A tour of the Canadian province's industry stars

British Columbia: The Studios

Following on from yesterday’s in-depth focus on British Columbia, we bring you a guide to the province’s leading studios and trade bodies.

Relic Entertainment Studio

Founded: 1997
Headcount: Unspecified
Previous games: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War,
Company of Heroes
Currently working on: Space Marine

“There’s a really strong history between studios in British Columbia, and whenever something new opens, you can assume that within their first growth period they’ll end up with a good cross-section of people from the city,” Relic’s general manager Jonathan Dowdeswell says.

“There is a lot of support for each other here. Most of the studio leaders know each other, and everyone knows how hard it can be for studios to succeed.”
Not that Relic seems to struggle. Over the past decade or so, the studio has produced some of the most popular and acclaimed RTS titles of the current generation.

“The only real difficulty is that it can be challenging to convince people to just up and move their entire lives to another part of the globe. The industry is established enough that there is a pre-existing acknowledgement of the serious levels of development talent around here, as well as a lot of interesting games to work on,” Dowdeswell says.

“However, sometimes people are just wary of uprooting and moving to Canada from the US or Europe. Often we find someone that fits us culturally, but the move is just a bit too big for them.”

But that won’t hold Relic, or the community in British Columbia, back.
“I believe that we have some of the most talented developers in the world here,” Dowdeswell enthuses.

“I’m certain the games industry here in British Columbia will continue to be a leading light in the future of the interactive entertainment business around the world.”

BC Interactive Task Force

Founded: 2009
Headcount: 30+ firms

“The BC Interactive Task Force is a great example of the community we have here in British Columbia,” says the chair of the development community spokesbody in the region Howard Donaldson.

“The Task Force was formed in 2009 by local leaders of the video game industry to work with the BC government on a long-term plan to support video game development in this province.

“More than 30 BC companies, ranging from large international publishers to small entrepreneurial developers, are represented by the Task Force.”

Donaldson is clearly, and rightly, proud of the work that his sector body has achieved for the games development community in British Columbia. Despite this, he has no intention of taking time out to bask in his achievements to date.

“Going forward, our mandate is to educate, promote and influence the the BC video games development industry with a single, unified voice,” he continues.

“That includes continuing to work with the provincial government to implement and improve the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, promote BC’s industry in partnership with the provincial government, and encourage new investment in the local industry.”

For Donaldson, these factors all contribute to the relevance of Canada as an international games development centre, and high esteem that the country holds from with in this position.

“Canada is already well known for making high quality games across multiple genres. As a country, it provides a great quality of life and is a desirable home and destination for world-class talent,” he explains.

“You only really need to look at all the titles that are made here, and that Canada ranks as the number three video game developer in the world compared to being ninth in the world based on video game sales. It’s something that this country is very proud of.”

EA Canada

Founded: 1983
Headcount: 1,800+
Previous games: Skate series, Need for Speed series
Currently working on: The Sims 3: Late Night

“WE HAVE such a deep history here in BC, going all the way back to Distinctive Software which started in 1982. We have our amazing campus here in Burnaby which is a great place to make games,” says EA Canada vice president Pauline Moller.

“Being in the same time zone as California is an advantage, as is the pleasantness of the region and the strong local talent pool.”

And clearly the overall effect of living within a development community in the verdant wilds of British Columbia is one the folks at EA Canada enjoy.

“There’s always been a very strong sense of community amongst the developers in the town. We know each other and while we compete for the best people and for sales, we also recognise that we all play a role in keeping our industry as healthy and positive as possible.”

Moller is convinced that this has had a hugely affirmative effect on EA.

“Our BC-based business is anchored by our EA Sports business, with blockbuster franchises life FIFA, NHL, Fight Night, and others. It has also been home to the Need For Speed franchise since its inception more than 15 years ago,” she explains.

“Working in BC has allowed us to attract and retain world-class talent to drive world-class titles.”

“We think that the products speak for themselves in relation to our reputation on the global stage. Two of the biggest franchises of all time, FIFA and Need For Speed, were originated in BC and continue to thrive. Our studio is one of the most successful in the entire world and it’s testament to the quality of our products and the amazing talents of our team.”

Ubisoft Vancouver

Founded: 2009
Headcount: 115
Previous games: Academy of Champions, Pure Football
Currently working on: Unannounced

“BRITISH COLUMBIA benefits from unique, tech-savvy talent that Canada boasts and is the birthplace of video games development for Canada,” enthuses Ubisoft Vancouver managing director Bertrand Helias.

“Still be the location of a critical mass of game developers, the province can build on its successes and continue being a leading world force for games development.”

That enthusiasm spreads to the work that this young studio is busy cracking on with as well.

“Vancouver is known for some huge sport franchises so logically, the studio started by working on sport titles – specifically five-a-side soccer games, first Academy of Champions for the Wii and Pure Football for 360 and PS3,” Helias explains.

“These projects managed to bring talent in and to create an Ubisoft culture. Now teams have started tackling different genres and they are facing the challenge of bringing quality and innovation to the next round of products.”

Armed with that rolling start in hand, Helias is determined that his studio will contribute to what he sees as the lofty standing which he believes the Canadian industry holds internationally.

“Canada has always been well-positioned in the creative & technology industries. Canada’s population is concentrated in urban centres,” he says.

“This allows each new generation to grow up with easy access to media and technology making Canadians very tech savvy and therefore some of the world’s best game developers. Canadians are known for being early adopters and can adapt easily to technology transitions.

“Because of this unique reputation, it seems only natural that Canada should be seen as a global leader within the international development community and it is certainly not surprising that Canada is now third in rank for video game development worldwide.”

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