Ontario’s Role in the Game Development Scene

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In the early days of video games, their development was associated almost entirely with the United States and Japan. These two countries acted as development hubs, and the major studios based in them drew talent from all over the world. This limited the ability of local gaming industries to expand. 

Over the last few decades, the rise of indie games and the diversification of types of games has made it possible for the video game industry to become less centralized. New hubs have been able to grow and small studios flourished. 

One of these new hubs for game development is Ontario, Canada. Just like how British Columbia became an essential part of the film and television production world, Ontario has achieved the same status in the world of video game development. It is now the home of nearly 32% of the entire Canadian games industry.

In this article, we’ll look at some of these companies and at Ontario’s role in the game development scene. 

Casino games

Online casinos have become a core sector in the gambling industry. While live casino games lead the way in terms of innovation, slot machine games are where the game developers can shine. Leading online casino operators, whose wide selection features top titles of online games, typically offer a huge range of themes and styles.

Developers in Canada have seen how big the online casino market is and have chosen to focus on casino games for apps, rather than the more general market. Developers such as Zartek have seen the market trends and realized that optimization for mobile devices is the future of online casinos. By concentrating solely on mobile casino games, they are able to stay a step ahead of the competition.

Many of the game studios in Ontario are relatively small, so this sort of specialization allows them to be more focused while also being more flexible. This makes them more competitive in the long run.

Mobile games

If you’ve played a social game on mobile, you’ve probably played a Zynga game. Zynga are one of the most prolific and successful mobile and social media game developers in the world. Their first major hit was the farm simulator FarmVille, which they followed with several spinoffs and sequels. 

The entire mobile game industry owes a lot of its foundation and direction to Zynga. They showed that free-to-play games with in-app purchases and a social element had huge potential. While Zynga’s head office is in California, their Toronto studio is an important part of the company. Zynga were also at the forefront of optimizing games for both iOS and Android, which has now become standard practice.

The Ontario game development scene has become a nursery for mobile game studios – a place where they can grow and flourish. Some of the exciting mobile game developers currently working in Ontario are Amethyst Games, Northern Forge and Milkbag Games. While many mobile game developers focus on simple and formulaic games that are essentially reworkings of existing popular games, many Ontario studios work to produce more innovative adventure or RPG-style mobile games. 

PC and console games

While mobile games and casual gaming have been the major buzzwords of recent years and do attract a lot of players, PC and console games will always maintain their position at the heart of the video game world. 

Game studios are typically divided into two tiers – AAA and indie. AAA studios are the major game publishers that are instantly recognizable, even to people who don’t know much about video games. Most of the major studios have locations across Canada. Ontario is home to Ubisoft Toronto and Rockstar Games Toronto. These are the studios behind Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto. 

Where Ontario game development really shines is in their indie studios. Indie games developers are small, independent operations. Sometimes they will contribute to making games for AAA studios, but their primary focus is on releasing their own games. By combining a healthy range of AAA and indie studios, Ontario has fostered a development community that emphasizes the importance of collaboration. Ubisoft Toronto has even launched an Indie Series to celebrate the best of local indie talent. 

The indie studios in Ontario reflect the diversity of gamers and their interests today. Of course, there are still indie FPS games and horror games – but there are also indie studios, such as Love Conquers All, that focus on producing narrative games for women. There is also a niche for 8-bit and 16-bit developers that can satisfy that gamer nostalgia. 

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