Vancouver's video game industry has been bleeding talent for several months now, but that trend appears to have reversed with the...see more
Vancouver's video game industry has been bleeding talent for several months now, but that trend appears to have reversed with the arrival of Black Tusk Studios.
Radical Entertainment and Rockstar Games both shuttered their Vancouver digs over the summer. But Microsoft Studios' Black Tusk operation, which will focus on Triple A games—the video game equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster—should restore the city's reputation as a hub for game development in Canada.
"We are talking big budget, big team, long development timeline and very, very big projects that take a number of years to get through," studio manager Mike Crump told The Province.
The studio will be located in Vancouver's trendy and upscale Yaletown neighbourhood, specifically on the corner of Robson and Cambie.
Black Tusk Studios will employ 50 people off the bat, with plans to double that number to 100 as soon as possible. Crump says the studio is looking as "exponential growth" throughout 2013.
"We believe in Vancouver very strongly and that is one of the key things we want to get out there," he told the daily newspaper. "Some of the world's biggest game franchises were created here and that is not going to change going forward."
The drain on Vancouver’s video game industry is quickly turning into a flood.see more
The drain on Vancouver’s video game industry is quickly turning into a flood.
Four rounds of layoffs in as many weeks isn’t quite game over for local game developers, but their options are slimming — and fast.
“If studios are shutting down and others are scaling back, more and more people have fewer options,” said Matt Toner, a local game developer.
Toner will be seeking a provincial NDP nomination in the next election, a campaign largely based on turning around a declining local video game industry.
“Since 2009, it’s been a pretty steady slide downward,” Toner said.
The latest casualty are the staff at Microsoft Game Studios. Two teams were dumped with the closure of a pair of major projects Wednesday, flight simulator ‘Microsoft Flight,’ and ‘Project Columbia,’ a kids game developed for the controller-free Kinect.
The Yaletown-based studio declined to comment, however Toner believes 35 jobs were lost. A Microsoft spokesperson said the decision to cancel the projects is part of the “natural ebb and flow of our portfolio management,” adding they do not discuss layoffs.
On June 28, 89 jobs were axed when Activision shuttered Vancouver’s Radical Entertainment, a Vancouver-based game developer since 1991.
Shortly after, Rockstar cut 35 jobs when the Max Payne series developer pulled out of Vancouver, opting for a more tax-friendly location in Ontario.
Last week, Capcom Vancouver cut 20 jobs, adding into recent cutbacks at Electronic Arts and Ubisoft’s relocation to Toronto.
“The crisis isn’t that Microsoft laid off 20 or 30 people” Toner said, “The crisis is there’s no response to keep the talent here.”
This week, Dennis Chenard, director of industry relations at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, was quoted saying the industry is still very strong locally. He added that major console systems such as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 may be fading out, and suggested employment prospects will remain — but demand has shifted into visual effects in television and film.
But Toner said a competitive tax environment would save the industry locally, preventing a “drag and drop” restructuring of talent to the east coast.
Ontario offers a tax credit that covers 37.5 per cent of labour costs. B.C. credits 17.5 per cent of labour costs.
“BC doesn’t have to match out east, but they should try to come a bit close so that all the other factors that make BC a wonderful place can kick in.”SOURCE: The Province Newspaper (Online), July 26 2012. Jeff Green