Edmonton video game industry sees boom in size, international clout

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Edmonton video game industry growing in size and international clout
WATCH: It's looking to be a big year for the Edmonton video game industry. Many independent studios are creating anD releasing new games in 2024, and they're seeing some international recognition and awards. Jaclyn Kucey has the story. – Apr 3, 2024

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Edmonton independent game developers.

Caldera Interactive was selected out of hundreds of submissions from around the world to bring their game concept The Rabbit Haul to a pitch competition at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Isael Huard, co-founder and producer of Caldera Interactive, presenting his pitch at the 2024 Game Developer Conference in March. Caldera Interactive

“The next day we were pitching and then we were upgraded to the winner,” said Isael Huard, the co-founder and one of the producers.

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The Caldera Interactive team at the Game Developer Conference in March. Caldera Interactive

“You play as a cute little bunny, and you are spending the day farming.”

Huard explained it’s like a Cozy Tower Defense-style game. You plant things like strawberries during the day, but at night you defend your “haul” from racoons.

They’re about halfway through game development. “We’re just starting to kind of publicly come out and talk about it trying to build a community around it,” said Huard. They’re recruiting players to join their Discord to play-test the game every month and give feedback.

“You can really help shape what the Rabbit Haul will be,” said Huard.

Caldera Interactive is newer to the independent game industry in Edmonton. They started in 2019, as a group of friends coming out of their University of Alberta game development certificate program.

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This is their first game, and they hope to launch in 2026, if they can find the funding or get picked up by a publisher to get to the finish line.

Crimson Herring is a local indie company that launched in 2020. They just released their first game Sovereign Syndicate in January and it’s picking up steam.

“We’ve sold well over 10,000 copies. Now, we actually just signed a deal to bring the game to Xbox and PlayStation and localize it to some other languages,” said Isaac Otway, CEO and president.

It’s an idea that became a multi-million-dollar project. Otway is just hoping to continue creating.

“If we want to stay in this business, we have to adjust to the reality of the investment environment,” said Otway.

Kyle Kulyk joined the industry in 2011, he’s had a first-hand look at the industry boom and bust as the managing director of Itzy Interactive.

“Right now, in Edmonton, it’s quite exciting,” said Kulyk.

In 2018 the province implemented the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit that saved developers money on salaries.

“At that point, a bunch of larger studios decided that they were going to come and set up shop in Edmonton,” said Kulyk.

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But in 2019 the incoming UCP government removed it.

“For that one year that we had it, the expansion in the industry was literally overnight,” said Kulyk. “Immediately after that tax credit was removed, everything just as quickly shrunk.”

“It was something that was encouraging to us to put us on a level more level playing field with the rest of Canada and it just feels like a missed opportunity,” said Kulyk.

There are other supports from municipal and federal levels like the Edmonton Screen Industries Office and the Canada Media Fund.

“We’re one of two provinces in Canada that don’t have any type of incentivize tax credits and that for the industry, so it doesn’t make much sense to expand in Edmonton,” said Kulyk.

Since then, the minister of technology and innovation, Nate Glubish, was mandated by the premier in 2022 and 2023 find a new incentive program.

The minister declined to comment, but so far there hasn’t been any movement.

Even with this success, “I think we’re still a little bit of the underdog,” said Huard. “Still Alberta we were at GDC but a lot smaller presence than some of the other provinces. We’re not seeing that growth at that scale yet and of course a tax credit would help with that but I think we’re still making waves.”


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