Interactive Ontario is pleased to welcome Max Berdowski to its growing team. In this new role, Max will be responsible for overseeing the growth of the organization’s many services in collaboration with partners in both the private and public sectors.
“We are tremendously excited to have Max join our team at IO,” said Ian Kelso, President and CEO, Interactive Ontario. “Max has a keen understanding of the Canadian entertainment industry and has a track record for delivering high very quality services in the not-for-profit sector.”
Max will be leading the charge in building partnerships around IO’s flagship event IN 2010, as well as for a new business skills training programme specializing in interactive media and digital games entrepreneurship.
Prior to joining Interactive Ontario, Max Berdowski spent ten years in Ottawa as the Executive Director and CEO of the recently closed Canadian Screen Training Centre (CSTC) — presenter of the Summer Institute of Film and Television. The national film, television and digital media training institute trained 500 filmmakers each year with all of its programming led by top working professionals. Max was responsible for the STC’s strategic planning, branding and programming. He directed its sponsorship and business development efforts.
Before leading the CSTC, Max’s work aired on broadcasters including CTV, Global television, CBC, CHUM, TLC in the U.S. and TQS in Quebec. From lifestyle series to network specials his numerous credits included Creative Director, Senior Producer and Director. Max was Producer/Director for a number of award-winning station and news image campaigns, most significantly, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters – C.A.B. Gold Ribbon Award for the country’s top Television Station Promotion and the PROMAX International Silver Medallion for the Atlantic Satellite Network’s innovative on-air look.
Max received a Master of Fine Arts in Motion Picture Production from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinema from Concordia University in Montreal. 
Women in Games Vancouver  have released a three part interview with Vancouver Film School student Shannon Lee. Shannon was the recipient of the first ever Women In Games Scholarship, which was awarded at the Game Design Expo in 2009. You can watch Part One of the interview here, while Parts Two and Three have been posted on the WIGeh! You Tube Channel .
“We are so touched by the support and feedback we have received on our products that we felt as though we would like to say thank you to the public by making these next software applications free to the public,” says Vancouver’s PC HelpSoft™ Director of Product Development, Matthew Foland.
Smart System Info is a free tool that complies all the information you need on installed hardware and software. Specific information includes computer ID, processor, BIOS, memory, disks, video, motherboard, monitor, and more. Smart Toolbar Remover deletes annoying toolbars with just a click of the mouse. No more fighting with unwanted toolbars that take up valuable space in your browser. 
In breaking news from Felderen, the Darkspawn Chronicles DLC  for Dragon Age: Origins  is now available (and waiting in my 360’s download queue) from Bioware . As announced earlier this month, players will now be able to play as the evil (or just misunderstood) Darkspawn. Instead of saving Denerim, players can burn it to the ground and watch Alistair weep in despair. The Darkspawn Chronicles expansion is rated M and costs 400 BioWare Points, 400 MS Points or $4.99 PSN.
Happy 6th birthday to Maid Marian Entertainment Inc.’s  free browser-based MMO game Sherwood Dungeon  and to celebrate, the company’s creator has launched the new Sherwood Dungeon: Prophecy of Bane quest series to players.
“Sherwood started out as a hobby while I worked in the console games industry and grew organically. It’s  been a game that’s in constant development while it’s live,” says Maid Marian founder, Gene Endrody. “Originally players came back just to see what I had added and this created an interesting player culture because their feedback affected my choices. It’s also a bit of an anti-corporate entity; more like the crazy guy who turned his house into a haunted castle and invited people in to make suggestions.”
In a massive and expanding MMO space, Sherwood Dungeon stands out from a long list of cookie cutter competitors by creating a high-quality 3-D retail-style game experience that’s easy to access for new MMO players with simple controls, runs in any browser and doesn’t require a log-in, monthly fee or sign-up process. It’s the type of formula that might make any seasoned business person cringe but for Maid Marian’s one-man team, the result equals a global fan base of more than a million monthly unique visitors without any marketing plan.
Sherwood Dungeon also deviates from the tenets of modern MMO games. Combat is based on twitch reaction skills with minimal leveling up required to be potentially competitive with any other player in the game. Relying on 100% melee combat with a mere eight actions (attack, five power moves, tally and block), battles with monsters and players is kept close by not including ranged weapons – thus giving it more of a Fight Club-style of play where respect is earned, not given. Unlike other MMO games, Sherwood Dungeon allows players to change their avatar and identity and since skill is the motivation here, there are no classes.
Socially, Sherwood Dungeon players have also dictated how they communicate, even with 99 rooms that often serve as meeting areas for clans. Such behaviors make for exciting clan vs. clan wars as players merely move to their opposing clan’s room to get the battle started. A dominant chat interface also keeps communications flowing between friends and foes and with combat being Sherwood Dungeon’s primary goal, none of the chat keystrokes interfere with combat (and yes, there are still control keys for dancing).
Sherwood Dungeon grew from an underground secret to global success through basic word of mouth. And those words come in many languages as 29% of the game’s players live in Poland, 19% in Brazil, 8% in the United States, 6% in Turkey, 5% in France and 4% in Argentina, worlds away from Maid Marian’s humble and suburban Vancouver headquarters.
eLATED is presenting an evening of discussion  about virtual worlds such as Second Life, which provide eLearning professionals with a new generation of real-time, highly immersive and engaging learning environments. As a learning technology, Second Life has increased learner test scores by over 28%, enabled the delivery of soft skills online and provided a revolutionary new platform for the eLearning community.
This demonstration presented by Serious Worlds  founder Doug Dyson, will include 3D instructional design concepts, walk-through an actual virtual classroom, review current challenges and take a look at the future of learning in virtual worlds. The presentation is geared for eLearning professionals who are interested in the application of virtual worlds in their current eLearning tool set. This session will take place at The Boiler House Restaurant (55 Mill Stree in Toronto) on Thursday, May 20th beginning at 4pm. 
Congratulations are due to ModNation Racers and Mass Effect 2. Both titles were honoured by the UK’s Game People  in association with Family Gamer Awards for the 2010 Spring FGAs. United Front Games’ ModNation Racers , which will be released on May 25th, picked up the top award in the Games for Juniors (5-10 years). As the winner, they also get to pick a lucky charity which will receive £100 from the Family Gamer Awards organization. Bioware’s Mass Effect 2  won in the Games for Workers (18 & over) category.
The mesh conference  is excited to unveil the mesh prize  today, a new initiative to support the Canadian digital media industry. The mesh prize, which will be awarded annually to a project or groups of projects, aims to encourage projects that will create new understanding, capabilities or tools to benefit the digital media community. Mesh prize winners will be announced each year at the mesh conference, and will receive $40,000 to be used to successfully complete of their project or projects.
“Canadian companies need to reinvest in our industry in a significant way, and the mesh prize is a way to do that,” said Jon Lax, a partner with Teehan+Lax , which established and financed the mesh prize. “I am excited about the projects that this prize will fund and the ideas that will emerge from them. I want to encourage other companies in our industry to follow our lead and participate in the mesh prize”
The first recipient of the mesh prize is Justin Kozuch, whose project involves a research study on the size and scope of Canada’s digital media industry. The study will focus on suppliers of digital media services, as well as the needs of digital media customers.
“We’re doing this because there doesn’t currently exist a unified, industry effort to truly understand our industry’s makeup, or a grassroots campaign to catalogue and report on the size and scope of our industry,” Kozuch said. “This is an amazing opportunity to do something significant for the Canadian digital market. The mesh prize is the perfect launching pad for any initiative that will help us improve the Canadian digital media landscape. This is an first important step in continuing to nurture and grow our digital community.”
Submissions for the 2011 mesh prize will be accepted later this year. Anyone interested in becoming part of the advisory board can learn more about how to apply at meshprize.org . Recipients of the mesh prize are required to complete their stated objectives and project plan. An advisory board ensures that the projects are completed. The prize winner will present their project at mesh ‘11, and the new winner or winners will be announced at that time.
Montréal will host the 8th edition of webcom-Montréal  this May 26th at the OACI Head Office, and Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales, named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, will be the guest of honour.
Among the renowned speakers also in attendance will be Tara Hunt, marketing and online community expert and pioneer, and author of the book The Whuffie Factor, Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, and Chris Heuer, founder of the Social Media Club. Furthermore, early on during the presentation, the Centre francophone d’informatisation des organisations (CEFRIO) will present the exclusive results of a study on the progress of social media and Web 2.0 in Québec.
webcom-Montréal is the world’s foremost francophone conference on new technology. It features a series of conferences divided between four different fields, namely Corporate 2.0, Marketing 2.0, Solutions 2.0 and Public Relations 2.0. These workshops enable participants to learn more about several 2.0 case studies within each theme, all grouped under three main themes: real-time Web, online communities and Wiki’s collaboration. Please note that as of 3:30 p.m., all conferences are presented free of charge as Speed-Keynotes.
“I tweet, therefore I am”. Canada’s first Twitter conference: Jeff Pulver, special speaker at WebTweet-Montréal. For the first time in Canada, and in collaboration with webcom-Montréal: a conference on Twitter – a micro-blogging site and pop culture phenomenon, as well as media, politics, nanoliterature, music, etc.
For this first edition, WebTweet-Montréal will host none other than Jeff Pulver as keynote speaker. Vonage founder Jeff Pulver is the mastermind behind the “140 characters conference”, the inspiration behind WebTweet-Montréal. The complete schedule is available: www.webcom-montreal.com.
Surviving ahead of expectations from last year’s recession, CEOs of Canadian emerging software companies are very optimistic about the year ahead. This is according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers  (PwC) 2010 report on Emerging Canadian Software Companies: The CEO Perspective, which shows that close to 60% of respondents are expecting at least 25% growth in 2010.
A majority of respondents (60%) have a positive view of the software industry in Canada this year, compared to 38% for last year. “There is definitely a sense of optimism,” says Peter Matutat, PwC’s partner and national emerging company practice leader. “Companies in this sector weathered the recession well and even in 2009, CEOs found ways to continue to invest in their operations. We were surprised at how little downsizing and turnover there was despite a decline in exports last year and almost a third did not engage in any cost-cutting activities at all.”
The survey results indicate that in 2009:
– Forty percent of companies enjoyed revenue increases of more than 25% while 28% had revenues increase by 10-25%
– Share of total sales to U.S. markets declined from 40% in 2008 to 36% in 2009
– More than half (53%) of companies were profitable while another 29% expect to be profitable in 2010
– Thirty-seven percent described themselves as investing in their business
With respect to raising capital, companies basically had to do it themselves, or turn to family or angel investors, says Matutat. The report shows that venture capital activity reached all-time lows: only 21% of funds raised in 2009 came from venture capital versus 46% from angel investors. The good news is that of the 54% of respondents who tried to raise capital within the last two years, the majority (75%) were successful. The remaining 46% did not need to raise capital.
As a sign of growing maturity and confidence, more CEOs are looking at 2010 to expand through acquisitions as 42% of respondents with an M&A strategy are planning to acquire a competitor, says Matutat. Overall, 29% of respondents are pursuing growth opportunities and another 26% are open to growth opportunities.
However, exiting through M&As is still the main goal of respondents as 80% expect to be acquired within five years, which is consistent with prior years. The PwC report predicts that 2010 will be a very active year for M&As in this sector. Some of the reasons are that companies were holding off selling in 2009 for better valuations of their companies in 2010, certain industries (such as mobile, healthcare and infrastructure) are buying and many baby boomer CEOs are ready to cash in.
The report notes that software companies are in a good position to take advantage of a wide-range of government incentives – some of which were established to help emerging companies during the recession. “We’ve been able to help a significant number of our own clients to choose among the broader array of programs and funding available and we encourage companies that think they may be eligible to seek out this assistance while the stimulus programs are still available,” says Matutat.
The number of companies seeking intellectual property protection outside of Canada is an area that decreased this year from 56% in 2009 to 39% in 2010. However, there has been a consistent increase since 2008 in the number of Canadian companies seeking IP protection in India and China which reflects the growing role that emerging countries are playing within an increasingly global software industry.
The survey also reports that 43% of CEO emerging software leaders believe that “cloud computing” is critical to their model, while 32% find the cloud provides no significant impact on the way they operate or their bottom line. In spite of this uncertainty, 52% of respondents are cloud users. Some 46% of survey participants are already developing cloud computing applications for their clients’ use, while another 8.6% are planning to do so.
The results of the survey were based on the responses from 130 CEOs, identified from a national cross-section of emerging Canadian software companies from publicity available lists. The full report includes additional commentary from John Beardwood and Mark Penner from Fasken Martineau on intellectual property, a global perspective on M&A activity from Bruce Lazenby of Corum Group Ltd. and an overview of government incentives from PwC’s Neal Madan and Elliot Edell.
Performance-based online marketing and technology solutions corporation Cyberplex Inc.  has announced that it purchase agreements are now in place for the company to acquire online media publisher Tsavo Media . This transaction, valued at approximately US$75 million and a C$30.25 million bought deal private placement of subscription receipts, is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed on or about June 8, 2010.
“We are focused on delivering the best performance marketing solutions to our clients,” said Geoffrey Rotstein, President and CEO of Toronto-based Cyberplex. “This is a highly strategic and transformational event for us as it takes our leadership position in developing performance based advertising campaigns and combines it with a leader in targeted distribution. By matching Tsavo’s media properties and search marketing capabilities with Cyberplex’s network of over 10,000 publishing partners, Cyberplex will offer an unprecedented value proposition to tier one advertising clients and an extremely targeted advertising platform. The individual capabilities of Cyberplex and Tsavo are complementary and together the combined entity will constitute one of the largest online advertising companies in Canada.”
Tsavo’s ability to drive search traffic to the hundreds of campaigns being promoted through the Cyberplex network will provide for an enhanced client experience and represents considerable growth potential for both organizations. Search marketing is and continues to be one of the most effective methods to target and understand consumer intent and is an essential part of performance marketing.
“We are thrilled to be combining our efforts with Cyberplex,” said Hastings. “There are meaningful synergies between our two companies that will provide value to our combined customer base. We have been investing in our traffic platform for several years and believe that the combination of our business with Cyberplex will allow us to leverage those investments and diversify our revenues while expanding margins. By bringing together two of Canada’s top Internet companies and their respective expertise and skills, we are creating the foundation for a next generation Internet company – integrated performance from the initial click to a desired outcome for our clients.”
Headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Tsavo Media is a leading online publisher, featuring a dynamic and diverse family of Web properties. The company has a demonstrated track record of growth and profitability and in 2009 generated revenue of approximately US$110 million and EBITDA of approximately US$16.7 million, excluding management fees paid to its owners. Tsavo Media’s current portfolio includes over 300 unique consumer websites, informational properties and social media blogs which generate over 30 million unique visitors per month. Ted Hastings, President and CEO of Tsavo Media, will take on the role of President in the combined organization and all other senior executives of Tsavo Media will remain with the organization. It is expected that this transaction will be immediately accretive for the combined entity.
Over 85 percent of Canadian parents, of 7-17 year olds, were found to be most concerned about the “online over-sharing” of personal information by their Web-savvy kids among online friends and strangers — even more so than watching inappropriate content like violence and pornography, or getting virus infections on their computers – according to an IPSOS Reid survey  commissioned by Trend Micro  that consisted of over 1,000 Canadians, predominantly parents, but also included educators and caregivers.
Unwanted contact by online strangers and accessing inappropriate content tied closely for second, with 84 percent of parents stating these as top concerns; 82 percent said security issues such as virus or malware infections were most troubling; 67 and 52 percent cited aggressive commercialism and illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing, respectively, as most vexing.
So just how vigilant are parents when it comes to protecting their children from these stated concerns? The survey found it to be a mixed-bag: Parents who exercised caution in some areas were found to be lacking insight or knowledge in others. For example, while 93 percent of those surveyed said they are running security or antivirus software to prevent virus and malware infections, fewer than 30 percent are running parental control features, which make it possible to limit and track the Web sites their children are visiting. And even though 76 percent of parents said they make sure their Internet-connected computers are in a public/common area room of the house, nearly 62 percent of them allow unsupervised access. This increases to more than 75 percent for parents of children aged 13-15.
“Trend Micro extends its commitment to Internet safety through its Internet Safety for Kids & Families  initiative,” said Lynette Owens, director of corporate outreach, Trend Micro. “This survey was commissioned to help us better understand the areas of concern to the public and the biggest gaps between their perception and the reality of those concerns. Like other countries, these findings confirm that a combination of education and available technology can go a long way in helping to keep kids safe online.”
The survey also found that some parents live in a state of ignorance over their children’s Internet relationships when it comes to knowing exactly with whom their children are having online interactions, only 23 percent of parents believe they’ve personally met and know all of their children’s online contacts.
Other notable findings from the survey:
— The older the respondent, the greater the concern for safety across the board. Younger respondents 18-34 were less concerned than older respondents.
— Parents of children less than 8 are less concerned than parents of children 9-12
— 17 percent of children aged 7-15 have a computer in their room.
— Younger parents are better at checking the history of where their children have surfed the Internet than those over 35.
— Women are more likely to provide a great deal of guidance on issues of Internet safety than men.
— Lower income households are more likely to provide a great deal of guidance against aggressive commercialism than families with income over $45,000.