, no investors and little talent in LA with experience in the new market. LA companies are locked into doing work for hire for Disney instead of conquering the emerging markets.

    LA is four years behind SF and SF is ten years behind Korea/Japan.

  2. From what I’ve heard, you’re leaving out a lot of other good cities and places to get a mobile gaming company started. Boulder?? Denver?? The entire state of Colorado?? Texas cities like Houston and Austin?? I even heard Oregon has some fresh talent. You need to update this.

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