Video Game Industry Adds Billions to US Economy

Known more for remarkable advancements in technology and innovation than for jobs and commerce, the computer and video game industry is proving to be a bright spot in a slowly-improving American economy. According to a new report, "Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2014 Report," released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) this week, the industry added more than $6.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012. Approximately 146,000 individuals are directly and indirectly employed by the video game industry.

The new report reinforces the growing role video games play in our economy. Our industry drives technological and societal advancements that help Americans lead healthier, happier and more productive lives. It is also one of the nation's fastest growing sectors, providing tens of thousands of high-paying jobs to hardworking Americans across the country. Here are four examples of why games are such an economic powerhouse:

  1. The video game industry outperformed the U.S. economy by more than four times. Video games are a 21.5 billion industry in the U.S. The industry significantly outpaced the overall economy from 2009 to 2012, growing more than nine percent compared to the U.S. economy's 2.4 percent.

  • Game developers and publishers expanded while other industries contracted. Employment in video games grew at an annual rate of nine percent from 2009 to 2012. For comparison, a number of U.S. industries, such as newspaper production and aerospace manufacturing, either lost jobs or increased them by less than one percent over the same period. In fact, employment at computer and video game companies grew more than 13 times the growth of the U.S. labor market (nine percent vs. 0.72 percent, respectively).
  • The industry's job market is spreading across the country. While California continues to rank first in terms of having the most video game industry personnel in the nation, its share of total industry employment remained essentially flat from 41.27 percent in 2009 to 41.40 percent in 2012. This slow growth stems in part from aggressive efforts by other states to lure high-paying, digital economy jobs with robust tax incentives. Today, 21 states and Puerto Rico offer digital media incentives. The seven states with the greatest number of entertainment software industry employees -- California, Texas, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Illinois -- collectively employ 32,652 workers; nearly 80 percent of the total direct employment for the U.S. video game industry.
  • Compensation continues to rise. Employees in the computer and video game industry earned an average of 94,747 in 2012, up from90,000 in 2010. In comparison, the average U.S. household income in 2012 was 51,759.
  • With more people enjoying video games around the globe through consoles and mobile game play, the industry shows little sign of slowing down. Curious about how well your state stacks up against the rest? Read the individual state reports to learn more. Interested in working in the industry, but not sure how to get started? Check out my take on the nearly 400 higher education institutions that offer video game design programs.