Ontario: The studios

Ontario: The studios

By Stuart Richardson

November 9th 2010 at 8:00AM

Develop looks at four development outfits driving the region forward

Following on from yesterday's in-depth focus on the Ontario development cluster, Develop offers the essential guide to the quartet of studios at its forefront.

Ubisoft Toronto


Founded: 2009
Headcount: 40+
Previous games: N/A
Currently working on: Untitled Splinter Cell sequel

“The Government of Ontario has been very clear in its desire to develop this growing sector,” says Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond.

“There are some great companies already established here in Ontario: Bedlam Games, Silicon Knights, Digital Extremes, smaller mobile studios, and indie studios. The diversity of studios makes the province a great place where an even stronger community will most likely develop.”

And continuing development is exactly what Raymond has in mind, both for the new Ubisoft studio as well as for the city of Toronto in which it has been established.

“Our goal is to reach 800 employees by 2019. We are convinced that there is very strong talent in Toronto, and that Ontarians currently working for studios in other cities will be interested in coming back,” she says.

Raymond is assured, and Ubisoft Toronto knows the direction in which it wants to be heading.

“The message from the Government of Ontario this year has been clear. They believe in this industry, they want it to grow.”

www.ubi.com

 


Waggware

Founded: 2000
Headcount: 70+

Waggware has ben recuiting talented folk to the burgeoning Canadian IT industry for a decade now, and has significant experience and understanding of the fluctuations of the games development industry.

“The Ontario government has created extremely aggressive tax incentives to encourage growth in all areas of interactive media, including games. Companies are relocating and being founded in the region. In recruitment, we see this as being a significant growth opportunity,” says accounts representitve Tanya Lunshof.

“Ontario does face a challenge competing with the more well established gaming communities in Montréal and Vancouver for talent. With more and more gaming companies arriving in Toronto we’re hoping the developers that had to relocate to these areas to get work will start coming back to Ontario and filling the talent gap.”

This understanding has also made those at Waggware acutely aware of the difficulties that the development industry faces today, and the potential solutions that exist for them.

“It’s always challenging to find experienced senior talent such as architects. They are a limited resource and many are happy with their existing roles. Ontario has a smaller pool of existing talent due to its stage of growth as a game development area, but that also means it is an area of opportunity for those who have skills and ambition to come and make their mark,” Lunshof explains.

“We are very bullish on the opportunities for games development in Ontario. The provincial government has created large incentives for growing the sector and we have a number of post-secondary institutions offering educational packages that will help create new talent for the industry. Major companies are already opening offices here, and we see that trend accelerating.”

www.waggware.com

Big Blue Bubble Games


Founded: 2004
Headcount: 55+
Previous games: Destroy All Humans!,
Red Faction II (mobile)
Currently working on: Untitled 3DS project

Representing one of the substantial and healthy indie scene studios in Ontario, Big Blue Bubble has been producing a vast and exciting array of material for mobile, iOS, PC, GBA and Facebook since its founding in 2004. That rolling development has produced a positive perspective among those at the studio.

“We expect our studio to roughly double in size in the next two years, and I can see a similar trend in studios we work with,” says CEO Damir Slogar.

“The amount of change in the industry in the last year or so – with new business models, new platforms, boom of social gaming and the like – is unprecedented, so the type of industry we have in Ontario can only benefit from these changes as we will be able to adapt very fast.”

Slogar has an understanding of the kind of community his studio relies on for this confident outlook.

“Developers that focus on the technology aspect can leverage the federal R&D tax credit. There are many other initiatives and funds that are geared towards specific aspects of game development.”

www.bigbluebubble.com

Bedlam Games


Founded: 2006
Headcount: 60+
Previous games: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ
Currently working on:
Unannounced project

Founded by former Rockstar Toronto developers back in 2006, the staff at Bedlam Games boast a level of experience that many triple-A studios would envy.

“Bedlam is a transmedia-focused developer, and since Ontario is a film and television development hub, we will grow in the coming years,” states CEO Trevor Fencott.

“We work actively with other media.  One example of this is one of our upcoming projects, Neuromancer, based on the William Gibson novel. The idea is to work with the filmmakers from the beginning to make sure the work is as awesome as possible.”

The reputation of Canadian development abroad is something that matters a great deal to Fencott and Bedlam Games.

“Canadians pay high taxes and invest public money into a world-class educational infrastructure. Our government believes in supporting the transition to a digital economy rather than propping up an antiquated manufacturing one.

“I suppose that is what people mean by a ‘subsidy culture’, although a ‘forward-thinking investment culture’ might be a more appropriate phrase.”

www.bedlamgames.com