This weekend will bring another reminder of Austin's significance in the booming U.S. video game industry.
More than 6,000 video game fans are expected to turn out for the Classic Game Fest, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Palmer Events Center.
Austin has become a key player in the video game sector, as has Texas as a whole. More than 265 video gaming companies call Texas home, with about 140 of those operating in the Austin metro area, according to a 2016 report by the Entertainment Software Association, the group that owns and operates the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Austin is behind only Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and San Francisco in total number of gaming companies, and the sector employs just short of 3,000 people in Central Texas, paying them an average annual salary of $90,000.
That's all part of a video game sector that has grown from a niche market into a multibillion dollar industry that is part of everyday life for millions of Americans. The industry contributed $11.8 billion to the United States GDP in 2015, and about 67 percent of American households have a gaming device, according to the Entertainment Software Association's report.
As more adults play, their attachment to the games of their past and the nostalgia of a bygone period become a tried and true marketing tool. Parents who grew up with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis now find themselves sharing the games of their youth with their children -- a key focus of this weekend's Classic Game Fest.
Classic Game Fest owner and organizer David Kaelin said the power of nostalgia allows his convention to stand out among the bigger players competing for Austin’s attention.
“We have a very specific niche within the gaming community that sets us apart from the likes of SXSW and Dreamhack,” Kaelin said in an email interview. “We stay true to retro fans, working hard to keep our festival focused on classic gaming.”
The convention’s focus on classic gaming from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s has shown a steady stream of attendees over the past ten years, with last year’s attendance coming in at about 6,000, Kaelin said. Compared to the three-day gaming portion of SXSW 2017 drawing in 47,430 attendees, Classic Game Fest is a more niche experience.
Local businesses and groups will be in attendance for the two-day event, including Game Over Videogames, the Austin Toy Museum, Pixels Bar and a 70,000 square-foot vendor hall of goods, cabinets, and gaming paraphernalia.
Many industry personalities and entertainment luminaries will also be at Classic Game Fest. Guests include founder of Twin Galaxies Walter Day, legendary "Pac-Man" and "Donkey Kong" player Billy Mitchell, and Ernest Cline, author of "Ready Player One," the best-selling sci-fi novel recently turned into a Stephen Spielberg-directed movie.
Gaming-themed musical acts such as rappers Mega Ran, Sammus and Eye Q will also take the stage throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Kaelin said all of the moving parts that come together to form Classic Game Fest are about bringing generations of family together in the name of gaming.
“Our festival is one of the largest of its kind in the country, and it is a family-friendly event that lets us bring three or more generations together to enjoy games,” he said.
For tickets and information on Classic Game Fest taking place July 29-30 at Palmer Events Center in Austin, go to www.ClassicGameFest.com. Children ages 12 and under get in free.
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