Microsoft to grow Victoria base

Microsoft to grow Victoria base

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Joined: Jan 4 2012
Date: 
June 22, 2012

Times Colonist
Carla Wilson
cwilson@timescolonist.com

Victoria has all the ingredients needed to continue growing as a high-tech community at a time when analysts predict the number of smart-connected devices will climb by the billions in coming years, the president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business told a business audience on Wednesday.

"It feels to me that all the ingredients are here for this community to go through the same type of growth that I would say that Vancouver went through in the past 30 years. That's very exciting," Don Mattrick told 135 members of the Downtown Victoria Business Association at its annual meeting.

Software giant Microsoft has moved into the sixth floor of the leased Dogwood Building at 1019 Wharf St. downtown where more than 30 staffers work in its new game design studio. The studio had been temporarily set up in Bastion Square since January.

Mattrick, a Vancouver native who lives part-time in Victoria, is responsible for developing "key entertainment experiences that span gaming, music and video across multiple screens," Microsoft's website states. Mattrick's team leads development and marketing of such wellknown devices as Xbox 360, the controller-free Kinect, and Xbox LIVE.

There are 2.4 billion smart-connected devices in the world today, such as personal computers, smartphones and tablets, Mattrick said.

"In the next five years, analysts are estimating that number will grow to 4.6 billion," said Mattrick. "It will change how we do everything in our daily life - commerce, entertainment, connectivity with our friends and the world around us."

Microsoft offices in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv have common denominators such as a great university and arts pipeline, he said.

Creative people "pay attention to their environment, pay attention to the quality of life that they live and they get together," he said. "A few people can grow a few companies. A few companies can grow great linkages with different institutions and people start realizing that they can go through whatever area of passion that they are involved with and stay in their local community."

The cities each have effective transportation links and diverse cultures that support the needs of technology workers and their families, said Mattrick.

While Microsoft moved into the top floor of the Victoria building, construction continues on lower levels.

Mattrick is anticipating future growth. "We love the charm and energy of the downtown community," he said.

He showed images of the Dogwood's interior where comfortable working arrangements are set out for staff. "Tech companies tend to centre everything about people - that's the asset that we are bringing together, teams of people who have expertise in multiple areas all working together to innovate, incubate and create something new."

Chris Robertson, technical director of the Victoria office, said: "We will be continuing our growth plans in the fall. We have space for 40 to 50 people on each floor." The company will use the top two floors for the first year or two and will sublease other space.

Ultimately, Microsoft could have about 150 staff in Victoria, he said.

"I've been amazed at the turnout [for work] that we have had. The quality of applicants and the volume of applicants is fantastic.

People love Victoria. About one-third to one-half of our staff are coming from the Island." The rest are coming from elswhere in the world. "It amazed me about how easy it was to pique peoples' interest about coming here," said Robertson.

Details of games projects are confidential. Robertson said the local office is contributing to a larger Microsoft program being developed in Redmond, Wash. "We are sort of the first outpost outside of the research and the incubation teams to start developing experiences for the future of entertainment interaction."

Mattrick said: "Everyone in our industry wants a chance to work on something that can be No. 1. That's what our teams are aspiring to create. Things that redefine entertainment, that will hopefully be the most popular, sell the most number of units, and really round out their personal creativity as they participate in the team."

On Victoria, he said: "We are finding as we get more time and linkage with the community just how great the new-to-industry youth pipeline is. There's lots of really passionate, talented people that we've been meeting. We are going to be hiring more of them so it's a lot of fun to be here."

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