Victoria video gamers grapple with HR challenges amid growth

Source: Business in Vancouver
Author: Tyler Orton

Victoria video gamers grapple with HR challenges amid growth

Vancouver Island’s smaller talent pool pushing some developers to recruit from outside video game sector

It’s been nine years since three University of Victoria (UVic) grads launched their first video game aimed at Facebook (Nasdaq:FB) users.

Viking Clan was monetized almost instantly and managed to gain 250,000 players within weeks of its launch, and by the end of its first year on the market, Kano/Apps CEO Tim Teh said the Victoria-based company was profitable after generating $1 million in revenue from the game.

“We try to create games that are built around communities that last for a really long time,” said Teh, who met his co-founders on their first day at UVic.

Kano/App’s latest game, Free Rider HD, is the fifth game the team has developed for iOS after expanding beyond Facebook games. The company recently moved into its second office after growing from the initial UVic trio to 25 developers.

Despite Kano/Apps’ significant growth, Vancouver Island-based video game developers still face talent recruitment challenges.

There are 5,500 full-time employees at 128 companies in B.C.’s video game industry, according to a 2015 Entertainment Software Association of Canada report.

Vancouver Island accounts for “roughly” 250 of the province’s developers, according to Eric Jordan, a DigiBC board member who also serves as CEO of Victoria-based Codename Entertainment.

The talent pool is significantly smaller, which makes recruitment from within the industry tricky.

But Jordan said the broader tech industry has usurped tourism as Victoria’s main economic driver.

BC Stats’ 2016 profile of the B.C. tech sector estimated the tech industry accounts for 20,000 jobs on Vancouver Island.

“Certainly there’s a love of video games in the broader tech community, so we can recruit people out of the broader tech industry,” said Jordan, whose company just released Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons & Dragons-themed game.

Codename Entertainment CEO Eric Jordan, left, says his company is recruiting from Vancouver Island’s broader tech industry | Submitted

Kano/Apps has been using the same tactic of recruiting from the broader tech industry already living on Vancouver Island.

“The rising cost of Vancouver definitely helps in terms of trying to drive talent Island-side,” Teh said, adding Kano/Apps also recently recruited a game designer from India.

Meanwhile, Jordan said flattening distribution channels – app stores, for example – has made it easier to develop and release games into the market anywhere in the world.

“And so that then combined with, ‘So if I don’t have to be in Vancouver, well, where would I like to be?’ You have studios in Victoria, of course, but then you’ve got some really interesting stuff happening up-Island, too.”

Jordan added that Vancouver Island developers like Cloudhead Games are in locations “that make Victoria look astronomically large.”

As for future growth, Jordan said gaming is acting as a “natural bridge” between the public at large and the tech sector.

“And the tech sector’s really growing so much here in Victoria, it’s been a real boon for video game companies.”

torton@biv.com