Develop looks at four companies at the heart of the Quebec development cluster

Quebec: The studios (pt1)

Following on from yesterday’s in-depth focus on the Quebec development region, Develop offers part one of its essential guide to the octet of studios at its centre.


Founded: 2000
Location: Montréal

Best known for its outstanding Wwise audio pipeline solution, Audiokinetic has established itself internationally as the company to beat in terms of video games audio solutions. The Wwise package has become synonymous with the notion of the highest quality solutions available today.

“Our main focus at Audiokinetic is to provide the most complete audio pipeline to game developers. We have been focusing not only on improving our audio solution Wwise but also to offer a variety of plugins and options to the professional game audio creators,” says vice president of sales and marketing Geneviéve Laberge.

“Not only do we consult our international user base, but we also leverage some of the local talent when we need to get some feedback new ideas that we have had. Audio is frequently outsourced and we have some great local talent when it comes to offering services, companies like Game On Audio or Wave Generation among others come to mind.”

Audiokinetic is happy with its position in one of the world’s leading games industries.

“There are numerous incentives to get involved in the industry. The goal of the tax credits is to drive innovation and local employment. Beyond the government help, I think that a few important factors that also make Canada appealing,” Laberge says.

“The cost of living is very reasonable, we offer a great quality of life and a good educational and health care system, there is a real ecosystem present making it possible to actually have a career and allowing you to evolve and a solid and sound economy.”

As Audiokinetic sees it, that positivity is set to continue on into the development community of tomorrow. The company hopes to be there, at the fine edge of the audio pipeline industry.

“With all the entrepreneurial talent, support from our Government and creativity this country has to offer, I certainly think we have what is takes.”

FrIma Studio

Founded: 2003
: 250+
Previous games: Young Thor, Widget’s Odyssey
Currently working on: Unannounced projects

Representing the indie scene that has built up within the stately Québecian development ecosystem, Frima Studio has built up a very impressive momentum since its founding seven years ago.

This doesn’t mean that it has not had many challenges to face down, however.

“Finding video games programmers and artists who have ten to 15 years of experience and who live in Québec is actually quite a challenge,” explains the studio’s CEO Steve Couture.

“We have put together a very great package of social benefits for our employees: chair massage during work hours, flexible work schedule, free bus pass, free time to work on personal creative projects during work hours.
“The challenge is to attract people of good experience into key positions within in our organisation.”

The rapid growth that has come to define the plucky studio seems to be continuing at a fast and unabated pace, and Couture is assured that Québec as a business entity has made this impressive expansion process possible for Frima.

“We have announced, thanks to investment in our training program, that we can hire up to 140 new employees for Frima in the next three years.

“The relationships with the local, provincial and federal governments are excellent. The industry benefits from tax credits for production, tax breaks for R&D, and the availability of the Canadian Media Fund to support creation of brand new Intellectual Properties, some of which Frima has already received.

“This June we received a joint investment of $2m from the Québec Government. Now we want to put forward more IPs and develop our brands.”

And so work continues at Frima, driven on by the momentum of its young back catalogue and a confidence in the work it has yet to complete.

Enzyme Testing Labs

Headcount: 300+

A multi-lingual QA testing company is a great idea in any games market, but when Yan Cyr and Emmanuel Viau set up Enzyme testing labs in French-speaking Canada, they knew well enough that they would be working at an international crossroads were a grasp of several languages sets a company apart from its competition.

“For Enzyme, our growth is from a variety of markets, not just the North American market,” explains Enzyme president and CEO Cyr.

“We see a lot of opportunity in enhancing the quality and effectiveness of testing methodology and technologies, in addition to focusing on value added services that makes us more of a development partner with the developers and publishers we work with around the world.”

And the tailoring of a focus towards digital entertainment within the institutions of the entire Québec province has lead to the region serving Cyr well in the role of a base of operations.

“Québec is great place to do business. The economic and political climate is favourable to the video game industry, there are many schools and institutions that also give us access to a pool of qualified and mostly bilingual resources,” he explains.

“As with any strategic growth industry, the government here facilitates expansion and supports development efforts through a variety of means like training and some tax credit incentives.”

It is that strong regional contribution across the country to the overall powerhouse that is national games development which Cyr sees as reason for the current successes of the Canada.

“Well, I think its quite clear that Canada is a leader in the industry. You just have to look at the number of internationally renowned studios that operate in Québec and Canada and some of the titles that have been produced here are some of the most successful ones in the world.”

THQ Montréal

Founded: 2010
Headcount: Unconfirmed
Currently working on: Unannounced projects

HAVING RECENTLY snapped up Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Désilets from his Ubisoft retirement, new kid in school THQ Montréal has been making waves even before major work at the studio has begun. As a development studio and focused production facility, THQ Montréal is likely to get busy, quickly. General manager Dave Gatchel plans to draw strength for this task from the region of Québec itself.
“There is a large and talented workforce to draw from here, a very strong university system, an attractive and cost-efficient business environment and government sponsored financial incentives,” he says.

“These incentives helped facilitate the design and build-out of our facility. In addition, the existing workforce concentrated on game development has enabled us to generate interest and attract a large number of highly skilled candidates.”

And those incentives clearly motivated THQ to push hard for the new facility to come into being as smoothly as possible.

“Québec believes it is important to preserve its culture; it has implemented some regulations to ensure that key aspects are maintained, primarily focused around the use of French” Gatchel explains.

“In dealing with these regulations our approach has been to fully comply, but to minimise the impact by planning for these differences during the studio set-up.

“By planning and implementing systems to accommodate these regulations up-front, we believe that compliance will become an integrated part of our whole studio culture.”

That effort is most certainly expected to pay off as well.
“THQ Montréal is actually expected to become the largest development entity within the company, expanding THQ’s global network and increasing efficiencies within its studio system.

“I believe that the future for game development in Québec is bright.”

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