We’ve got our own tech hubs in Canada. Last year, Canada’s video game industry employed almost 16,000 people contributing $1.7 billion to economic activity, with an expected growth of 17% over the next two years according to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC). In fact, our gaming industry is about five times that of the US per capita. Proud Canadian game developers include household names such as EA Canada, BioWare, Relic Entertainment, and the division of Ubisoft responsible for Assassin’s Creed. Mobile game developers are popping up all over Canada’s tech hubs, like Vancouver’s A Thinking Ape or Ubisoft’s Gameloft division which focuses on mobile games and content.

Digital media, especially the mobile sector, is exploding. Looking at the trends across the border (see graph by Flurry Analytics), the portable gaming sector that began with the childhood-reminiscent Nintendo Game Boy in 1989 is being swallowed by the Angry Birds-effect of iOS and Android. Overall industry resources are increasingly being devoted to mobile gaming. Mobile game development requires serious developer talent as each mobile platform has a unique language that can take many months to learn. Cloud computing has floated into the gaming sector as well.  OnLive, for example, is a cloud gaming service allowing you to access and play high-quality video games on a specialized OnLive console or your Mac, PC, iOS or Android smartphone, or tablet.

But don’t dismay, we’re not about to see the end of traditional consoles yet. Video games are a huge driving factor for technology, covering areas from computing processing power to graphics resolution advancement. Game engines are finding homes in virtually every industry, from military training simulators to medical applications. Motion capture which enables you to see yourself on-screen on the Xbox Kinect is also used in gait analysis, a clinical technique evaluating human motion across biometric factors. Sony is trying to up display resolution, so the next console release, PlayStation 4, could possibly boast 4K resolution (compare that to the 1080p maximum of HD) along with a gyroscope controller featuring sweat detectors.

While Canada’s gaming industry is ranked third in the world, it still faces challenges. “Brain-drain” of talent from Canada to the United States is always an inhibiting factor for the tech industry. Lack of ownership of the Intellectual Property rights means that revenues accrue overseas, so publishers could potentially relocate this work to lower-cost countries. The Canadian government needs to put effort into supporting its digital media sectors.  Digital Media Tax Credits (DMTC) are one source of government funding for game development. DMTCs are unique to each province, and reward companies involved in producing interactive media, digital animation, multimedia titles, and in PEI, video games specifically.

Canada is an important global player in the video game industry, and proving to be a serious talent pool. Check out this showcase of Canadian video game development by Invest in Canada.