Jacques Daoust, the president and CEO of Investissement Quebec, the Canadian agency responsible for the tax credits offered to games developers, has defended the region’s economic rebates from previously reported criticism that said the Montreal game scene was draining UK and European talent.
Speaking with Develop at the official opening of Eidos’ Montreal studio, Daoust said that it was the region’s own strong talent base and vibrant education scene which has provided the bulk of the local workforce.
"[Companies are setting up in Montreal] because it is attractive now," he said, saying: "The education system here is great – we are graduating each year 1,400 new graduates ready to work. This industry is not creating hamburger flipping jobs, they are key technical jobs."
The Quebec game industry has grown some 177 per cent in the last two years.
Daoust pointed out that Ubisoft’s ‘Campus Ubisoft’ training program and the close collaboration between other local studios and Montreal’s technical colleges and universities was helping to train the developers of the future – not steal them from other territories.
While Daoust conceded that for many of the publishers which have opened studios in the region, a key part of their decision is made by the tax credits – which can see up to 40 per cent of each employees salary paid back by the government – he stressed that ultimately it is the talent which seals the deal.
He said: "It was [Ubisoft Montreal CEO] Yannis Mallat who said ‘We came for the money and we stay for the talent’ – and he’s completely right."
He also rebuffed claims by UK culture and sport minister Margaret Hodge that the tax credits may well be gone in the short term: "The program has run for 10 years, and we’re very close to the government – my boss is the minister for economy. We are all agreed that we need these subsidies – so it’s not going to go anywhere. We want this industry to keep growing.
"I think we’re doing the right thing. We are not making any political announcements here; we just want to keep supporting the games industry."
Next, Invest Quebec hopes to help the region grow its serious games interests and support making games for the widening game-playing consumer demographic.
Explained Daoust: "We want to be a key part of that. It’s a tremendous market, as the demographic of games is changing with older men and women getting into games. The entire industry has to grow in line with that and make more games for those people and we want to support that."
Daoust also explained to Develop that Invest Quebec played a key part in convincing Eidos to set up its new operation in Montreal, as the publisher was originally considering stationing its Canadian studio in Vancouver. He added that facts such as the North American east coast’s overlapping time zone/working hours with the UK and Europe, its growing talent base, North American territory access make for a "strong package" which is presented to prospective publishers and developers.
Develop understands Invest Quebec is already speaking to other companies from Europe and elsewhere that are looking to open studios in the Quebecois region as well.
In the past few weeks Javaground and Cyanide also formalised their plans for studios based in the Quebec region, joining Montreal’s local ecosystem of developers that boasts offices for Babel Media, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and independent firm A2M. Quebec City plays host to another Ubisoft team, and independents such as Sarbakan and Beenox.