Aug 27, 2021 - Technology

Montreal is becoming an even bigger game development hub

Map showing gaming studios in Montreal
A slide from a presentation used to woo game studios to Montreal. Image: Montreal International

The announcement of a new Gearbox studio in Montreal yesterday extends an extraordinary streak of studio openings in what was already one of the global capitals for video game creation.

Driving the news: Since last year, Tencent’s TiMi Studios, 2K, Amazon, Dontnod, New World Interactive, Phoenix Labs, Quantic Dream, Room 8, Deck13, and more have opened studios in Montreal.

Two motivations prevail:

  • Financing the studios with the region's generous tax credits.
  • Tapping into a rich talent pool filled by decades of major game development in the city.

Between the lines: Montreal has been a game development hub since the ’90s when local studios such as Behaviour got a new neighbor in Paris-headquartered Ubisoft.

  • The “Assassin’s Creed” maker now employs nearly 5,000 people in its studios in Quebec, where its Montreal operation is the largest.
  • Since Ubisoft entered, other game giants followed, including EA, Eidos and Bethesda.
  • Smaller studios such as Panache and Reflector opened up, often run by people who left the bigger Montreal outfits.

What they’re saying: “We think we are in the third wave, where we see more big studios coming, many of them coming from Asia,” Stéphane Paquet, head of the public-private business group Montréal International, told Axios.

  • Among the recent studio openings: A Montreal office for Chinese hit-maker MiHoYo, whose “Genshin Impact” is one of the biggest games on the planet.
  • Some new studios, such as Haven and Raccoon Logic, are opening in the wake of development downsizing at Google Stadia, and many are plucking ex-Ubisoft developers, some of whom have become disenchanted with that company.
  • Joked one local developer to Axios of everyone’s Montreal game dev hiring strategy: “Ubi is basically their supermarket.”

The big picture: Montréal International estimates there are now about 200 game studios and 15,000 industry workers in the city.

  • One studio source told Axios that expansion has been good for workers, as some deeper-pocketed companies such as Epic and Unity arrive and offer better wages.
  • And as new studios provide more options, they have an unusual amount of power to land the jobs that make them happiest.
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