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Ben Kvalo wants to turn the Midwest into a prime place for game developers.

Justin Carter

May 23, 2023

2 Min Read
Overhead photograph of the city of Chicago, IL.
Image taken from the Chicago section of the Visit the USA website.

Ben Kvalo, a former Netflix executive, has left the streamer to form a video game publisher in the Midwest. 

It's a notable position for a publisher of any size to establish themselves. Most game developers in the US, and the larger ones especially, operate out of either the west or east coasts, or somewhere south (read: Texas). 

But for Kvalo, whose previous games experience includes 2K and Blizzard Entertainment, that was by design. He admitted to VentureBeat that he saw the area as a chance to "tap into the Midwest as an emerging market." 

Citing the "incredible developer hubs" of cities like Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN and Ann Arbor, MI, he added that those devs "lack funding and support. [...] We aim to change that by providing funding, marketing and support.”

What this new game publisher means for Midwest studios

Beyond Chicago being the third-largest city in the US, the Midwest is home to several game developers. Mortal Kombat creator NetherRealm is situated in Chicago, for example, as is Jackbox Games. And a few hours from there is the city of Champaign, home to Saints Row maker Volition.

For much of the games industry, particularly those in the triple-A space, location is everything. Having a publisher that's specifically focused outside of those aforementioned key regions lightens the load, and allows otherwise unknown studios to feel connected to the industry without having to upend their life.

At this time, though, it's unknown how Kvalo's studio will factor remote workers into its plans. While it's still relatively new for larger developers, it does have a growing importance in the industry amid continued health concerns and a general reflection on how games are made nowadays.

"Diversifying ‘where’ games come from will change the fabric of the industry," he said. "Great games can come from anywhere and we are out to prove that."

Update: This post has been updated to clarify that Kvalo's unnamed publisher has not officially listed its headquarters. While it will be in the Midwest, Chicago, IL is not confirmed, and we regret the error. 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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