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.