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Raleigh Is Destination For Gaming Company's New Studio

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When video game developer


began considering potential sites for expansion, the Triangle had the advantage of two insiders who were very familiar with the Tar Heel state.

Juan Benito, a native of Raleigh and a co-founder of Red Storm Entertainment, sang the praises of RTP as a place to live and work. His opinions were seconded quite heartily by Pete Tamte, the firm's president and founder. He just so happened to work in Greensboro several years ago as an executive with another firm.

To the surprise of neither Benito nor Tamte, Raleigh is where Destineer will open its new studio later this month. The company, which publishes such titles as "First To Fight" and training tools that are used by the U.S. military, plans to hire up to 100 game designers, engineers and other people as part of an expansion plan that will more than double its existing staff in coming months.

"I managed a regional operation in Greensboro and fell in love with North Carolina," Tamte said in an interview. "When Juan suggested that we put Raleigh on the target list, I said yeah, definitely."

Benito, who will be one of the first Destineer employees based in Raleigh, was a strong advocate for the capital city, Tamte added.

"He introduced us to a lot of people in Raleigh, all of whom said they didn't want to live anywhere else in the world," Tamte said. "When you get that kind of affirmation, it means a lot. I don't hear that everywhere I go."

Destineer, which numbers the Central Intelligence Agency's In-Q-Tel venture fund among its investors, considered six areas for expansion. Raleigh won out over Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., to name three

The firm picked Raleigh even though it did not seek any government incentives, such as grants or tax rebates. State and local governments have used incentives quite aggressively over the past several years to recruit new industry, especially in the high-tech and life science sectors.

"In our business, time is money," Tamte said. He estimated that the incentive process would take several months to complete and Destineer did not want to wait that long to expand.

The company closed on $13 million in venture capital earlier this year. Some of those funds are being used to fuel the expansion, Tamte said.

Factors cited by Tamte and Benito to pick Raleigh included quality of living, housing prices, the existence of a gaming industry infrastructure with such companies as Red Storm, Epic Games and FunCom already in place, and the Triangle's universities that produce a talented workforce.

"The first thing we wanted was to open a studio where there is a strong base of local talent," Tamte said. "The second thing that was important to us was to pick a place where we could recruit people outside of the region.

"Raleigh really has a perfect mixture of those two things," he added. "It's generally easier to recruit people into a place where there is already a strong industry presence. They want to know they have flexibility when they move to a region.

"The second is the quality of life. Housing is a fraction of what it is on the West Coast. When we target recruits in Los Angeles or San Francisco, we can tell them they'll be able to buy a four-bedroom house for less than they pay to rent now and they'll have a 15-minute commute to work."

Destineer will occupy 16,000 square feet of space in a building close to RBC Arena.

The company published the Macintosh version of the "Unreal Tournament" title for Epic Games.

Tamte's gaming background includes a stint as an executive at Bungie Software, which developed the mega hit "Halo" series and was acquired by Microsoft.

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