Canada’s Video Game Industry Powers its Tech Scene

Canada’s video game industry is playing an integral role when it comes to the country’s exploding technology sector.

A new study called Canada’s Video Game Industry in 2017 from Nordicity and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) shows that the nearly 600 active video game studios in Canada have generated thousands of jobs and billions in income, all while fostering technological growth and innovation in the industry.

All of those video game studios have created 21,700 direct full-time jobs and contributed $3.7 billion to Canada’s GDP, a 24 per cent increase from two years ago. These studios also produced 18,900 indirect full-time jobs, accounting for over 40,000 careers in total. The average salary for a job in Canada’s video game industry is $77,300 a year

“As we’re seeing this sector grow and evolve with new technologies and trends, it’s also playing a central role within a critical innovation ecosystem,” said Jayson Hilchie, ESAC’s president and CEO.

The Canadian video game industry continues to produce AAA games and franchises. Over 2,100 projects were completed in Canada last year, and that total will only grow as more and more talent come to Canada and find their footing. Companies like Ubisoft have planned to invest more than $780 million over the next 10 years and hire more than 1,000 new employees.

The sector in Canada is quite diverse, as a slew of massive international brands operate locations in Canada, as well as local independent publishers carving their own path into the sector. Behemoths like Rockstar and Electronic Arts have Canadian outposts, but local startups like Bioware have found international fame, along with smaller publishers like Hinterland Games or Capybara Games.

In terms of overall sizes of the game studios, 469 of the 596 total companies have less than 25 employees, meaning independent game creators dominate the space. This leads to 83 per cent of all game companies in Canada being owned by Canadians themselves.

Still, the emergence of massive international studios has resulted in just 14 per cent of all employment in the industry in Canadian-owned companies. This means 86 per cent of all Canadians working in the video game sector are employed by international companies.

Innovation is also at the forefront of the industry within Canada. Half of all companies indicated they created at least one process innovation in 2017.

Looking at innovation within video game companies.
Looking at innovation within video game companies.

Quebec boasts the most video game companies, with 198 calling the province home, a 42 per cent increase from 2015. Ontario and British Columbia sit second and third with 171 and 152 companies respectively.

In case there are questions revolving around who actually plays all the products these studios are creating, 37 per cent of Canadians self-identify as gamers. However, the ESAC defined a gamer as someone who plays a game once every four weeks (mobile, console, educational or otherwise) and found that close to 19 million Canadians are in fact gamers, or in other terms, just over half of the population.

As technology grows and more studios open up, the possibilities of games and gaming equipment will only grow. Organizations like Sick Kids in Toronto already use VR to push the boundaries of what is possible for their patients, and as more AR and MR capabilities become apparent, the video game industry will only expand.