Over 1,300 participants hailing from a variety of states and countries including Germany marked the most successful East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) to date.

Plans are underway to expand the event’s length to three days, widen the expo hall and offer more programs to capitalize on the increased attendance and recognition internationally.

With more than 40 of our approximately 100 volunteers from outside North Carolina and global sponsors such as Microsoft in dozens of booths hosting contests and inviting attendees to learn how they can become part of their companies it is no surprise that ECGC will be looking to expand the conference next year and it has established itself as a leading industry destination.

I credit this a great deal to the conference’s partnership with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which co-produced this year’s event which ran from April 24-25 at the Raleigh Convention Center. IGDA wants to increase its visibility in the Triangle, having just opened up its own chapter here a few months ago and because it strongly believes that the Triangle market is an actively growing area for gaming.

The industry experts who spoke and shared their knowledge this year generated a highly positive reaction from those at ECGC, as did the overall offerings at the expo hall. There were more electronics on display, with nearly every booth having at least two big monitors for demonstrating new products and technologies. Many people told me this was the best conference that we have had because it offered more socializing and reflected the industry’s growth and maturity.

The organizers of ECGC know that we are nurturing the game industry as it evolves which is why we unveiled a career track, which received strong interest, particularly from students who wanted to know what they need to include in their portfolios to help secure a job with a gaming company. We may combine the career track with a lounge to promote more networking next year to leverage the Triangle’s advantage with its proliferation of startup and expanding gaming companies.

Another trend revealed at ECGC was that games are focusing more on being used on handheld mobile devices because they are cheaper to use and more convenient for most gamers than consoles. Due to that development, it appears more companies will consist of smaller-staffed (four to eight people) studios, which can produce many games for these systems on a streamlined budget. There will always be a demand for games in the marketplace and for serious games for training people – the main changes will be in how they are developed on different platforms. The Triangle gaming community is poised to take advantage of these circumstances and launch more creative companies locally to meet these needs.

In fact, one of ECGC’s main efforts was to inform participants of the advantages in relocating to the Triangle. Our fine colleges and universities, relatively low cost of living, and lively arts and dining scene received much promotion in the keynote speech by Cliff Bleszinski, a longtime area video game designer. He noted while a starter home in California typically costs around $600,000 – if you are lucky – in the Triangle you can purchase a house for half that amount, with more amenities included.

Other numbers bear out the Triangle’s success. There are 38 gaming companies based here, with approximately 1,000 employees total. We already have a great amount of talent – the key is to keep attracting and developing local talent through our educational institutions offering gaming degrees, like the Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College.

The Triangle truly is an emerging leader in gaming, and this year’s ECGC cemented that reputation. With the numbers and involvement we had, I can safely predict we will soon surpass 2,000 attendees. People have told me “You guys look like a big national conference.” With all the high-level, wide-ranging programs and offerings that reflect the talent and energy our region possesses for gaming, we are indeed a major industry presence.

Editor’s note: Troy Knight is partner and managing director of BLDG25, a specialized creative agency.