Talking as part of an in-depth studio tour posted on Gamasutra today, Ontario-based Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack has been discussing the state of Canadian game development, suggesting subsidies from the Quebec government to companies such as Ubisoft, EA, and Eidos are "insane" and probably unsustainable.
In the course of discussing Eternal Darkness and Too Human developer Silicon Knights, which, at 160 employees, is the biggest game developer in Ontario, Dyack commented on what he saw as a 'brain drain' for qualified game employees from his area.
He noted: "Because all of our universities and colleges are subsidised by the government, what we're doing is training all of these people, educating them, and then they're leaving. We've got to stop that, but the government realises that too. Most people trained in Ontario would like to stay in Ontario, so let's start giving jobs to people here, let's keep it on Ontario and let's stop the brain-drain to Quebec or wherever."
The Quebec region - and Montreal in particular - is home to a major Ubisoft studio which recently announced further expansions into CG movie creation with government support, as well as a relatively new Eidos office and major studios from Electronic Arts, A2M, and other developers.
"The subsidies in Quebec are, well, insane," Dyack quipped. "Essentially that's the only reason the studios are so big there. I think that our friends at the provincial government have been making some good forward progress and I think we need to make more, but I'm certainly a big believer in Ontario and I want Ontario to succeed."
Indeed, Dyack argued that the benefits of developing in Quebec were so extreme that they are impossible to sustain, creating a false economy. "Once those subsidies stop, because they can't go on forever -- they've got like, 50, 60 percent of salaries covered, it's really cheap to make games there -- will those business stay there, or will they move out, as they're global and mobile?"
He continued: "It's costing the government a ton of money and the payback is uncertain. I think what our government needs to do is to make smaller steps, maybe not such extremes, but get the companies actually rooted in Ontario, and really see the benefits of a long-term investment here. It really has to be a long term investment in the economy, the growth sector. I mean, video games is one of the fastest growing sectors in entertainment in the world, and we've got to do this kind of thing carefully."
The full Gamasutra profile on Silicon Knights includes both Dyack and other staff discussing process, university recruitment, and how the developer functions on a daily basis.