The Game Industry in Vancouver

I went to an industry mixer, last night. Met some good people, ate some food and drank a little wine. This was the general take-away message from all the people I talked to: Vancouver’s game industry is currently in a shit storm.. That is pretty much verbatim. A shit storm. If you’ve been following along with the news recently, you’ll know that many companies have been laying off employees and even closing entire studios.

Major job cuts

Business is business

You see, there is this little thing wrapping up called the Fiscal Year. (Canada’s fiscal year starts on April 1st, where as the United States’ fiscal year starts on October 1st – I love you, Wikipedia). When a business sees their expenses were higher and their profits were lower than expectations, they get nervous and pull out the axe. This softens the blow to shareholders, but doesn’t really seem fair to the people whose jobs were cut, does it? But hey, that’s business, I guess. And due to the economic situation, most companies will be picking up the axe. Some companies (I won’t mention any names) are known for doing this and then hiring the people they need back again in the next fiscal year, with new budgets. So once April rolls around, there will be some hiring again and the industry will recover a little. But since we’re in a “financial crisis,” (despite some in the games industry doing quite well: Nintendo, Valve, Blizzard) I don’t think budgets will be as big nor as many people hired back. This means the job market will be flooded with experienced people looking for jobs. Which is pretty much the current situation.

Get in the game?

So how can some fresh blood such as myself get my foot in the door of a full house that’s shrinking? It’s still certainly possible, it’s just not going to be easy. One person I spoke to today said she had to start as a tester and make her way up to Software Engineer (SE) – “which was pretty ridiculous” (her words). Did I mention that EA cut testers EA cut testers? Another person I spoke to suggested giving away services… or an internship to gain some experience. Another suggestion was working with a small outfit (or a couple friends) on an iPhone app. Most of the people I talked to were experienced (10-15yrs), had recently been laid off, and were also looking for jobs. Personally, I’d love to make a WiiWare game. That’s something that would be really cool, but then you have to do the entrepreneurial thing and raise money (I’ve heard investors are less willing to take risks, these days..) – plus there’s that whole experience thing…. I’m not ruling anything out. I’ll keep looking, but now does not seem to be the time to get involved. And I’m not going to limit myself to the games industry, that’s for sure. Or even the IT sector. I decided a while ago that I need a change in my life, so I might do something completely different for a little while. Collect some pennies, meet some people, and gain some (life) experiences, hopefully.

Positive Outlook

Whatever comes, I’m looking forward to it. I have a good feeling. And I’m also looking forward to the industry picking up steam again soon! =) Hey, Ubisoft just acquired Action Pants, and should be expanding – that’s some positive news! 🙂

(Read a related post, from someone in the industry here. Update: Then read the author’s own accounts of her employer, Nexon, shutting down. Fantastic blog with a beautiful range of topics, all of which I enjoy. Subscribed.)


  1. 1100 (not 1000) was the worldwide number, BB was only ~15% of that.

    If you have read the “EA cut testers” article, it actually never says EA cut testers… I am sure some were let go (so were other departments), but that title is just misleading.

    Why do you need investors to start making a WiiWare game? You only need that if you are paying a team of people full-time. I know people who just do it on their own.

    I would say it’s already too late to go for the iPhone/facebook app route…

  2. I have read the “EA cut testers” article… but yes, you’re correct, it is misleading. It’s hypothetical (though very likely) rather than concrete. When collecting links for the article, I guess I lost that insight. It was the link referenced in a GoNintendo article of a similar name…. Propagating bad reporting on my part, sorry. Common-sense lesson learned (again): never bypass your original source. I will add another more relevant link.

    Ideally, I would want to work on a WiiWare game, full time. And I don’t have any money, so I need to make some money to get by. Can’t buy a dev kit because I’m not a licensed developer. Can’t become a licensed developer because I have no experience. I’m sure the people you know are able to do both. Of course, I could work on a game in my spare time, while making money elsewhere…. but that’s tough! 😛 I might want to do other things with my spare time…. like snowboarding! I really need to do more snowboarding, this year.

    I don’t know much about the apps on iPhone and facebook, but I would tend to agree. I believe the “farting” and “hugging” application market has been saturated. (Sad as that is.) WiiWare still has huge gaps and potential for many types of games. 🙂

  3. The new iPhone 3.0 SDK seems like a vast “expansion pack” to 2.0. Lots more APIs allowing for vastly more app possibilities. So I wouldn’t say it’s saturated (now). I was pretty amazed watching that presentation (not done watching yet). A lot of things they have introduced that I didn’t even think developers would need, but after hearing that what were “missing”, I agree.

    I don’t know which route is better for a game developer: WiiWare or iPhone. Personally I don’t do much gaming on the iPhone. Most of my apps are practical apps. But then again, I hardly play WiiWare games either.

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