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Vancouver’s Video Game Industry Is Thriving

Mar 20, 2014 By Crissy Campbell

Vancouver’s video game and digital media industries are thriving. The tech and games industry is booming with big companies—such as Facebook and Amazon—opening up offices in Vancouver and smaller studios—such as East Side Games, Black Tusk Studios and Roadhouse Interactive—winning awards and growing and increasing their projects.

Microsoft recently announced that they bought the rights to the Gears of War franchise and will develop it at Black Tusk Studios and, on Tuesday, Roadhouse Interactive announced a new publishing services division.

The visual effects industry is also thriving. In February, Sony Picture Imageworks announced that they are expanding their Vancouver studio, opening another 16,000 square feet of studio space. And George Luca’s Industrial Light & Magic announced Monday that they are setting up permanent shop in Vancouver.

According to a Techvibes,

Vancouver alone has more than 800 companies in digital film, animation and visual effects, video games, mobile content and applications, and e-learning. These companies are generating $3 billion in revenue annually.

This is good news for a sector that, for while, looked as if it was on the decline. Radical Entertainment closed two years ago. EA shut down two of its studios, PopCap and Quicklime, last spring. And then Pixar shut down their Vancouver studio back in October.

Despite these bad-news stories, Vancouver’s digital media industry is doing better than ever. A large part of this growth is due to Japanese companies opening up studios in Vancouver. A recent Globe and Mail article points out:

Over the past few years, at least a half-dozen of Japan’s largest video game companies have flocked to Vancouver – including Pac-Man-maker Namco Bandai, Street Fighter-creator Capcom, Sega (of Sonic the Hedgehog) and DeNA Co. Ltd., which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The companies are drawn to the talent spun out of Vancouver’s "Hollywood North" digital media industry.

Another reason that Vancouver’s game industry is growing is due to the popularity of mobile, social and freemium model games. Now, instead of working like crazy on a game and then shipping it out, developers are constantly building and improving on games to keep people playing and engaged.

Vancouver’s location is also key to the industry’s growth. Vancouver is close to both Silicon Valley and Japan, making it easy for employees at their headquarters in Japan and San Francisco to visit the Vancouver studios. The Globe and Mail article states:

Location is also key: Most of these Japanese firms have regional headquarters in San Francisco. Vancouver, in the same Pacific time zone, is only a short flight from Tokyo – making it an ideal, additional beachhead in North America.

Canada also has world-class education programs in technology, digital media and design. Vancouver Film School offers programs in 3D Animation and Visual Effects, Digital Design and Game Design. Ryerson has a new Master of Digital Media program, University of Waterloo Stratford has a Master of Digital Experience Innovation program and we have the Master of Digital Media program here at the Centre for Digital Media.

All of these programs are graduating students that have skills that are in high demand, so companies are opening up studios in Vancouver to take advantage of the rich pools of talent.

This Techvibes article sums up Canada’s video game industry:

Videogames in Canada are neither a dying art nor a dying industry. Gamers want more and developers want to create more. Studios, both local and international, are constantly seeking talented people with video game design and development, 3D modeling, animation, computer graphics background to help shape the future of video games.

Read More

Techvibes: BC's Tech Talent and Livability Spurring Industry Growth

The Globe and Mail: Vancouver Reboots into Video Game Developer Central

Techvibes: Game On In Vancouver: Videogame Industry Finds Comfort In Hollywood North