Gaming is a $3 billion industry in Canada. The sector has seen successful titles from independent studios and the local outposts of multinational corporations alike. But while there are plenty of players in the space already, there’s always room for more, says Carly Beath. “The next big thing could come from a huge, established company, but it also could come from two people building a really wonderful game out of their apartment,” points out the senior operations manager for trade organization Interactive Ontario.
Digital media in the province is having a moment. The medium—which includes gaming, interactive educational products, and more—is well suited to the needs of other sectors. Beath points to healthcare and hardware companies who are looking to support their core offerings with smart, well-produced media assets. “Lots of big brands [are] here, and that means advertisers who want to do digital campaigns,” she adds.
Studios and agencies also benefit from the unique model of the medium. “Digital media companies are able to build fan bases and market research subjects before their products come out,” notes Beath. “Or [if] they have a track record of really great projects in the past, people will check out what they’re doing.” That allows studios to get immediate feedback from their fans and modify their offerings accordingly.
The quality of the talent and the strength of the ecosystem also help. “We have good educational programs here [and] really creative people,” says Beath. And while there are plenty of baby-faced graphic designers and game developers, the industry’s workforce actually varies significantly in terms of age and experience. “We get a lot of people who have expertise [and] have been around for a while,” says Beath. “They’re very willing to share their knowledge with younger people coming up.”
Companies often work together too. “People are really collaborative in this industry,” says Beath. “I don’t think you see [that] in a lot of other industries, the same way you see in digital media.”
The sector also receives plenty of support from the government, something that Interactive Ontario’s lobbying efforts seeks to maintain. Beath points to programs like the province’s Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, as well as programs run by the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Canada Media Fund.
Does a sector that needs so much help to survive deserve a place in the economy? Beath says the money is being put to good use. Companies “use the support available from the government to get off the ground, and then they’re able to fly on their own,” she insists. A lot of the names on the list of funding recipients change from year to year, she notes. “It means they’ve taken the money they’ve received and then gone on to build a company and don’t need it anymore.”
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