The Greater Vancouver Gaming Cluster
When people think of game companies in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle-area giants like Microsoft, Nintendo America, and RealNetworks tend to dominate—not to mention successful startups like Big Fish Games, PopCap, and WildTangent. But just 120 miles to the north lies another haven for makers of video games. Vancouver, BC, is noted for being like a big American city, only safer, and it is often the shooting location for movies that want to set a scene in any number of American cities, but more cheaply.
Although Vancouver has its own gaming culture and talent pool, it also has some notable connections to the Seattle gaming cluster, which we detailed last September. For example, Hothead Games in Vancouver makes a computer game based on the Seattle-made Web comic Penny Arcade. And just a couple of months ago, Big Fish Games (which has an office north of the border) acquired Vancouver-based Grubby Games.
So we thought it would be useful to provide a fairly complete list of the main players in the Vancouver video game industry. While the economic climate has slowed the expansion of the industry in Vancouver, as elsewhere, there remain dozens of companies in fields directly related to making games. The games coming out of Vancouver include those for personal computers and every type of console and handheld system, including mobile phones. The styles and genres are diverse—everything from serious, realistic World War II games to puppy simulations and boxing with characters from Popeye.
For our greater Vancouver gaming cluster, we listed 28 game companies that represent the many different types of studios, publishers, and games made in Vancouver. There are other companies that were not included because they are either too small or work mainly on peripheral aspects of games like music and sound effects. Vancouver game companies also have a long history of merging with or acquiring one another, and many have ended up as part of a multinational company, such as Black Box Games, a company acquired by Electronic Arts in 2001.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list—at least not yet. If there’s a company we missed that you think should be included, please leave a comment below, or e-mail us at email@example.com. All companies are based in Vancouver proper, unless otherwise specified:
Atomic Robot Games
Founded in 2006, still developing first game for PSP, PS3, and Wii.
Big Fish Games
Based in Seattle with an office in Vancouver, and acquired Grubby Games. Makes casual computer games.
Big Sandwich Games
Makers of Socom: Confrontation and Skypirates of Neo-terra.
Makes online distraction games. Many are open source.
Blue Castle Games
Made the BIGS baseball game and MLB Front Office Manager.
Safe games for toddlers, makers of the Meadow.
Runs Supergroup, an interactive music game. Also makes ZenStrings which generates videogame music based on a proprietary algorithm.
Deep Fried Entertainment
Makers of baseball games MLB Superstars and Fantasy All-Stars.
Electronic Arts Canada
Canadian base of the Sims maker.
Developed Lego Battles for Warner Brothers Interactive.
Developed Penny Arcade episodic game, Swarm, and Deathspank. Yes, Deathspank.
Makers of military games like Marine Sharpshooter and Navy SEALs.
Jet Black Games
Nintendo DS and Wii game maker. Titles include Baby Pals, Dancing with the Stars, and Popeye Boxing.
Jolly Bear Games
Downloadable puzzle and simulation games, free for an hour of play before purchase.
Makes the Sword of the Stars series of strategy games.
Makes online games like Eets and Sugar Rush.
Based in Ottawa with an office in Vancouver. Makes casual and mobile games.
Made Playground for Nintendo DS, along with Medal of Honor and Need for Speed games for PSP.
Makes mobile games like Night of a Million Billion Zombies.
Division of Disney Interactive Studios; develops action games with Disney license.
Pug Pharm Games
Social network game developer.
Now a division of THQ, makes Warhammer 40,000 and Company of Heroes games.
Shift Control Media
Makers of online games like Coca-Cola Happiness Factory and Starwood Hotels.
Slant Six Games
Makes military video games like SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3.
Vancouver subsidiary of PopCap Games. Wide variety of games available for trial and then purchase.
Smoking Gun Interactive
Founded in 2007, still working on first game.
Acquired a Vancouver game company, Action Pants, as part of an expansion to Canada.
United Front Games
Founded in 2007, currently developing games for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Online 3D game/social networking site.