Virtual reality fuels resurgence in Austin game development industry

Dozens of businesses sat silent and dark as 100-degree August heat bore down on a beige, single-story office park in Southwest Austin.

It was a sleepy Sunday night and the nondescript warren of commerce on Freidrich Lane appeared an unlikely location to inspire innovation. Inside, however, the city’s game development community came together at the offices of Game Plan Entertainment LLC to test new products, including several virtual reality, or VR, and augmented reality games.

Kegs of beer sat on ice as nearly 150 visitors milled about the company’s conventional arcade games while local developers provided test runs of their new products. Instead of rolling balls or sliding disks, the latest games require headsets and hand-held controllers — everything else is created virtually by the software. And that’s why Austin game development is gathering momentum again.

VR is fueling a demand in Central Texas for development companies and is attracting investors looking to capitalize on the new technology. Meanwhile, a local entrepreneur is relaunching an annual game conference in Austin, a downtown accelerator plans to launch a special VR section, and a development company is considering creating a hub for game development in North Austin.