For a while there, it seemed as though BC’s insubstantial tax credits and the immergence of the mobile gaming industry were causing many Vancouver-based video game developers to lose their jobs. Big name developers such as Microsoft, Radical Entertainment, Walt Disney Co., Propoganda Games and Rockstar Games were rather laying off employees or relocating.
But now in 2014, the digital industry fostered by “Hollywood North” is ready to win back game creators.
Earning the trust of Japan and Silicon Valley was the key to Vancouver’s come back. The exodus of some big name console developers made room for external developers to move in, namely from the East—no, not Toronto, but Japan. In the past year, more than a handful of the top Japanese game developing companies took up camp in Vancouver, including Namco Bandai, Capcom and DeNa Co. These foreign gaming giants are claiming that Vancouver is a perfect hub to do domestic and international business.
For one thing, Vancouver is in the same time zone as San Francisco, another location teeming with videogame innovation and talents. That made communicating between headquarters more convenient—while a non-stop flight from Japan to Vancouver was only a mere 10 hours—thus establishing a global network of gamers and developers.
The second is the consolidation of console games and the “freemium” model of mobile games had forced many gaming companies to seek assistance from local developers. Japanese developers aren’t exactly coming in and rehashing their successful products to the North American market, no, in fact, the objective is to take what has been working in the East and build upon it here and market it in a different way to an audience that has their own distinctive gaming culture.
The accessible geographical location and the healthy breeding of skilled gaming contractor have made Vancouver a hotbed for an industry constantly adapting to new technology. At the end of 2013, Entertainment Software Association of Canada reported that there were now 67 video game companies in British Columbia, behind Quebec and Ontario by approximately 30. British Columbia has 5,150 employees, in relation to the 16,500 that work in the country. With earnings of $2.4 billion annually, Canada holds the spot for the third largest video game industry, behind, you guessed it, Japan and the United States. Famous game developer Namco Bandai announced, after establishing The Centre of Digital Media in Vancouver, that it will strive to develop new online social games.
With all that being said, 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.
Yes, that landscape of games is indeed changing. But whether it is on the plasma screen or on the smartphone screen, Vancouver is right in the mix in terms of innovating, developing, and influencing the next phase of gaming.