New Yorkers who are worried that it might be "game over" for Wall Street profits should look to the video game industry, a new report says.
"New York City desperately needs to diversify its economy and it needs to identify areas of job growth for the future," said Jonathan Bowles, the director of the think tank that published the report, Center for an Urban Future. "Clearly the Bear Stearns layoffs, among other things, show that we're way too dependent on Wall Street."
The report comes as a New York-based game publisher, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., is shattering sales records with "Grand Theft Auto IV," demonstrating what a strong gaming industry could bring the city. The game, which takes place in a satirical version of New York called "Liberty City," was released last month and collected $500 million on worldwide sales of more than 6 million copies in its first week alone, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Mayor Bloomberg should take a greater role in growing the gaming business by assigning a city staffer to act as a liaison to the industry and by promoting trade shows and gaming conferences that could showcase New York's potential as a home for companies, the report says.
"This is one industry where we have real potential for growth, and it's already seen some significant expansion in the last few years," Mr. Bowles said. "It's still a relatively small sector right now, but we know the industry is going to grow nationally thanks to a huge upsurge in the number of people playing."
Take-Two and another large gaming firm headquartered in New York, Atari, are success stories, but the report warns that Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, drawing on a deep labor pool of high-tech workers, are home to a much larger number of companies.
New York's gaming industry is growing, with 30 game development companies and another 55 companies involved with games, but most of these companies are relatively small, the report says. Obstacles to expanding the industry further include a lack of gaming technology programs at city universities, the high cost of office space, and an abundance of other industries in New York that offer higher salaries to potential gaming talent.
Domestic computer and video game software sales totaled $9.5 billion overall in 2007, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
The movie industry, by comparison, generated $9.6 billion in American and Canadian ticket sales last year.