By Paul Hunter
Canada's robust video game industry is making moves again to further strengthen its position as a world class leader for top development talent and innovation, according to the Ontario Technology Corridor. Leading the charge is the province of Ontario which has committed $130 million to new gaming infrastructure in 2010.
A confluence of factors in Ontario, including a large pool of talented developers, low-risk business environment, and generous tax incentives has helped push Canada past the UK as the third largest development community in the world, the group representing technology innovators spanning the Greater Toronto area, Ottawa region, Waterloo region, city of London and the Niagara region, says. Canada now trails only Japan and the United States in terms of total video game development head count.
A major win for the province came last year when Ubisoft announced a joint investment with the Province of Ontario to open up Ubisoft Toronto, a development studio that is currently working on a new Splinter Cell game and an unannounced AAA-title.
The recently announced gaming infrastructure investments in the Ontario Technology Corridor includes a $107 million dollar digital media centre for Ontario companies, called The Communitech Hub, which opened earlier this summer in Kitchener, Ontario. The 30,000 square foot hub offers dedicated space to support the rapid growth of digital media research and commercialization of innovation. The Province of Ontario supported the development of the hub with a $26.4 million investment, with the rest coming from other levels of government and private investors.
Earlier this month, Google announced it secured two floors in the Hub, virtually doubling its Waterloo Region staff from 70 employees to 140.
This fall the University of Waterloo's Stratford Institute for digital media will welcome its first class, fostering cross-disciplinary and cross sector collaboration in the region's digital media industry. The $20 million institute received half of its funding from the Province of Ontario, with the remainder being invested by the City of Stratford.
Earlier this year a study from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada found that more than 14,000 people are now directly employed across Canada by more than 247 video game development companies. That head count is strictly looking at employees working in game studios and doesn't encompass the larger industry which includes outsourced marketing/public relations, retail and transportation.
Executives from the Ontario Technology Corridor recently returned from the Game Developers Conference (GDC Europe 2010) in Cologne where they showed digital entertainment companies the many benefits of expanding or relocating their operations in Ontario.
"Our job now is to add to our tremendous home-grown crop of companies and help demonstrate that Ontario is a prime destination in North America for gaming investments," said Gerry Pisarzowski, vice president of business development for the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, an Ontario Technology Corridor partner.
Ontario is home to many large developers including Ubisoft Toronto, Capcom (mobile division), Koei Canada, Big Blue Bubble, Digital Extremes, Electronic Arts, and Silicon Knights, as well a number of successful indie developers such as Capybara Games, Metanet Software, Playbrains and Queasy Games.