According to one estimate, the video game industry was projected to generate about $160 billion in revenue worldwide in 2020, and a Regina-based developer thinks Saskatchewan can cash in on the market.
“It’s larger than all pro sports added together. It’s about three times the size of Hollywood as an industry. It’s an enormous opportunity,” said Kai Hutchence, founder and CEO of game development studio Massive Corporation in Regina.
That’s why Hutchence recently launched SaskGameDev (started in 2017 as ReginaGameDev), a provincewide industry network promoting news, talent-sharing and skill-building that already has more than 400 members.
“We’re really the only major support for game development in the province. And we just kept getting more and more members showing up from outside Regina and decided it was time to make the obvious leap to say we represent all of Saskatchewa,” Hutchence explained.
He said the organization now has members from Prince Albert, Yorkton, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon and beyond.
“We want to support, connect and assist people interested in the industry right across the province.”
Hutchence said the province has already seen some success stories in recent years.
He pointed out how Regina-based 54e Dev Studios recently received $1.7 million in seed funding to help develop projects like their pioneering OneShot Golf game, which combines robotics, live video and game development.
In 2017, Saskatoon-based Noodlecake Studios was involved in a sales deal with ZPlay, a Chinese firm, which helped expose its games to a massive new market.
But Hutchence adds that tapping into the big-money market of video games isn’t the only benefit of promoting local development.
“The important thing to realize is that it’s not just entertainment. Game development is a fun way to learn tech — whether it’s networking, data security or app development,” Hutchence said. “All of the fundamental skills are taught by game development — but they’re fun!”
He thinks growing game development education in Saskatchewan could benefit the future of all tech-related industries in the province.
“If we want an AI industry in Saskatchewan, for example, the easiest way we’re going to get there is by inspiring kids to do game development. It’s the seed for the talent pool we desperately need to innovate our tech economy.”
This isn’t the first time Hutchence has spearheaded an initiative to expand the industry in Saskatchewan.
Last year, Massive Corporation launched Massive Sacks of Cash, a universal basic income-style grant program that awarded one developer $500 per month to help them focus on developing their game.
Hutchence has also helped run Regina’s Global Game Jam event in recent years, which brings together local developers, artists and writers for a 48-hour game-building blitz. This year the event was held virtually.
And in 2019, Massive Corporation made headlines for Queen City Chaos, a retro, eight-bit adventure brawler set in Regina.
In December they announced their next offering — Cheese Runner.