Connect with us


Subsidized video games | “A Dane, an Italian, a lot of French…”



There are always two sides to a coin, or even three, so to speak. Here is the opinion of an employee of the video game industry who wrote me a very well-rounded letter on the intangible positive impacts of the industry in Montreal1.

The letter follows my column critical of industry subsidies, published on Tuesday. I explained that, according to a study, companies in the industry make a net gain of $174 million per year with subsidies from the Government of Quebec, after payment of their taxes and payroll taxes.

Of the 200 companies, 15 foreign subsidiaries receive 75% of the subsidies, in a period when there is nevertheless a shortage of manpower, particularly in IT.

“Hello, Mr. Vailles. Working in the industry myself, I don’t know if grants are worthwhile, but I can add some things to feed your thinking.

“I worked for several years on Rainbow Six Siege, and the game became the most played in Ubisoft’s history. We built our team almost from scratch. In the engine programming team, there was a Dane, an Italian, an Australian, a lot of French, Moroccans, and so on.

“These people arrive in Montreal with some experience already, often with young children. They were trained in other countries, and then offer us the most productive periods of their careers, their studies financed by the countries from which they come. There are few Americans elsewhere, their student debt pushing them to stay on higher wages in the United States. »

“The absence of tax credits not only means that someone like me could leave Quebec and pay their taxes elsewhere, but also that these people would never have come here and would not pay taxes here. »

“I’ve seen some of them start stuff here too. When I was young, we talked about the brain drain, about our doctors leaving Quebec. There we import.

“This reality is not specific to a project or a company. WB Games Montreal, which makes a Batman, Eidos Montreal which revives Deus Ex, Ubi Montreal and all its brands, it attracts people from all over the planet.

“For example, when the studio that made the game The black closed its doors in Australia about ten years ago, Ubi Montreal, the largest studio in the world, became a place of choice, and took advantage of it.

“Another point: programmers are not the main employees of the video game industry, even if we are at the heart. Modelers, animators, level designers, and everyone else in content creation are the mainstays, at much lower salaries than programmers.

“With a cap on the tax credit, they are the ones who receive most of their salary from subsidies. I don’t think these professions are in such high demand outside of the game. [ils gagnent donc davantage et paient plus d’impôts dans l’industrie du jeu vidéo qu’ailleurs].

“Obviously, these artists could fill needs in other fields, but go tell them that…”

“It’s actually a misunderstood aspect of the industry. Academics are basically programmers and managers. There are two worlds, one logical and one creative, working together. It’s not like a computer box at all. »

“Exploding salaries”

“You quoted an average salary in your column [73 953 $ à Montréal pour un programmeur de jeux vidéo]. With a cap per employee, and very distinct professions, the average gives a rather imperfect picture here. To give you an idea, the average you quoted is lower than the salary of programmers coming out of university!

Assassin’s Creed, far cry, Watchdogs… Ubisoft Montreal has become the largest studio in the world by focusing on several huge open worlds, which require a lot of people to create content, much more than the kind of games we make in the United States. So it’s very particular, we can say that the games themselves have been influenced by the subsidies.

“And the situation is still very changing. With the arrival of new players in town like Tencent, Amazon and Epic, salaries for programmers have skyrocketed and it is not yet clear if the studios already present will survive this. But that’s another subject. »

1. I slightly reformulated certain passages and inserted in the text certain additions coming from the exchanges of emails which I had with the author.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *