Growth spurt predicted for Victoria video game industry

Victoria’s video game industry pumped about $24 million into the local economy last year and is in position to expand that economic footprint, according to a white paper to be released this week by the Victoria Advanced Technology Council.

A draft copy of Getting Our Game On: An Impressive Growth Snapshot of Victoria’s Digital Gaming Industry obtained by the Times Colonist paints a picture of a sector poised for significant growth.

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According to the draft, the sector boasts 19 studios, employs 240 people and spent $24 million locally, most of it on research and development.

“We have definitely seen a lot of growth in the industry over the last few years,” said Tim Teh, CEO of game-design studio Kano/Apps. “As for growth, hopefully it’s double, triple, 10 times — we’d love to see that.” Teh said his own firm reasonably could be expected to double in size over the next five years.

The report says 64 per cent of local studios plan to hire new graduates this year, 57 per cent are in the process of hiring co-op students, while 86 per cent said they would be hiring co-op students in the future.

“It’s been great to see the acceleration in the number of people employed in video games and interactive media,” said Clive Gorman, production and marketing manager for TinyMob Games. “And everything is indicating that Victoria will be a part of that massive increase in growth.”

Gorman points out the global gaming market, estimated to be worth $63 billion last year, is expected to hit revenue figures close to $78 billion by 2017.

“Now that you can produce successful businesses with teams of 100 people or less, it’s a very viable proposition that Victoria can continue to grow,” he said, adding the switch from console-based games (Xbox, PlayStation) to social media and mobile applications plays in Victoria’s favour — smaller studios in desirable places to live like Victoria can compete to attract top talent.

Dan Gunn, executive director of VIATeC, said the report is likely to catch some people off guard given the rapid growth of the game-design sub-sector.

“We’ve grown from four to 19 studios in a very short period of time,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the video game sector continue to grow, and become a significant portion of the local tech industry.”

The gaming sector will show itself off this weekend at the sixth annual Gottacon gaming conference.

About 2,000 gamers of all disciplines — board, role-playing and video — will fill the Victoria Conference Centre for three days starting Friday.

Billed as a celebration of the science-fiction and fantasy genres, the conference may start with games but runs through everything related, including costumes, competitions and collectibles, said organizer Carson Upton.

TinyMob Games, which opened its studio last fall, intends to use the conference to give gamers a sneak peek at its first game.

“More than anything we are basing our project on games that gamers want to see and play,” said Gorman. “This is an opportunity to really connect with the gaming community and get feedback, and get them excited.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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