Multivarious Games Making a Name for Video Game Development in Columbus

Columbus might not be the first city you think of for video game development, but Chris Volpe, CEO and president of Multivarious Games, hopes to change that.

“Anything we can do to bring eyes to Columbus and Ohio for games,” Volpe says. “My ultimate goal is to turn Columbus into the next hot spot for games development.”

Multivarious Games started in 2011 as the business arm of the Central Ohio Game Gamedev Group. Volpe came on in 2012 to streamline the plethora of projects the group was working on. The developers honed in on a few projects at a time, went to work on their own title and picked up consulting gigs along the way. The MVG team grew as more and more people came in to work on projects, graduating the operation to five full-timers, a handful of part-timers and various interns.

Today, “Our mission is broken up into three buckets,” Volpe says. 

The first is generating their own games.

“Our first game we released under our title was Hatch It,” Volpe says. 

Consulting work makes up another bucked of MVG. The firm works with names like OSU, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Mastercard. Volpe says the consulting not only creates a revenue stream, but a way for their team to improve their skills.

Through their consulting work, MVG has found a niche of healthcare-related apps and rapid prototyping.

“We’ve become very good at that,” Volpe says. “Rapid prototyping is very helpful for large corporations who are just trying to get something done.” 

Large corporations seek rapid prototypes for proof of concept for clinical trials or grants. Volpe says that while they are video game developers, “The split between what is a game and isn’t a game isn’t as large as most people think it is.”

For example, MVG has been working on a therapy and diagnostic app for Nationwide that incorporates a lot of gaming techniques.

MVG is also on the forefront of development in the Microsoft Kinect space. Kinect uses a motion censor and was originally developed for video games, but has been finding much use in the healthcare space.

MVG’s third arm is community engagement and outreach. The Central Ohio Gamedev Group is very much a part of that, as well as representation during various other events and the upcoming Ohio Game Developer Expo.

In its third year, the Expo will be held this weekend, November 6 – 8 at COSI.

“We’re growing up,” Volpe says. “Right now we have almost 70 exhibitors who are exhibiting new games and new technology. Last year we had 44.” 

The number of workshops has grown from 23 to 36, and with it, the attendees are expected to exceed 2,500 versus last year’s 1,400 turnout.

Volpe says that many other expos are either heavily focused on development and big retailers looking for the next game, or are entities like Comic-Con that are more focused on gamer-oriented culture.

“We have, so far, been really successful at blending those two together,” Volpe says. 

Many Expo attendees are people that just really love games and aren’t necessarily into development. The agenda mixes technical talks with panels on topics like women in gaming. There are also sessions offering legal advice, many workshops aimed at small businesses, and even a workshop focused on voice over for action sequences.

OGDE isn’t the only way MVG is building Columbus as a hot-spot for gaming. A game studio space is also in the works. It had previously been announced the MVG would partner with Lumos to develop an incubator space, but the plan fell apart.

“That not coming to fruition is not a reflection of game develpment industry not growing,” Volpe says. 

But an opportunity for MVG to add an additional 1,700 square-feet to their current space at The Mill, 780 King Ave., has shaken the dust off the plans.

“We’re going to use that as an incubator/accelerator for people that want to be involved,” Volpe says. “Our goal is to make sure that people are successful in getting their visions out there and getting high-quality games out and having those games get into the hands of players.” 

While Volpe says they are working through the details, they expect to offer discounted rent for equity or revenue share in projects. But more than space, the incubator will offer other small business resources, like access to an accountant or help with marketing and promotions. Volpe is aiming for late December or early January launch for the incubator.

He stresses the need for such a space.

“In the Midwest our industry gets zero support,” Volpe says. It’s nearly impossible to get money from the bank or investors. “You have to figure it out yourself.”

As difficult as starting something in the game development space can be, Volpe say the industry is growing, and Columbus has all the ingredients to be its hotspot. The city has a young, creative, tech-savvy population and great tech infrastructure with several art, design and audio schools in the region.

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