MONTREAL — Canada’s game industry has never been stronger, based on a report today from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.
The organizers of MIGS 15 paid my way to Montreal. Our coverage remains objective.
Canada has 472 active game studios based on the 2015 survey, up 143 from 2013. These companies contribute $3 billion to the Canadian gross domestic product, counting both direct, indirect, and induced jobs (those created by the industry’s own business). That’s up 31 percent from 2013. The companies employ 20,400 full-time employees, up 24 percent from two years ago, said Jayson Hilchie, president and chief executive of the ESAC.
“We have an industry that is growing in studios, employment, and diversity,” Hilchie said.
Much of the growth in sheer numbers of studios comes from “microstudios,” or game companies that have four or fewer people. But 89 percent of the jobs are part of 24 large companies that have more than 100 employees each. The Canadian game trade group made the announcement at the MIGS 15 video game conference today in Montreal.
On the positive and negative side for Canada, 85 percent of the companies are Canadian-owned. But 88 percent of all workers are in foreign-owned studios, such as Ubisoft, the France-based company with a huge presence in Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto.
Thanks to Ubisoft, Canada is known for its console games, and for a particular focus. But it also has a multi-dimensional game economy that has kept up with the changing times of the game business.
About 66 percent of game companies are working on action and adventure titles. But 40 percent working on games in three to five genres. About 1,280 projects were completed in 2014, up 41 percent. About 65 percent were mobile games, compared to 43 percent in 2013.
Just 13 percent of the projects were console games, with an average budget of $17 million per console game. Of the 166 console projects, the average game took 485 days and a team of 54 people to complete. That added up to 84 percent of all production spending in Canada.
At the same time, 70 percent of companies are working on mobile projects, and 16 percent are working on virtual reality projects. Digital sales are up dramatically from 2013. About 90 percent of the games are exported, mostly to the U.S. But the Asia-Pacific region accounted for the biggest increase in consumption of Canadian games.
The average Canadian job growth in the past two years was 1.7 percent. So the 24 percent growth from 2013 is a big deal, and that’s why the Canadian government has extended tax breaks in four major regions, Hilchie said. If you count 16,100 more indirect and induced jobs, the total number of jobs created by the Canadian game industry is 36,500.
The U.S. has 42,500 full-time employees in the game industry, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has 9,400 game industry jobs.
The average wages for the Canadian game employee is $71,300 (in Canadian currency). The average age of the worker is 31, 10 years younger than the average Canadian employee. Women hold just 16 percent of the jobs in the Canadian game business. Hilchie said his group is exploring ways to boost that percentage. Part of the problem is 79 percent of the jobs are creative and technical, where women are historically underrepresented in these categories.
About 9 percent of the employees come from abroad, and 13 percent are temporary foreign workers. About a third of those workers go on to become permanent residents.
Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia account for 82 percent of Canada’s jobs. The largest percentage is in Quebec.