More and more games developers leaving the US for Canada

Since early days of the video game, their development and production has been centred on two main areas, the west coast of the USA and Japan. But now a new player is emerging, and lots of companies are taking note and moving their teams over.

Montreal, Quebec is the place they are all heading, and according to Invest Quebec, the city now boasts that 86 companies and 8,236 jobs have migrated to Canada, and the number is still rising. The reason for this dramatic shift is the economic incentives being offered by the Quebec government. They subsidise a massive 37.5% of the company’s payroll in a refundable tax credit. In simple terms, for ever dollar the companies pay their staff, they can claim back 37.5 cents from the Government. If the company is also producing a French version of the game, there are even more incentives available.

With offers as attractive as this, it is no wonder that Ubisoft, THQ, Activision-Blizzard and Electronic arts now have major operations in Quebec, and more are sure to follow.

The programme doesn’t come cheap for Quebec, last year the government spent $100 million on the project, up $17 million from 2009. The programme first begun in 1996, after a similar one directed at the film industry began a year earlier, in efforts to boost Quebec’s economy. Now, 15 years later, the project is starting to pay off.

The big players in the city are Ubisoft and EA, but more and more are joining ever day, and the ones that are there are looking to expand. Ubisoft currently employs 2,100 game developers in Montreal, and are still growing. EA’s offices are currently home to 750 employees, and they are planning to expand too. THQ announced its relocation to the city in July, and has hired 145 employees for its new studio, and plans to add 100 every year for five years. Square Enix also has a Montreal studio, and is looking to double its staff and hire 350 more developers. Job prospects in the city are looking very good for the next few years.

It is not just the cash incentives that are attracting the big names though, Montreal has a strong population of technical and young, talented people. With all these big companies entering the area, the competition to hire the best is becoming fierce. This competitiveness was highlighted by the recent lawsuit between THQ and Ubisoft, over the poaching of one of their key developers.

Not content to rest on their achievements, the Quebec government is moving its focus from console games to the online market next, after seeing the declining sales of consoles and the seemingly unstoppable rise of casual, online games. Government representatives are even being sent to G-Star, the South Korean games show, to attract developers from the east to the city.

With all this frantic development and expansion in Montreal’s game industry, it may not be long before it has eclipsed the sunny west coast, and has become the hub of game development in the western world.

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