Wednesday, May 13, 2009

(Social) Games and the Future of Television (esp. Canada)

A few months ago, I was at the I/O (interactive ontario) confernece in Toronto -- the final panel had a speaker from the CBC and amongst other speakers.

The thing that threw me for a loop was that very few people on stage vocally spoke about the impact of games as "real content" (there was debates about Canadian content vs. US, and the need to have original "Canadian content" etc.) -- David Crow happend to be on stage as I was victim of me MADLY twittering him to bring up the topic.

The real point of my posting though isn't so much that debate,  or the debate about Canadian content production policies (and its associated goverment financial incentives/tax-credits).  

But rather its a much braoder point: 

Dude: Games, MMOs on computers, iphones, social networks, consoles, whatever -- Not Television shows, is the future of "content" for the vast majority of the emerging Gen-Y population... and will represent a huge part of  their media/entertainment time-spent and share of wallet.

The debate is not about if something has "Canadian content," the debate should be -- what can Canada do about its fledging leadership in games -- and turn it into a WORLD leader in this area of content that is the fastest growning, and one of the most lucrative.

There is a massive amount of talent in Canada for game development.  I don't know what it is... but we've had a history of a convergence of great creative AND technical talent.  I think it stems from the fact that we've had a very vibrant CD-ROM production community in the early to mid 90s (which was really of off shoot of the alpha-geeks doing video and film and super early F/X and traditional animation work in the late 80s/early 90s).

Canada (Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal especially) was once a hot-bed for CD-ROM/"Multi-media" design shops, as it has been for animation studios.

This has probably something to do with the great number of top game studios listed in the recent "Develop 100" most "bankable" game studios being Canada (2 of the top 6 are Canadian -- EA Canada and Ubisoft Montreal).  There's even a nice little profile of all the top folks here in flash-magazine format.

This country could aboustely kill it by being a leader in this emering space.  There seems to be a reasonable amount of support for it from some gov programs, but I don't know if I'm seeing enough of it.  I have a feeling that not enough of it is trickleing down to the smaller studios and startups that could otherwise be funded at the earliest stages.  Esp. folks that are in the killer lucrative social gaming world.

Here's the other thing... I know of some killer pockets of developers here that are doing some world class stuff, including from my friend Greg Thomson, who created the flagship Zynga (a social game company rumored to be making $30M-$100M in just ~2 years of existance) game called "YoVille" (currently has 5.1 Million Monthly Active Users) - built out of London Ontario (of all places -- no offense to folks living there, but its not exactly the hot bed of tech -- which goes to show great innovation CAN happen anywhere -- including outside the valley and toronto).  Greg also happens to be  speaking at DemoCamp 20 to talk about the his new 3D first person shooter in Facebook (all developed in Flash).

Social Games is a killer opportunity for cash/resource strapped, boot strapped minded enviorments like Canada.  The capital requirements for buiding them are (still) relatively low, the cost of distribution is zero (i.e. viral, and much of your ability to gain adoption is not via owning shelf space, but rather how clever and good you are at creating a strong viral loop).

So basically: No access to big VC Valley money to compete with multi-million dollar triple-A console titles?  No access big brand licences from New York to attract users?  No problem: build social games, get viral distribition, monetize with direct virtual payments (i.e. paypal and sparechange), incentivzed offers (i.e. Super Rewards, OfferPal), and/or ads (RockYou, SocialMedia).

Anyways, just my 2 cents late night rant. 


  1. Canada sure does have the potential to be the world leader in game making. I've read multiple articles about the studios you mentioned (EA and Ubisoft) and they're are considered one of the best in the world. Why not profit on this and introduce more studious like these. Recently Pixar decided to come to Canada, but only to outsource their projects which they don't have time for. This is not a way to go here, Canada has some brilliant minds in this business and we should use that. Anyways, great article,

    take care, Julie

  2. Albert, stumbled on your blog after hearing your name through local buzz in Toronto. Re: this article, it's not only a philosophy we support, but a strategy we're executing on.