Calgary taps consultants to help boost attractiveness as video game hub

19 August 2020 3 min. read

Calgary Economic Development has enlisted consultants to build a strategy for making the Alberta city a leading hub for video game and immersive media development.

The video gaming industry is projected to grow to a US$200 billion industry by 2022 – more than is spent on home video, cinema, and music combined. From its humble origins in 1970s arcades to its ubiquitous presence on home consoles, PCs and mobile phones today – video games have become a massively profitable industry. Indeed, Rockstar’s Grant Theft Auto 5 is the most profitable entertainment product of all time, shipping 120 million+ units since 2013.

Video gaming has also seen a bump in sales due to the pandemic, with many people being stuck at home and looking for entertainment.

With the video game industry on a strong growth trajectory, cities want to get in on the game. Municipalities generally want to be seen as “digital hubs,” replete with high-paying tech jobs and the money and taxes that such industries can bring to city coffers that have been hammered by the pandemic. With manufacturing having rotted out in the West since the 1980s (though this latest crisis should spur at least some reshoring) and oil and resources entering a rough patch, digital jobs are seen as a panacea to combat the continued decline of retail and hospitality jobs at the same time as a decline in oil industry jobs. This is especially pertinent in the Alberta economy.

Calgary taps consultants to help boost attractiveness as video game hub

Calgary is not currently a big player in the Canadian video game development scene – especially compared to Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. Obviously Calgary would like to change that – and points to a relatively low cost of living, high quality of life, and available talent pools as attractive factors for game developers. 

The city’s economic development corporation contracted consulting firm Nordicity to create a strategy for developing a video game and immersive media ecosystem in Calgary. The Toronto-based consulting firm – which specializes in strategy, economic analysis, and policy consulting in arts & culture, digital & creative media, and ICT – collaborated with Jason Della Rocca, a gaming industry entrepreneur, to build the strategy.

The report notes that Calgary needs to focus on three key areas to become an industry leader: talent; engagement of government, academia, and industry; and recognition of currently available resources.

The city’s current video game and immersive media cluster is composed of 65+ companies, and includes recent transplants Unity Technologies and New World Interactive. Calgary also has an array of universities and colleges pumping out graduates with relevant talent, including the University of Calgary, Alberta University of the Arts, and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

"The interactive digital media industry holds enormous potential. Calgary is a more recent entrant in the game and immersive technology sector, but what the Strategy highlights is a clear path to building a successful global ecosystem," said Luke Azevedo, commissioner of film, TV & creative industries at Calgary Economic Development. "With the full engagement of government, academia, and industry, we can continue to move the sector forward and become a major player."