CANADA RISING: Québec

CANADA RISING: Québec

By Stuart Richardson

November 10th 2010 at 8:00AM

A trip to Canada's largest province and development hub

With around 80 per cent of its population speaking French as their first language, the large Canadian province of Québec is a home away from home for all those of a Gallic sensibility around the world.

Officially recognised as a nation within a unified Canada, the region also hosts an impressive mix of developers, publishers and tech firms thanks to its strong levels of sector support. In a country where games development thrives, Québec represents perhaps one of the most cutting-edge regions for industry incentives in the world.

“We have a multimedia tax credit of around 37.5 per cent of salaries,” explains CEO of Funcom Games Canada Miguel Caron.

“R&D tax credit can go as high as 75 per cent of salaries. From that, Montréal has become the sixth-largest games developer in the world.”

General manager of THQ Montréal Dave Gatchel highlights the volume of industry professionals entering the region through educational routes and international recruitment as another cause of its development strength.

“There is a large and talented workforce to draw from, a very strong university system, an attractive and cost efficient business environment, and government sponsored financial incentives,” he says.

“For us the most important factor is the talent, and Québec has great talent. The financial incentives are also important considerations; however, we are in the business of making great games, which makes acquiring talent our top priority.”

The pillars of support and staff also seem to stand upon a great deal of public and business goodwill, as well as aid for the video games sector.

LEADER OF THE PACK

“The sense of community extends beyond our industry and permeates other sectors as well,” Gatchel agrees.
“It encompasses private and public organisations, which might not be unique, but it is certainly uncommon when you look at similar hubs worldwide.”

In Québec, of course, that community also extends to the wide variety of technology, tools and service firms which back up and fill out the development scene in the region, producing an almost entirely self-sufficient centre of video games production.

Bruce Stamm, VP of QA at Babel Media, jokes about the ease with which his firm does business there within that arrangement.

“The only challenge is getting people to relocate to Montréal because of our cold winters,” he says, laughing.

“The amount of red tape is minimal and the Québec government has been extremely helpful in both the establishment of our studio as well as aiding us with multiple business expansions.”

Ties with local education is also just as important for the sector services industry as for the development studios in terms of maintaining the quality of the workforce.

“We all realise that it is important to get involved in order to make sure we get properly trained resources,” states Audiokinetic’s VP of sales and marketing Geneviève Laberge.

“With more and more companies opening offices and studios in Montréal, this will continue to be important. I do think that more experienced people should get involved with the schools and universities to either teach or help build curricula that match what companies need from employees today.”

UNDER PRESSURE

It has not escaped the attention of those studios and companies that have established themselves in Québec, however, that the region has over 7,000 working developers, and is rapidly approaching what, elsewhere in the world, would be considered critical mass for an industry.

“With the addition of three new major studios in Funcom, THQ and Warner Brothers in the last year or so, people might think that this should be the end,” says Eidos Montréal GM Stephane D’Astous.

“But we think a little differently. The ecosystem is delicate, but studios will find a way to grow and prosper. The increasing international recruitment of talent and the alignment with local schools will definitely help us to remediate this great challenge.”

Nicolas Rioux, MD of Ubisoft Québec, is confident that these issues will not effect the overall reputation and output of the region or the country as a whole.

“It’s quite impressive for the country to be ranked in the top three countries in the world with a pool of somewhere around 35m people. The ratio of game developers per capita across the country is incredibly high, it’s striking,” he says.

“Today we know we have all the government support we need on both the provincial and the federal levels, and we hope to have the level of talent to sustain the level of quality and industry recognition that we currently have.

“We are all judged on our final product.”