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Schumer Backs Proposed 'Game On Accelerator' In Troy

Velan Studios logo
Jesse King
Velan Studios, one of the organizations behind the proposed "Game On Accelerator," is based in downtown Troy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stopped in Troy Tuesday to call for additional funding for video game developers in New York’s Capital Region. The New York Democrat is seeking $750,000 to fund a “Game On Accelerator” proposed by the Center for Economic Growth, the Rensselaer County IDA, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and local developer Velan Studios. Schumer says the accelerator would spawn at least 350 jobs – and potentially more, as participants are encouraged to start their own development companies.

Chuck Schumer
Credit Jesse King / WAMC
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke at Velan Studios in Troy Tuesday.

"Gaming is one of the hottest and fastest-growing industries with companies close to home," says Schumer. "2020, global game sales were a $175 billion. By 2023, it’s supposed to get close to $220 billion.”

Schumer calls the Capital Region a burgeoning hub for the gaming industry, with more than 450 employees across 24 companies, including Warner Brother Games, PUBG MadGlory, Agora Games and more. And the titles aren’t obscure: Capital Region companies have contributed to games like Candy Crush, Mortal Kombat 11, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Fortnite

Velan Studios was founded in Troy by industry veterans Guha and Karthik Bala in 2016. The studio most recently contributed to Knockout City and Mario Kart: Home Circuit, but the Bala brothers are perhaps better known for their first company, Vicarious Visions, which Activision acquried in 2005 and merged with Blizzard Entertainment this year.

Guha Bala says he and his brother got their start making games for Vicarious Visions with the help of an RPI incubator in the mid-1990s. Their hope with the Game On Accelerator is to provide a similar opportunity for the next generation of graduates.

“Today, New York state has 29 college programs in video game design. We can give those graduates a home right here in Troy," Bala explains. "We have the chance to go from a promising cluster of a couple dozen companies to a true ecosystem that’s sustainable, that could establish companies, entrepreneurs and new talent for generations to come.”

Specifically, the accelerator would provide industry training and idea development for 150 participants over a course of five years. The Rensselaer County IDA already approved seed funding for the program last year.

Video games aren’t the only part of the tech sector that’s growing in the Capital Region. Last month, semiconductor giant GlobalFoundries moved its headquarters from the Silicon Valley to Malta, with hopes of eventually doubling its manufacturing capacity at the Saratoga County site. Schumer is pushing for $100 billion in tech research as part of President Joe Biden’s embattled infrastructure plan – and at the end of the day, Schumer says it’s all connected. 

“Part of the bill we’re proposing is something that I proposed called the Endless Frontiers Act," Schumer explains. "[Under the bill] America will resume becoming the center of chip manufacturing. GlobalFoundries is very eager for this and would expand dramatically, but I just talked to the Bala brothers, and this industry depends on advanced microchips, and there’s a shortage right now…Having major infrastructure investment will certainly help expand the horizons of companies like Velan.”

Schumer says he has already written to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in support of the accelerator. 

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."
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