Thoughts On Gaming – And The Game Industry – in Canada

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Image Credit: Business Review Canada (www.businessreviewcanada.ca)

Want to know something that might surprise you about gaming in Canada?

Did you know that 58% of Canadians are gamers? And that a growing number of those gamers are Canadian women? Not only is the Canadian game industry maturing with titles being recognized as art, Canadians are now more educated about the industry and the act of gaming as not just child’s play; it’s a profitable industry that brings in billions of dollars into the country.

But what makes the Canadian game industry so special? Also, what pressing issue is the country’s entertainment industry facing?

PROUDLY MADE IN CANADA

Just like how the clothing store Roots proudly exclaims their Made-in-Canada mantra, Canadian game studios are proud to tell the world that many of the best games come from the great white north. From Triple-A titles to indie breakout hits, many of 2012’s best games were indeed made in Canadian game studios. Currently, there are about 348 studios all over the country.

And guess what? Because the Canadian game industry is burgeoning, about 77% of these game studios are likely to hire recent graduates (from various disciplines) by the end of 2013. So if you’re an industry hopeful, remember to go to school, learn as much as you can, and bring as many skills as you can to the table.

You may be asking yourself, why should I work in the game industry when my job pays well now? Well, the average annual salary of an game company employee is $62,000 per year, compared to the average salary of $29,000 that workers earn in other Canadian industries. But if you’re expecting to be working on big triple-A titles throughout your career, you may be caught off guard; an increasing number of game studios have put their resources into creating games for a growing number of platforms including mobile, casual, indie PC, and indie console games.

CANADIANS ARE WELL-INFORMED OF THE GAME INDUSTRY

The Canadian game industry has seen much of its success from a number of factors, most important being that Canadians are well-informed of the industry, its games, and the people and studios who make them. Case in point: while it took a bit longer to happen, The Canadian Videogame Awards have made great strides in sponsors, partners, and media attention so that great Canadian talent and products are celebrated.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people at Greedy Productions – the cast and crew responsible for Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run – The Canadian Videogame Awards not only celebrates Canadian talent, but shows off the amazing work that Canadians have done on the world videogame stage. There’s a reason why we’re ranked the third biggest in the world.

In addition, the Canadian media is educated and accepts the video game industry as a maturing medium. In Canada you’ll find less sensationalist stories about “Alien Nudity in Mass Effect” or “Violent Games Lead to Brutal Murders” compared to other countries and find more stories like this (The Positive Side of Video Games) and this (Video Game Health?) that educate Canadians of the positive aspects of the industry and how it can help improve lives.

BC GAME INDUSTRY WOES

In the coming years, the Quebec and Ontario game industries are expected to grow by a high percentage compared compared to the BC game industry. Ontario is expected to grow by 21% annually, while Quebec will grow at a close 16%; on the other hand, BC has been stagnant over the last few years, with only an estimated expected growth of 10% (if we’re lucky) in the next few years. In fact, a number of BC-based studios with storied histories and franchises closed down in 2012; many of their former employees finding work out east instead of staying in the province.

So then what does Quebec and Ontario have that BC doesn’t? Well for one, the BC game industry receives some financial help from the BC Government, but those tax credits in place (in BC) are not enough for struggling game companies to remain competitive with studios out east or even in the USA. In their BC Jobs Plan, Premier Christie Clark and government don’t include the almost-always profitable video game, film and TV industries. Why?

Because the government believes that the combined film, TV, and game industries already get $285-million credits. Do you know how much money it takes to produce entertainment products? A LOT, and $285-million in tax credits is not enough. The BC game industry is starting to see many of its talent and studios moving out east.

Thankfully, there are a number of  video game and interactive/digital industry associations like the Entertainment Software Association of Canada know of this issue and are fighting for change. Also, more and more independent developers are taking advantage of the Canada Media Fund to help fund their projects.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

As difficult the BC game industry situation is, there’s a lot of growth that’s expected to happen in the overall Canadian game industry in the near future. More and more established companies are opening new studios all over the country, introducing more jobs (of higher salary-per-year than other industries) to Canadians in a tough economy. Not only that, Canada is becoming more established on the world stage with top quality titles like Far Cry 3, Papo & Yo, Mark of the Ninja, and Mass Effect 3 making waves in the industry.

Expect greater things to come from the Candian game industry in the future.

(Source 1:  ESA Canada – Canada’s Entertainment Software Industry in 2011)
(Source 2: ESA Canada – Essential Facts 2012)
(Source 3: News1130 – No Financial Help For Film TV and Video Game Industries)

DISCUSS

What are your thoughts on BC Government’s decision to leave TV, Film, Game industries out of it’s BC Jobs Plan?

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About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming. http://jtmgames.com/

Posted on April 7, 2013, in Opinions And Editorials and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. There’s nothing I love more than articles with tons of actual data. Makes me feel like the writer actually knows something.

    The growth rate may be a bit low for British Columbia (I believe that’s what the BC is for), but how I see it is, that just means there’s the perfect opportunity for someone to come along and take it by storm.

    I’m a big fan of my country, but there’s many aspects about Canada that I feel they are just more mature in. From health care, gun violence, and even as you mentioned video games. From the statistics posted here, and that recent interview, I definitely feel that positive energy coming from the Canadian gaming industry.

  2. Thanks for your your insight IronPatriotNY! The film, TV, and game industry are all fighting for change in BC. There are a number of associations and organizations that are lobbying for it to happen someday soon. In the meantime, BC is still losing a number of its great game talent.

  3. Even though I left BC long ago, I still found this article fascinating! It does seem like the BC games industry might have some struggles ahead, but I think the stats for overall growth in Canada is fantastic! The UK games industry is struggling, for perhaps similar reasons among others, but it seems like the level of acceptance and even celebration of the games industry in Canada is far advanced from what you get in the UK or the US. Kudos to Canada for getting it!

    • First off, good to meet a fellow British Columbian on the wide world of WordPress! As dark as I portray the BC game industry situation (and it’s getting worse actually) the level of acceptance of the medium in Canada has been overwhelming. While there are still a number of people who think that games are still for kids, more and more are getting educated of the industry and its potential for profitability.

      Do you think the UK and US territories will ever fully accept interactive medium to be on the same level as film, books, and other forms of entertainment? Here’s hoping.

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