8th February 2010

Our Take On The New BC Tax Incentives

Orby - Proud to be CanadianAldergrove – As many of you are already aware, the Province of BC announced their new proposed Tax Incentive program for the digital media industry, to be combined with changes to the film industry’s tax credits last week. This is very good news not only for the video game sector, but also for many aspects of the interactive entertainment industry.

Speaking to the announcement, Tim Lewinson, Creative Director of Vancouver’s Massive Bear Studio, stated that “as a rising company in the Vancouver development scene, Massive Bear is happy to see the provincial government recognize the importance of sustaining British Columbia’s position as one of the world’s preeminent game development hubs. By working with government to reinvigorate job growth and investment in BC, we can continue to create some of the world’s best games. There’s too much talent and history in BC’s interactive entertainment sector not to take advantage of the opportunity to work with film, television, and animation industries in building a next-generation digital media hub right here. This announcement is an important first step in getting there.”

Sadly, the film industry is crying somewhat foul in regards to the changes to this program. Shawn Williamson of BrightLight Pictures was quoted in CBC’s coverage of the announcement as saying “”What they’ve announced is the increase for video games, which will put money into the pockets of the Pixars and Electronic Arts and large video game companies which are based primarily in Los Angeles,” Williamson told CBC News. “Those companies are likely to invest and be happy. Companies like ours who produce and finance our own productions that keeps the wealth effectively in the province didn’t get a bump on the tax credit.”

While I respect Mr. Williamson’s feelings, he perhaps doesn’t understand the long history of Electronic Arts in the local game development culture and the important role the Burnaby campus has played in the growth of our local industry. I would like to direct him to an excellent article in the Georgia Straight. Written by Blaine Kyllo, this article takes a look at BC’s video game development family tree and how the industry has grown since the day Don Mattrick and Jeff Sember released the first Vancouver-developed game, Evolution, in 1982. The global video game development industry, in comparison to the film industry as a whole, is quite young and Vancouver was right there in the industry’s infancy.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger Touring Ubisoft Vancouver

Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger Touring Ubisoft Vancouver


For example, the first documentary filmed in Kamloops dates from 1912, and then during the 1930’s, several Hollywood studios began filming their “Quota Quickies” (today’s “B” movies) in Vancouver. One of the first TV series filmed here was the original Littlest Hobo, which was filmed at Hollyburn Studios in West Vancouver from 1963 through 1965. The point I am trying to make here is that Vancouver, and British Columbia as a whole, has had a presence in the early days of not just one creative industry, but in many.

Going back to Shawn Williamson’s comment about the “large video game companies which are based primarily in Los Angeles” – what he neglects to understand is that there are thousands of people employed in the digital media industry in BC – by small to medium-sized enterprise as well as by the bigger studios such as EA Canada, Radical Entertainment (Activision-Blizzard) and Relic Entertainment (THQ). Small studios such as Fit Brains, who may employ only a dozen people, and medium-sized studios such as Next Level Games, who employ a few dozen people will benefit greatly from this program. All of the above-named studios were producing product long before there any kind of provincial tax credits available to them. They didn’t stay because of a possible video game tax incentive some time in the future. They stayed because BC has talent.

I do have to wonder if Mr. Williamson has ever sat and watched the credits roll by at the end of a video game; just as in film and television production, there are many talented people employed for a game production beyond those who create the characters, build the environments and write the computer code. There are audio specialists, voice actors, office administration, human resources, marketing specialists, video compositors, musicians, motion-capture specialists, story and technical writers and so many more.

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8th February 2010

BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins Reaches Triple Platinum Sales

Bioware CorpEdmontonBioware announced today that according to internal EA data, Dragon Age™: Origins has sold-in over 3.2 million units worldwide. The “RPG of the Year” as named by Game Informer, G4, SpikeTV, AOL.com, and PC Gamer, Dragon Age: Origins has been hailed by Seth Schiesel of The New York Times as, “…perhaps the best electronic game made yet.” Dragon Age: Origins has won over 30 “Best of 2009” awards and has an average review score of 91 on PC according to Metacritic.com. This staggering critical and commercial success makes Dragon Age: Origins the sixth consecutive blockbuster from BioWare, alongside Baldur’s Gate™, Neverwinter Nights™, Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic™, Jade Empire™ and Mass Effect™.

Since the release of Dragon Age: Origins in fall 2009, the studio has continued to enchant gamers with additional content packs including Warden’s Keep and Return to Ostagar. The upcoming Dragon Age Originsexpansion pack, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening is set to launch on March 16, 2010.

“This is a tremendous start for the Dragon Age franchise and we are extremely pleased with the great reception the game has already received from critics and fans worldwide,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder, BioWare and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group of EA. “Our team is dedicated to crafting high quality, engaging new adventures and stories in the world of Ferelden for our fans!”

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, BioWare’s next installment in the Dragon Age lore, occurs following the events of Dragon Age: Origins. Players assume the role of a Grey Warden Commander entrusted with rebuilding the order of Grey Wardens and tasked to uncover the mystery of how the darkspawn survive after the slaying of the Archdemon. How players choose to rebuild their order, resolve the conflict with the mysterious “Architect,” and determine the fate of the darkspawn are just some of the many intriguing moral choices that will shape each player’s heroic journey. Players will be able to import their character from Dragon Age: Origins or start out as a new Grey Warden from the neighboring land of Orlais.

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8th February 2010

Ferrari Races into Need for Speed SHIFT

EA GamesMontreal Electronic Arts Inc. announced today that after a seven year hiatus, the venerable automaker and elite racing brand Ferrari is returning to Need for Speed. On February 16th, players of Need for Speed™ SHIFT will be able to download a content pack that delivers 10 extraordinary Ferrari cars including the 430 Scuderia and the ultra-rare FXX and F50 GT. Now, Need for Speed SHIFT players will feel the rush of being in the driver’s seat, realizing the true driver’s experience of being behind the wheel of a Ferrari car.

The Ferrari Racing pack is the latest downloadable content for Need for Speed SHIFT and will be available worldwide today exclusively on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system for $10.00 or 800 Microsoft Points (Need for Speed SHIFT and Xbox LIVE® account required).

In addition to 10 new cars, the Ferrari Racing Series will also extend SHIFT’s career mode with 46 new Ferrari specific challenges designed for the Ferrari cars to participate in including hot laps, eliminators, endurance races and a world tour. Completing the perfect Ferrari package are an additional 125 gamerpoints as a reward for undertaking various exciting challenges. All Ferrari cars can also be taken online where players can prove who has the skills to master these high-performance Italian racing machines.

The Ferraris available include:

1. 1996 Ferrari F50 GT
2. 2005 Ferrari F430 Spider
3. 2005 Ferrari FXX
4. 2005 Ferrari Superamerica
5. 2006 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
6. 2006 Ferrari F430 Challenge (Online/Quick event only)
7. 2006 Ferrari F430 GTC (Online/Quick event only)
8. 2007 Ferrari 430 Scuderia
9. 2008 Ferrari California
10. 2008 Ferrari 16M Scuderia Spider

“Need for Speed is recognized globally for showcasing amazing cars, including some of the world’s most desirable high-performance vehicles,” said Keith Munro, vice president at EA. “We are thrilled to be partnering again with Ferrari.”

Need for Speed SHIFT features an intense first-person crash dynamic and a signature cockpit view that delivers a true driver’s experience. The game further personalizes the experience through the all-new driver profile — a unique persona based on the driving skill and style of each player. With a perfect ‘10’ score from GameSpy.com and G4TV.com, and 90+ scores from IGN.com, Official Xbox Magazine, PlayStation: The Official Magazine, Team Xbox.com, Game Daily.com, Gametrailers.com and more, Need for Speed SHIFT is the highest rated Need for Speed game in years.

Need for Speed SHIFT is now available on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360, PC, PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, mobile and the iPhone™.

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