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Sponsored Feature: From Coast to Coast, Telefilm Canada Gives a Glimpse of Canada's Gaming Best

March 7, 2013

Today's video games are getting more immersive, developers are getting more innovative and there's no doubt about it: Canada is a great place to be if you want to be part of all the excitement. Along with being home to a number of international companies such as Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Eidos, Activision, Square Enix and Warner Bros. Games, a growing ecosystem of local indie developers is shaping the future of the industry.

Employing about 16,000 people in hundreds of companies, Canada's video game industry directly impacts the country's economy to the tune of $1.7 billion -- no small number.

So let's take a tour across Canada to hear about a handful of the current standouts.


Based in Saskatoon, Alientrap Games is a team of two core developers -- artist Jesse McGibney and programmer Lee Vermeulen. They say their focus is on "innovative art and gameplay" -- with the goal of making products standout immediately to players: and they certainly do.

The company has released two successful games -- Capsized for Steam has sold 80,000 copies and is now being released as an iOS title. And Nexuiz, first released in 2005 with continued updates since launch, has been downloaded more than six million times.

But Alientrap's newest and most ambitious project is the highly visual and much-talked about Apotheon. Teleporting the player into a beautiful ancient Greek world, this action-packed game is set to be released mid-2013.


Our next stop is Ontario, which hosts the greatest number of micro and small gaming companies, and employs about 2,600 people. Here, Toronto's DrinkBox Studios Inc., is wrapping up development on Guacamelee!, a Mexican-themed metroidvania-style action-platformer coming out for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

With funding from the Canada Media Fund (CMF) -- funding programs administered by Telefilm Canada -- and the Ontario Media Development Corporation's (OMDC) Interactive Digital Media Fund, Guacamelee! is also a finalist at this year's Independent Games Festival (check out the company's hilarious profile of the game here).

DrinkBox has a strong history of success since its founding in 2008. Its first title was Tales from Space: About a Blob, and the company later partnered with Sony to release the game on the PlayStation Network under the Sony Pub Fund program. The follow-up game, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack was a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, in addition to other platforms.


The hotspot in Canada's game development industry, Quebec houses 86 companies and has an annual growth rate of 16 per cent (slightly above the industry average). Here, Montreal's Compulsion Games has grown from just one person with an idea to a small independent studio with about eight full-time staff.

Compulsion's big game right now is Contrast (funded by the CMF), set in a novel "world of shadow, light and intrigue," it invites the player to become "Dawn," an enigmatic young lady who can turn into her shadow at will. One of the first 20 games accepted on Valve's Greenlight player polling service, Compulsion secured a distribution agreement with Valve for Steam and is set to release the imaginative game in the coming weeks.

"Like J.J. Abrams, we're big on the power of mystery," reads a Q&A on Compulsion's website. "We're also intrigued by the notion of dreams, thoughts and virtual data. Somewhere within the blending of those concepts lies our universe."

Compulsion has also participated in the development of products such as Darksiders 2 (Wii U), Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale (PSN, XBLA, Steam) and Arthur Christmas (iOS).

Quebec is definitely a breeding ground for creativity and innovation for the video game industry and another great example of this reality is without a doubt Minority, the father of the now famous Papo & Yo. Strong of the overwhelming success at GDC 2012, the studio is coming back this year around to expand the Papo & Yo experience to the Steam platform.

East Coast

And we certainly can't forget our east coast friends, a burgeoning scene for Canadian game developers.

Here, Other Ocean Interactive is making waves. With studios in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, the company works on a long list of games for multiple platforms including Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS, Android, Nintendo DS, Wii, and more.

Most notably, Other Ocean was showcased on the international stage when it was chosen by Sega of America to develop Super Monkey Ball, a prototype for Apple's globally covered press event -- the iPhone Software Roadmap. Other Ocean also developed one of the first games for Windows 8: Gunstringer: Dead Man Running for Microsoft Studios -- one of the top paid games in the Windows store.

Other Ocean also developed Puffins: Island Adventure, and is currently developing another original product: Powder Trails.

Among its many awards, Other Ocean was recently recognized in Develop Magazine's Develop 100, making it one of the top 100 most successful game development studios in the world.

Who are you watching in 2013?

And this really is just the tip of the iceberg.

Telefilm Canada supports dynamic companies and creative talent across Canada and around the world, and the success stories just keep coming. A hotbed for multiplatform activity, Canadians have been involved in many internationally renowned titles such as Mass Effect, FIFA, Deus Ex, Assassin's Creed, Spiderman and many more.

This year at GDC 2013's Canadian Video Game Showcase, we are proud to support 22 different Canadian studios through our promotional initiatives, which you can all discover here.

Which Canadian studio will you be watching in 2013?

Statistics for this article were pulled from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada's Essential Facts 2012.

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Sergio Garces
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It's a bit disappointing that the article claims to talk about Canada's industry coast to coast, yet there is no mention of Vancouver or BC.
This might be just another sign of the health of the industry here, but if not even the CMF is going to support it, I fear we are truly doomed, in spite of our best efforts.

Alexandre Lainesse
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Thank you for your comment and interest in the article above. I work with Telefilm Canada on this year’s showcase at GDC and wished to let you know that we definitely have a great representation of BC companies including:

- United Front Games (Sleeping Dogs, ModNation: Racers, etc.)
- Smoking Gun Interactive (Freefall Racers – a CMF funded game)
- RocketChicken Interactive (CodeRunner)

We do certainly value a lot the talent on the West coast. There are so many great companies across Canada and we would have loved to include everyone in the article. It was not an easy task, but our choice for the Western region stopped on a studio from Saskatchewan this year. Thanks again for your comment.

Graham Davis
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I would have liked to see some BC and West Coast coverage too, especially for an article that claims "Coast to Coast" coverage of game development in Canada. The game development scene in BC (Vancouver/Victoria especially) is big, healthy and growing.

"our choice for the Western region stopped on a studio from Saskatchewan" -- I wouldn't call Saskatchewan Western. At most it is central Canada. I know this may seem like knitpicking, but I'm just expressing my reaction when reading "coast to coast" and then seeing nothing from the West at all.

Logan Foster
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While there are some fine games profiled here, as a Canadian game developer I too am quite disappointed at Telefilm's inability to connect with, understand and properly profile Canadian developers from around the nation.

Every year Telefilm goes through the same tired motions around GDC of trying to pretend that they actually care about game development and every year they put less and less effort into promoting a portfolio that they have been given but have no interest in. Yet they fail to grasp that unlike film/tv, our industry is one that is always active and is not tied to cycles of when grants and funds are given out and as such picking a few winners to show off at a booth everyone avoids once a year provides little to no benefit.

Their agents need to get out there, be active, get to know the developers and development communities within Canada (and each region) and put some actually thought and effort into promoting them abroad so that opportunities to continue to grow this sector in Canada can continue to happen. Otherwise they will continue to do half hearted efforts such as this that does more to disgust those of us in Canada who see our tax dollars get tossed down the drain on fruitless efforts that do so little to promote the industry such as what we are seeing here.

@Alexandre, clearly you are not Canadian as you do not even understand the regions right. "West" is Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, "Pacific" is BC. As such your coverage is still incredibly flawed and reeks of the woefully inaccurate information that Telefilm has on the game development sector and its size outside of Eastern Canada. I would invite you and your business partners at Telefilm to put some actual dollars into investigating what is actually going on across Canada so that you can put in a much better effort next year.