Talent Agents and the Game Industry

“Talent Agents a New Force in the Video Game Industry”
— The New York Times

It happened to the motion picture industry in the 1930s and the music trade in the 1960s. Talent agents, initially brushed off as nothing more than opportunistic middle men, succeeded in making themselves vital parts of the machinery, helping the fast-growing but messy businesses mature.

Is it time — finally — for the same thing to happen with video games?

Agents have been trying to plow this turf for over a decade, succeeding with helping industry giants like Electronic Arts navigate Hollywood. But a deep cultural divide between the slick, Armani-suit-wearing agent crowd and rumpled computer-code-writing gamers has proven difficult to bridge.

… With the $46 billion worldwide video game market in upheaval — budgets are soaring for console titles even as free online games sharply cannibalize sales — agents are suddenly awfully useful: finding the right talent to complete increasingly complex titles, structuring deals across media, bringing in third-party financiers. And more agents than ever are looking to make a name for themselves in video games and new media, a consequence of layoffs after the merger last year of the William Morris and Endeavor agencies.

… Video game agents come in two distinct varieties. On one side are broad Hollywood agencies that extrapolate their movie and television approach to the pinnacle of the video-game business. United Talent spends most of its time working with prominent game writers like Susan O’Connor (BioShock, Gears of War) and the top echelon of publishers. Ditto Creative Artists, although it is also trying to cultivate a handful of promising young designers.

On the other end of the spectrum are scrappy, under-the-radar companies like Digital Development Management, or D.D.M., that focus solely on video games. Founded in 2006 by Jeff Hilbert, one of the first agents to specialize in the genre, D.D.M. is finding success catering to teams of developers — the movie business equivalent of an independent production company versus one superstar producer.

Brooks Barnes @ New York Times: March 26, 2010

This New York Times article confirms what I have been saying for years: that movies and games are merging into a new hybrid phenomenon.