FRENCH PUBLISHER and developer Ubisoft was the original connoisseur of the Canadian games industry.
Helping to kick-start the sector back in 1997 in Quebec, when it was still known as part of the ‘multimedia and software’ market, Ubisoft has expanded its infrastructure and influence to three other cities in Canada since its arrival.
Employing around 2,700 employees in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver, it is at the forefront of the country’s development output and it has plans to continue growing and cementing its position as a key player.
Despite the credit crunch, debt crisis and changes in consumer purchase trends, Ubisoft Montreal, which houses more than 2,100 of the company’s Canadian workforce, is setting out on a plan of continued growth.
“Ubisoft Montreal is focusing on the future,” says Yannis Mallat.
“Our industry is undergoing deep changes and Ubisoft Montreal is setting up for another 15 years of video game making. There is no doubt that the next few years will be immensely interesting.”
The Toronto branch is also planning on expanding to 800 employees and ramping up its production on triple-A titles, which currently include Splinter Cell and an unannounced project.
The problems facing triple-A titles are clearly not a concern for Ubisoft execs, who claim to be excited about the challenges they may face.
“Each new innovation in the video game industry opens up a world of possibilities for game developers and this is where we at Ubisoft Toronto see the most exciting opportunities,” says MD Jade Raymond.
“It’s a fantastic time to be a game developer and changing the way people are interacting with entertainment.”
Ubisoft puts the continued growth of the Canadian industry down not just to its very generous tax breaks, but the large talent pool it has created.
Vancouver MD Bertrand Helias says: “It is important to mention that while tax credit programs are a great help in the evolution of the industry, none of it would be feasible without the creativity, talent and passion of the local workforce.”
The publishing giant supports many institutions, such as the University of Montreal and the national school of interactive entertainment. The Montreal branch also hosts an annual summer development camp for teenagers.
LACK OF EXPERIENCE
But despite an enviously large talent pool of young developers, Mallat believes veterans are what the industry in Canada lacks.
“For the industry to evolve and grow as it has in the past, all that new talent needs to benefit from the counsel of more experienced creators. Developers with five to ten years of experience are definitely harder to come by.”
Ubisoft’s Quebec City GM Nicolas Rioux agrees, saying: “Our main problem is related to senior or very specialised talents. It is somewhat difficult to find very experienced people here in Quebec, so sometimes we have to hire people from outside of the province and Canada, according to each project’s needs.”
The publishing giant is adamant Canada is still the place to be and will continue to grow with the help of tax breaks and its large young talent base, which will eventually grow into the veterans they and the rest of the industry crave.
Rioux adds: “As a powerhouse in game development, Canada continues to lead growth globally with development excellence and innovation in exciting new areas.”