Here, over 170 video games development studios produce top-flight games that are known and loved the world over, generating billions in annual revenue and employing thousands of people in Vancouver. The talent pool serving this industry is a testament to Vancouver’s innovation and next-generation thinking, consisting of highly technical and creative skillsets as well as acute business savvy.
Vancouver’s video games innovators have built on the legacy started by pioneer Don Mattrick (of Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Distinctive fame) in the 1980s. Keeping up with trends and new technology, the industry has undergone major shifts in recent years. Traditional AAA console games are still popular, but technological advancements have made way for mobile games development to grow and attract a new generation of developers and users. Plus, during the pandemic, the video games industry experienced exponential growth, sparked by more people seeking at-home entertainment (see PwC’s report “Power shifts: Altering the dynamics of the E&M industry” for details).
A special shout-out goes to esports, a direct product of the $152 billion global video games market. While it overlaps with the video games industry, esports’ competitive sporting characteristics distinguish it as a standalone entity. In Vancouver and BC, the esports ecosystem is young, with most local esports companies founded post-2010. However, notable investments have been made in the industry over the past five years, such as The Gaming Stadium, the first purpose-built esports arena in Canada; Battlefy, a go-to event platform for Nintendo, EA and other major video games producers; and The Home Key, a first-of-its-kind esports training facility and coworking space. Read more in Vancouver Economic Commission’s Vancouver Esports Strategy.
Why the buzz for video games in Vancouver?
Some of the world’s top technology, gaming companies and gaming conferences call Vancouver home:
- Vancouver is home to an ever-increasing concentration of video games talent, foreign investment and companies, including Electronic Arts (EA), Nintendo, Microsoft Studios, Take 2 Interactive, Relic Entertainment/SEGA, Klei Entertainment, United Front Games and Kabam.
- Many global video games companies continue to grow their Vancouver footprint. EA, for example, has announced a new expansion office in False Creek Flats.
- Vancouver is home to Vu, Canada’s largest VR/AR/MR conference, which attracts over 5,000 industry professionals and attendees.
The city doesn’t just produce games, it also stars in one:
- While Vancouver doesn’t often play itself in films and TV shows, the city takes a starring role in new video game Backbone, a post-noir story set in a dystopian Vancouver populated by animals.
Vancouver’s reputation as a smart and beautiful city attracts video games developers in droves:
- Our city is renowned for first-rate infrastructure, including 2.3 million square feet (213,677 square metres) of green, transit-connected downtown.
- Our collaborative and close-knit environment is naturally fostered by the city’s compact core.
- Our business-friendly climate and attractive tax incentives are supported by the cachet that comes with having a Vancouver-based company address.
- Vancouver offers an unparalleled and outstanding quality of life for video games developers and other business professionals. We call it the “West Coast lifestyle”.
These assets combine to produce award-winning video games like FIFA 17, NHL 16, Dead Rising 3, Company of Heroes 2, Don’t Starve, Luigi’s Mansion and Gears of War 4.
Incentives for Vancouver video games developers
Backed by strong government support, incentives have significantly contributed to the rapid growth of Vancouver’s video games industry:
- BC Interactive Digital Media Credit | 17.5% refundable credit on qualified BC labour expenditures for interactive digital media.
- National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) | Delivered by a network of 400 professionals in more than 100 communities across Canada. Supports the needs of SMEs engaged in innovative or technology-driven activities by providing advisory services, networking and linkages, as well as non-repayable financial assistance.
- Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program | Federal tax incentive encouraging R&D in Canada. Non-Canadian companies are eligible to receive tax credits of 15 percent on qualified expenditures, while Canadian companies receive enhanced credits. Canadian and non-Canadian corporations that conduct R&D in BC can also benefit from a 10 percent provincial tax credit.
- BC Renaissance Capital Fund | BC government initiative that supports early-stage ventures.
- Venture capital tax credits | Offered by the BC government, with 30 percent credit offered to resident investors who provide venture capital to small businesses conducting R&D on proprietary technologies and interactive digital media products. Investment must be made through a venture capital corporation or directly to an eligible business corporation.
Video games are just one part of Vancouver’s massive Digital Entertainment and Interactive ecosystem. There’s also virtual, augmented and mixed reality, VFX and animation, and film and TV production. Keep reading to learn about the Digital Entertainment and Interactive industry.