City paves way for 150 video game jobs in Las Vegas


One of the nation's top video game companies will move as many as 150 jobs from California to downtown Las Vegas under a deal approved Wednesday at City Hall.

The Redevelopment Agency Board, made up of City Council members, voted unanimously to approve about $600,000 in cash and in-kind incentives to lure Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. to move a quality assurance group to vacant office space at 302 E. Carson Ave. The full council approved the measure later Wednesday.

The move, dependent on more than $1.2 million in city and state incentives, was touted as a coup for a part of Las Vegas seeking to embrace the technology industry as a path to economic growth.

Department of Economic and Urban Development Director Bill Arent said the company wouldn't have expanded to Las Vegas without the incentives.

Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin, who represents the area into which Take-Two intends to move, said the incentives are worth the money because the arrival of the company's workers will have a ripple effect in the technology community.

"Your impressions of the area will help us bring more people here," Coffin said, adding that he believes the incentives are reasonable. "We appreciate you not asking an arm and a leg to move here."

That a company of Take-Two's size and relevance in the industry is putting down stakes in Las Vegas is significant to the local professional gamer community, said Chris Ainsworth, organizer of the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association.

Ainsworth said Las Vegas already has a number of small, independent game companies besides Petroglyph Games, which employs about 100 people.

"Until this announcement, Las Vegas has been mostly off the radar of the major publishers," Ainsworth said, adding, "The more industry talent finds its way to Las Vegas, the more industry talent that is grown locally, the more we'll see studios continue to spawn."

Take-Two is following in the footsteps of online retailer Zappos, which is scheduled to move its corporate headquarters downtown late next year. The Zappos move was facilitated by the city selling the former city hall building at a discount to Resort Gaming Group, which will be the company's landlord.

The Take-Two group in Las Vegas will come from Northridge, Calif., Chief Operating Officer David Ismailer said. He said he is not sure how many employees will move with the company but expects to do much of the hiring for the new location locally.

He attributed the decision to move to several factors, including location, incentives and availability of workers.

"Everyone is offering incentives," Ismailer said. "In some ways proximity to Los Angeles was one of the considerations."

Incentives from the city for the move include about $247,000 in cash and nearly 200 parking spaces. Another $60,000 in city incentives are available if the company hits minority and veteran hiring standards.

State incentives include a grant of $600,000, a modified business tax abatement valued at $115,799, a 2 percent sales tax abatement for equipment purchases and up to $2,500 per employee for training new hires.

The state incentives still need approval from the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.

Ismailer said if the company receives approvals as planned, the move could happen as soon as the first quarter of next year.

Take-Two is a leading developer, marketer and publisher of video games. Besides "Grand Theft Auto" and the "2K Sports" franchises, the company produced the "BioShock," "Mafia" and "Borderlands 2" titles. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the company reported nearly $500 million in net revenue in the first half of the year.

The employees who would be working for Take-Two in Las Vegas would be mostly quality assurance testers with an average wage of about $18 per hour plus health insurance and benefits, company officials said.

Alex Plachowski, vice president of quality assurance for 2K Games, said the jobs involve testing games by searching for flaws that can be explained to developers and corrected.

"Everyone thinks testing is just playing the games; there is actually a talent to testing," Plachowski said, identifying curiosity to explore for bugs and writing skills needed to describe them. "The real talent that we find is people who are good at trying to find the issues."

Ainsworth said the jobs Take-Two is bringing to Las Vegas are on the low end of the industry and, because the Carson Street office is designated for quality assurance, the employees won't have the same path to upward mobility as entry-level workers in an office connected to other departments.

But they still represent potential for further gaming industry growth in the area.

"Still, it does allow for passionate local industry newcomers to connect with each other, and who knows what will happen once those connections are made," Ainsworth said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .

 

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