Pittsburgh Goes Virtual

There's a lot of talk around Pittsburgh about growing high tech sectors: robotics, chip design, biomedical engineering, medical instrumentation, networking, intelligent systems, and materials developers. I only rarely hear as much public discussion about Pittsburgh's emerging contribution to one of the largest worldwide tech markets: simulation and videogame development. Today's P-G Bits & Bytes highlights the companies selected for the upcoming Angel Venture Fair; almost lost in the buzz -- but not quite, thankfully -- are bits of good news for some of Pittsburgh's local virtual technology and gaming companies.

SimOps Studios has a new influx of investment capital.

ImpactGames is about to release "Peacemaker."

But those two companies are only the tips of the virtual iceberg. Some of the hottest local buzz appears to be reserved for Schell Games and Etcetera Edutainment. Pittsburgh's entertainment tech educators are in high gear supporting the effort. Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center is an industry leader with a global footprint. The Art Insitute of Pittsburgh has several entertainment tech and related programs. I've read that Duquesne and Pitt, too, are on board, though I can't quickly find links -- aside from some specialized research programs at Pitt's School of Information Science, for example, and at the Medical School.

The business community and local media are, as Bits & Bytes shows, gradually gathering steam to focus on the virtual. The Pittsburgh Business Times has written about gaming at least twice in the last year -- here, and more recently here. The Tech Council has this older summary online that talks about differences between 21st century entertainment technology businesses and older Hollywood-style entertainment businesses. Pop City wrote this pop-ish, fun piece last Fall.

Why does this matter? Videogames alone are a $30 billion industry worldwide. That's more money than Hollywood is generating these days (perhaps explaining why the Pittsburgh Film Office has been active in trying to recruit gaming companies to Pittsburgh), and unlike the domestic motion picture industry, videogaming is growing by leaps and bounds.. Entertainment technology provides as big a departure from Pittsburgh's industrial history as any emerging technology can be, and Pittsburgh has stiff ET competition -- or better, strong collaborators -- worldwide. The industry here will flourish, or not, only to the extent that it follows CMU's globalizing path. But in an industry that may generate $60 billion in revenues within a few years, even a small piece of the pie cupcake can be significant.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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