Here’s why Seattle — not Silicon Valley — is the gaming industry’s epicenter

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From left to right: Big Fish’s John Holland; 343 Industries’ Kiki Wolfkill; WildTangent’s Matt Shea; DoubleDown’s Charles Harper; Valve’s Gabe Newell.

Many may know Seattle for its coffee, for the Space Needle, and — though slightly misinformed — the rain.

But another aspect of the Emerald City possibly overlooked is the budding gaming scene. From Microsoft to Valve all the way down to countless indie companies, Seattle is chock-full of developers and designers putting out title after title.

Industry leaders from the city gathered Tuesday morning at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry fifth annual Innovation Breakfast to talk about video games.

[Related: Advice from Valve co-founder Gabe Newell: 'Don't let publishers or platforms get in your way of success']

Within the first few minutes of the discussion, Big Fish COO John Holland made it clear that Seattle is king when it comes to gaming.

Seattle Skyline Super Moon

Seattle: The gaming epicenter. Photo by Kevin Lisota

“A lot of people like to think that Silicon Valley carries some of that weight, but the reality is that this is the epicenter of gaming, whether it’s casual or core or mobile or PC or console,” Holland said. “The community here is alive in spades. …There is no doubt that this is ground zero for games and will continue to be for a long time, thanks to the esteemed accomplishments of our colleagues.”

There are 16,500 employees working at nearly 300 game companies that have set up shop here, including Valve, Nintendo, Microsoft, 343 Industries, Big Fish, PopCap, Bungie, WildTangent, Z2, U4iA, and several more of which are ranked on the GeekWire 200, our monthly startup index tracking the Seattle region’s technology companies.

Seattle is also pumping out young talent, particularly from the nationally-recognized programs geared toward budding gamers at Redmond’s DigiPen University. There’s also Northeastern University, which recently set up a graduate school in downtown Seattle and will soon introduce a game design program.

Mario, Luigi and Peach at the 2013 PAX Expo in Seattle.

Mario, Luigi and Princess Daisy at the 2013 PAX Expo in Seattle.

Of course, you can’t forget that Seattle is home to the epic Penny Arcade Expo, better known as PAX, that attracts more than 70,000 gaming fans who come together to play anything from Super Mario on NES to Watch Dogs for Xbox One, hear from industry leaders on various panels and compete in tournaments.

Kiki Wolfkill, the executive producer at 343 Industries, added that the nature of Seattle as a city itself has helped it become a gaming kingpin.

“Seattle is a center for cultural arts and technology, and games is really about how those come together in a unique way,” she said.

Earlier this year, GameSpot produced a sweet video echoing several of these sentiments. And here are a couple cool infographics put together by the folks at Washington Interactive Network that demonstrate the size and influence of the Seattle gaming industry.

seattlegamingindustry2 seattlegamingindustry1

  • Guest

    “It’s good to be the king”

  • Chaz

    “Gaming” refers to Gambling in some circles and would be misinterpreted. This should say “Video Game Development”.

    • http://blog.lasean.com/ LaSean Smith

      I don’t think the GeekWire audience is confused.

      • BruinInSeattle

        they probably arent…but he’s right — “gaming” refers to gambling, “games” is the video game industry.

  • Guest2

    “Seattle is chalk-full”? You mean chock full.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Thanks, we’ve fixed that.

  • “Budding” Game Producer

    “the budding gaming scene.”

    Umm…the greater Seattle area has been a “gaming scene” for well-over a decade. How long do we have to be this until we’re no longer “budding”.

    That’s a crazy gestation time.

    • BruinInSeattle

      budding for AT LEAST the last two decades…ever since Microsoft released Flight Simulator and created the games industry in the Seattle area.

  • Pat

    At the risk of being pedantic, the picture has Princess Daisy, not Peach. I’m sure the gal who is dressed up will appreciate it.

    • Taylor Soper

      You are right, Pat. Just fixed. Thanks!

  • http://www.augmented-vision.net/ Dylan Holmes

    The author doesn’t seem to understand that Redmond and Bellevue are not in Seattle. The greater Seattle area is a big scene, absolutely, but it’s pretty odd to start with “From Microsoft to Valve…” both companies that are no in Seattle, or to say Seattle is “churning out” graduates from a place in Redmond.

  • sg

    they forgot Sucker Punch makers of Sly Cooper and other Play Station Games

  • Guest

    If we are the epicenter, where is the [active; engaging] games for social good element in PNW? Just asking….

  • http://www.ducktoes.com/ Ducktoes Computer Services

    Seattle has the geekiest people, so it makes sense.

    Computer repair