DigiBC hosted a video game leadership dinner on June 18th at Blue Water Café. Sponsored by PWC, the event was an opportunity to have some direct conversation about the state of the industry and what we, as the most significant stakeholders, can do to improve our business environments. In attendance were more than 20 studios, employing 5,000+ employees. In order to set the tone for the discussion and ensure our time together was well utilized, DigiBC sent out a pre-dinner survey to industry CEOs. The results were quite consistent and showed that while the industry has some serious concerns, overall, we remain somewhat optimistic as to the future of video game creation in British Columbia.
Studio heads were also asked to rank the challenges they are facing in the industry in B.C. Not surprisingly, low tax incentives relative to other Canadian jurisdictions was the primary challenge, followed by access to talent and rising business and infra-structure costs in B.C. Regional development, retaining IP in B.C., and bridge financing were also of concern.
Lastly, studio heads were asked to share what gave B.C. a competitive advantage, if we do in fact have a competitive advantage.
- A long-established gaming industry
- Where we live is where people vacation, people want to move here.
- There is some legacy/critical mass here for games in particular, but we have squandered that a bit. With the cost of living and relatively low wages, it is now difficult to say that there is a competitive advantage for BC.
- It is a wonderful place to live, (both Canada and the West Coast).
- Weak currency. Strong talent pool.
- Regional appeal and talent pool.
- The existing talent pool
- Attractive to international candidates - livable city, health care, etc. Reputation for having best in class existing talent and a good deal of choice of studios/Corp cultures for incoming talent.
- Having a video game 'micro-climate' with a track record of success and a 'big gorilla' in Electronic Arts, which brings talent into the Province.
- Canada has a great brand around the world for fairness and creativity. This is a great place to do business, and BC is the best place for basing international partnerships. I'm not sure we hold competitive advantages like we once did, our presence in the games industry is slipping. If we formed a strong "entertainment" industry focus that integrated games, animation, VFX... then we would have a unique position of talent, training, and creativity. We sell ourselves as a "creative" shop... this has been our competitive advantage.
- Attractive place to live, beautiful & safe reputation, access to western seaboard & Asian gateway.
- We have a strong talent pool from decades of video game success.
- Canada and calm climate
Additionally, we asked what competitive advantage we would like to have in B.C.
- Incentive to grow being priority 1.
- Better cost of living ratio for staff. Our people are paid well nationally, but housing and childcare create large economic burdens.
- Cost of living and tax advantages
The final question asked if there was anything studios wanted to share that was not yet asked. Two strong answers from this question that got discussed further in the dialogue were:
“Any inbound investment to Canada would, on purely economic reasons NOT invest in B.C. This is crazy and ought to be remedied to make us the playing field level. Also, access to capital for game companies is a real issue. There are not many providers in the market who play in this space.”
“We have an amazing opportunity in a growing international industry... yet on our current trend we will see fewer people working in our industry in BC in 2020 than in 2019. We do not have an internationally competitive agenda... as a local industry we are not growing fast enough, others are taking our place. Not one international industry event here for gaming, non-competitive incentive infrastructure for business, lack of marketing talent, limited capital sources. As players in this industry, we need to benchmark ourselves against the best in the world, and this is what I don't see prevalent in our BC industry right now.”
All in all, a great evening (thank you PWC and Ian Heine), and DigiBC now has its work cut out! The information shared at this event will help guide our government relations work going forward to the next B.C. budget.