Industry Watch: Video Games

Julien Lavoie of ESAC explains Canada’s role in the booming and evolving industry of video games

The Canadian video-game industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, despite the economy. “We had a historical growth of 11 percent over the past two years and for the entire industry,” says Julien Lavoie, director of PR for the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC). “We are expecting 17 percent annual growth in the coming two years.”

Canada is a major player in the global video-game market, with the third-largest video-game industry after the United States and Japan. “The US has about 32,000 employees, and we have 16,000, which makes us roughly half the size of the US industry,” Lavoie says. “So we are punching well above our weight in per-capita output for video games.”

Most of the talent resides in or near Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, as the cities are already home to various creative industries, allowing them to tap existing reservoirs of talent. The industry also benefits from cultural and demographic changes. “Generations have now grown up with video games and are still playing video games in their 20s, 30s, and 40s,” Lavoie says. “Today, parents who played video games as children are introducing them to their own children.”

The rise of smartphones and other mobile devices has only increased that trend, bringing games to people who hadn’t traditionally purchased them. This is changing the gaming demographic. “One of the fastest-growing segments of video-game users is women over the age of 55,” Lavoie says. “It’s spelling the death of the soap opera, but it’s creating brand-new audiences for games.”