North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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Case studies and Chapel Hill. There are 32 gaming companies in the region — ranging from familiar names building recre- ational games for smartphones and game consoles to others, whose "seri- ous" games are customized for buyers, such as the military or fi re departments, to train employees. These companies employ about 1,200 in the Triangle, says Wayne Watkins, project manager at Wake County Economic Development, part of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. "The head counts are not massive," Watkins says, with studios employing an average of 20 to 30 workers. Complementing those employees, however, are another few hundred professionals in the Triangle, including academics, writers, artists, marketing experts and others. One of the region's most storied Virtual Heroes Inc. calls its games advanced-learning technologies. They train emergency workers and military personnel. names is Epic Games Inc., a privately held company in Cary that develops its own content and licenses "engines" — the platforms that generate graphics, sound, animation and scripting — used by other content producers. Epic traces its roots to 1991, when it was founded as Potomac Computer Systems in Rockville, Md. Five years later, it licensed its fi rst game engine, Unreal, which became the basis for personal-computer-based games Wheel of Time and Klingon Honor Guard. In 1999, it adopted its current name and moved its headquarters to Cary. Its popular Gears of War series, published by Microsoft, has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide and earned about 50 game-of-the-year awards from various organizations. More than 20,000 retailers opened at midnight on Sept. 20 when Epic released Gears of War 3, the fi nal installment of the series. "Epic is unique because they not only have the content but also have one of the best engines on the planet," Watkins says, referring to Unreal. "The more technology-development plat- forms you've got locally, the more you become a center for innovation." 28 North Carolina Economic Development Guide Among the companies utilizing Epic's Unreal is Raleigh-based Virtual Heroes Inc., a division of Applied Research Associates Inc. Virtual Heroes concentrates on the serious side of the marketplace, developing learning-cen- tered games for health-care providers, emergency responders, soldiers and security personnel. Virtual Heroes was founded in 2004 by Jerry Heneghan, a former Army helicopter pilot and West Point graduate who got his fi rst experi- ence in the industry at Morrisville-based Red Storm Entertainment Inc. In 2009, Virtual Heroes became part of Albu- querque, N.M.-based ARA. Heneghan describes Virtual Heroes as a company engaged in advanced-learning technol- ogy. "More and more corporations and government agencies are looking toward interactive either 2-D or 3-D game- based content to challenge their employ- ees — progressing away from traditional e-learning," says Heneghan, who is managing director for ARA's Virtual Heroes division. Though he rarely uses the term "game" to describe the com- pany's products, Heneghan admits the simulated environments Virtual Heroes creates need to be as entertaining as those developed for casual users. Virtual Heroes employs 167 develo- pers in Raleigh, recruiting regularly from the simulation and game-develop- ment graduates at Wake Tech. Heneghan, who sits on the advisory committee that guides the college's program, appreciates the exposure students get to problem- based learning. "The program makes sure content being presented is rel- evant," he says. The company was one of a dozen digital-game makers Wake Tech's Rotenberry asked to help shape the curriculum. The companies provided curriculum ideas, equipment, software and even adjunct instructors. Other companies, such as WakeMed Health and Hospitals and IBM Corp., support the program with technical assistance and workspace. "The

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