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Nova Scotia’s Got Game

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gaming and Interactive Media is one of the most exciting sectors in Nova Scotia. But . . . what is it exactly?

Gaming and Interactive Media encompasses a wide variety of technologies, companies, and products. These include the traditional concept of video game development across multiple platforms and console systems, as well as app and game development for smart devices, interactive games for the web, and 2D and 3D animation. It also includes simulation development and eLearning. This sector employs creative individuals who possess strong science, technology, engineering, and math skills. These skills are not unique to the Gaming and Interactive Media sector; in fact, they are the same skills needed in ICT, eHealth, and defence, security, and aerospace.

As the Gaming and Interactive Media industry grows on a global scale, homegrown and international companies are finding success in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia has become a location of choice for many companies, creating new jobs in both the urban core and rural areas of the province. While it might appear that Silicon Valley, London, or Toronto would be a more likely spot to settle, Nova Scotia is attracting more and more game developers who have the option to go elsewhere.

The growth began in 2000 with Jeremy Wellard and the creation of HB Studios in Lunenburg. British-born Wellard took a year off from his career with Codemasters to attend Trent University in the early 90s. There he met Ann-Marie Sheppard, a young woman from the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and the two moved to England for several years. However, in 1999, Sheppard was determined to return to Canada, and the couple settled in Lunenburg – an area that, as Wellard put it, “was not renowned for game development.” After a brief foray into web design, Wellard decided to open his own game development company, HB Studios.

Over the past thirteen years the Gaming and Interactive Media sector continues to thrive. As of September 2013, HB Studios employed more than 85 people in Lunenburg, and many other studios have sprung up and are flourishing throughout the province – a mix of homegrown and international companies. Companies like New York-based Longtail Studios, who develop family-friendly games under Ubisoft’s “Games for Everyone” division also has offices in Halifax.  And Cambridge-based Frontier, who is best known for franchises like LostWinds and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, chose Nova Scotia for their first location outside of the UK. For Frontier, Nova Scotia was a clear choice. As Frontier COO David Walsh said to develop magazine, “Nova Scotia is on the up, it's a great place to live, the people are very welcoming and friendly, and in addition to the skilled indigenous workforce, we felt we would have no trouble attracting people to the area, too, if necessary.”

This growth has led to the creation of the Nova Scotia Game Developers Association, an organization committed to the future expansion of the sector, hiring graduates from within the province, and promoting high standards of relevant education.

Some of the most popular games, on a variety of platforms, are created right here in Nova Scotia.

  • Frontier has the top selling game on iTunes
  • HB Studios is best known for its athletic games, developing the Madden NFL and FIFA series, among many others
  • Longtail Studios has worked with the production staff and writers of Grey’s Anatomy to create an interactive game based on the hit TV show, while also creating games like Rocksmith and Dance on Broadway
  • Silverback Studios, an independent company in Halifax, has created the award-winning Empress of the Deep series – a top seller for retailers worldwide, and other games like Secrets of the Dragon Wheel and Mr. Jones' GRAVEYARD SHIFT
  • Each of these companies, along with the many others that reside here, chose Nova Scotia. For some, this was an opportunity to do what they love in the place they love. For others, it was a logical, strategic choice

Nova Scotia offers many benefits to companies in the Gaming and Interactive Media sector. As a nearshore location, it has a distinct geographic advantage. The province boasts more post-secondary institutions per capita than anywhere else in Canada and many schools work closely with industry professionals to help students graduate with the right skills and experience. This partnership approach extends beyond education, with opportunities through the newly formed NSGDA, as well as government and independent partners. With a variety of incentives available for companies of different sizes and with different requirements; broad, extensive experience in the sector; and a welcoming atmosphere, Nova Scotia is the place to be for the Gaming and Interactive Media sector.

Learn more about the Gaming and Interactive Media sector in Nova Scotia with our infographic PDF.


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