The Vancouver video game business began organically. Distinctive Software Inc. was founded in the early 1980s and scored success, and in 1991 was bought by Electronic Arts. From this foundation, about 60 companies – employing 6,000 or so people – now call the city home, according to numbers from an industry association report published in March.
Video games aren't a particularly big business, with about $1.7-billion in annual revenue in Canada, a fraction of what Royal Bank of Canada or Research In Motion Ltd. generate. However, the industry captures the imagination of politicians, who see high-paid, high-tech jobs. Ontario has been specifically inspired by the “creative cities” thesis of Richard Florida, a University of Toronto professor and consultant to Queen's Park.
The success of Vancouver in the 1990s attracted attention elsewhere. Like Ontario today, Quebec in 1996 introduced significant subsidies to spark growth and, with the tax breaks, lured Ubisoft in 1997. Electronic Arts arrived in 2004. There are now about 4,400 people working in the business at more than 40 firms in the Montreal area. Quebec City has another 600 people at five companies. Ubisoft, with 2,200 employees in the province, mostly in Montreal, plans to add another 800 in the next four years.
Toronto, even with specialized video game education at colleges like Humber and Seneca, has only about 1,300 people working in the business, though at more companies, 65. A plane ticket to Vancouver, Montreal or California after graduation in Toronto isn't unusual.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Videogame Production in Canada
The Globe and Mail has an interesting article about the state of the videogame business in Canada, including a detailed look at the Ontario government's actions to bring a game publisher to Toronto.