Alberta 2022 Budget: A Lost Opportunity — and Lost Jobs — for Alberta’s Video Game Sector

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Alberta 2022 Budget: A Lost Opportunity — and Lost Jobs — for Alberta’s Video Game Sector

Digital Alberta calls for more support from the provincial government to boost competitiveness

Yesterday, the Government of Alberta tabled its 2022 Budget and while Alberta is positioning itself for success in many sectors, more needs to be done to further support job creation and growth in the growing video game sector, more broadly known as Interactive Digital Media (IDM).

Canada has the third highest concentration of game developers in the world. Over 32,000 Canadians work directly in the video game industry (up 17% since 2019), and we contribute over $5.5B to the total GDP (up 23% since 2019). Our team members are highly skilled and highly trained in a global industry now approaching US$200B in revenues. With the Government of Alberta’s continued focus on economic recovery and growth, this is a critical time to position Alberta for success in the sector.

Compared to other provinces, Alberta has not yet seized the opportunity represented by sector-specific programs that could attract IDM investment and jobs. As such, we continue to lag behind Quebec, Ontario, and BC, who have prioritized this opportunity.

Data from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada shows the gap between Alberta and the rest of Canada has grown wider in recent years. This matters because IDM in our province is more than just video games — Albertans are driving IDM technology solutions for some of the largest resource companies in Canada. These solutions are not only delivering value here in Alberta, but around the globe

As the industry association representing Alberta’s largest IDM companies, Digital Alberta challenges the government to boost our competitiveness in this booming industry. Currently, Alberta-based studios are hiring in other provinces, where they are welcomed and supported to create high paying, in-demand jobs. Digital Alberta remains ready to work with the Government of Alberta to raise awareness of critical issues in the sector, and find solutions to this uneven provincial landscape. Given the Government of Alberta’s focus on attracting investment to the province, more needs to be done for IDM.

BioWare — Gary McKay, Studio General Manager

“As a studio with deep roots in Alberta, we are disappointed the government missed this opportunity to adopt policies that further advance the IDM sector in Alberta. Bioware Edmonton is a group of unbelievably talented people who push the envelope of innovation every day. But further investment in the province only gets harder without policies designed to foster our industry’s growth, especially as other provinces eagerly step up to promote development of the IDM sector. Alberta should recognize the importance of a healthy IDM industry to its broader goal of advancing its technology and innovation sector.”

Unity Technologies — Nick Facey, Senior Program Manager

“Unity is a global leader in real-time 3D development. We build advanced technology solutions for clients across industries, from games to energy, manufacturing, automotive, retail, and everything in between. These solutions are created using the same highly sought after tech skills found in today’s video game industry. The Alberta Advantage was a driving factor for us to open a state-of-the-art office in Calgary — designed and constructed by local designers and contractors — to attract world class
talent. But the difference in competitive policy has prevented this office from scaling as fast as Montreal and Vancouver in creating new tech jobs.”

Inflexion Games — Aaryn Flynn, CEO

“As a proud Albertan who has been active in our IDM sector for over two decades, I recognize both our unique legacy and the vast potential for the future. And now that our studio, Inflexion Games, has the backing of Tencent — the biggest games company in the world — we have the opportunity to accelerate our growth and start new projects to further compete in a multi-billion dollar global industry. So, it is disheartening to once again experience this government’s reluctance to support a competitive IDM sector that can create more jobs in Alberta. With the news of this year’s budget, we will continue to expand our hiring efforts outside of Alberta, where we’re being aggressively encouraged to grow thanks to the supportive government policy choices and active outreach of other Canadian provinces.”

Vog App Developers — Vince O’Gorman, CEO

“Calgary has an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, and that spirit has propelled Vog to become the largest mobile app developer in Alberta. However, once we scaled past a certain size, it became clear our growth would be tied to hiring outside of the province. Alberta should be a global leader in IDM development, yet we lag behind, with a government that seemingly shows no interest in competing or supporting an industry that could have a lasting future in Alberta.”

Humanoid Studios — Casey Hudson, CEO

“Alberta game developers have achieved global prominence in the game industry, and as an Edmonton-based company, Humanoid Studios is proud to continue that tradition. As we grow our business however, the Alberta government’s lack of support for the IDM sector encourages us to create that growth in other provinces, where we are incentivized to attract and retain the best talent in the world. This will mean fewer high-paying jobs created in Alberta, and a migration of our top talent to other regions.”

In recent months, much has been made of Alberta’s success in attracting the largest TV production in Canadian history. This was a result of our highly competitive provincial programs targeted to the film and television sector. It’s not lost on Alberta IDM’s community that this particular production was based on a highly successful video game developed in the USA.

While we should celebrate this win for our economy, it would be even richer if we could look back years from now and revel in the successful launch of another new TV production, this time based on intellectual property from a thriving Alberta IDM community.

We need the government to put policies in place that will attract talent, investments and skilled jobs in IDM. Let’s not miss this opportunity.

Scott Nye
Scott Nye
Scott is the President of Digital Alberta's Board of Directors, and COO of Inflexion Games. In addition to his CPA, CMA, and MBA, Scott brings over 20 years of professional experience to the Board in traditional finance & accounting positions as well as corporate strategy, business operations, marketing, and service development roles. His career has spanned a variety of sectors including interactive entertainment, telecommunications, biotechnology, and cultural industries. He currently supports the finance and operations activities at Inflexion Games, an Edmonton-based game studio working on its first title Nightingale. Prior to this, Scott spent several years at Electronic Arts – supporting BioWare locally as well as other EA Studios across North America.