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Opinion: Missouri’s share of video gaming pie for the taking

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Video games have grown far beyond a niche industry.

Advertisements are everywhere – even in this year’s Super Bowl was a featured spot for Nintendo’s new Switch console. Franchises like “Call of Duty,” “Minecraft” and “Super Mario Bros.” have become household names, and then there are myriad mobile games, such as “Pokemon Go,” taking their share.

Following closely behind the popularity of games and explosion of new players over the years is money – big money.

A report released this month by the Entertainment Software Association found U.S. computer and video game industry revenue climbed nearly 30 percent to more than $30.4 billion in 2016 compared with $23.5 billion in 2015. Last year’s total revenue – which factors in all sales of hardware, software, peripherals and in-game content – was 36 percent higher than the $22.4 billion in revenue reported in 2014, according to the ESA’s latest Video Games in the 21st Century report.

What was Missouri’s share? It was a paltry $44 million. That equates to just about 1.5 percent of total U.S. video game revenue.

California – home of Silicon Valley – is the clear leader. It is, after all, where major publishers Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Blizzard Inc. are based. Microsoft – creator of the Xbox line of consoles – resides in the second-place state of Washington. The two states combined contain 63 percent of all gaming company employment in the nation.

Missouri employed 670 people in the industry last year, which pales in comparison. Still, the economic effect is evident. According to the ESA, Missouri-based gaming employees earned an average of $97,000 per year in 2015. That’s well above the average household income nationwide that year of $54,000, according to the report. Missouri’s 2015 median household income was $48,173, according to the census data.

The Show-Me State may be smack dab in the middle of the country, but that shouldn’t exclude it from what is – to use Midwestern language – a cash cow.

Springfield comedian Jeff Houghton, a proponent of the Ozarks with his hometown show “The Mystery Hour,” perhaps said it best in his 2014 crowdfunding video, “By Springfield, With Springfield, For Springfield.”

“I would rather build something here in Springfield than go be a part of somebody else’s machine built somewhere else,” Houghton said.

Further, I’ll quote the film “The Departed,” which paraphrased James Joyce: “No one gives it to you. You have to take it.”

There’s a huge pile of video game cash that grows larger by the year. Missouri has the ability to take more of its share.

The economics are easy, at least on paper. Create a product, sell it and profit.

What’s more difficult is overcoming the stigma associated with living here. In the internet age, one can do whatever they wish from wherever they want.

So, why not Missouri?

Web Producer Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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