May 13, 2021 - News

Marcus Howard wants to turn Tampa Bay into a gaming hub

Marcus and Malcolm Howard stand next to each other

Marcus, left, and Malcolm holding the Super Mario 3 cartridge that started it all. Photo courtesy of Marcus Howard

Marcus Howard has known since he was 6 years old just how important video games are.

  • He keeps the game that got him and his siblings hooked β€” Super Mario Brothers 3 for the first at-home Nintendo console β€” in his pocket. He runs his fingers over the hand-sized cartridge as he talks to reporters.

Driving the news: Now Marcus, 35, is trying to make Tampa Bay one of the top five gaming ecosystems in the country. And transform the way brand marketing and gaming merge.

Flashback: By high school, Marcus and his twin brother, Malcolm, started making games of their own on their TI83+ graphing calculators and showing classmates how to do the same.

  • "We learned games are just code," Marcus recalls.

When their teacher realized no one was paying attention in class, she wiped the memory on all their calculators.

  • That's when the Howard brothers realized just how influential games were. And how underestimated.

By the numbers:

Marcus hopes to instill a love and appreciation of gaming in future generations as president of the Tampa Association of Gaming, a non-profit that teaches kids in youth programs around the area how to build games.

  • But that's not all ...

What they're doing: While the Howard brothers (Malcolm is in Savannah) and other members of their team all have day jobs in the tech world, they're also running MetArena, a company matching brands of various sizes with games relevant to their product or service.

  • They want to take what Wendy's did with Fortnite and Burger King did with FIFA and bring it to mom-and-pop shops.
  • For the less gaming savvy among us: Wendy's, for example, created a Fortnite avatar that entered the game to destroy a virtual burger joint's freezers in a marketing ploy to promote its commitment to only using fresh beef.

The bottom line: "We're turning every brand into a gaming company. We believe every business should be a gaming company that sells a product or service," Marcus says.

  • Bonus β€” what he's playing: Marcus has been playing the beta version of Knockout City, what he calls "a dodgeball game that plays like NBA Jam and Fortnite."

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