THQ in Montreal

THQ is opening a huge studio in Montreal. That link is the news story that tried to distill the information in this interview with Danny Bilson. The reasoning for a new studio in Montreal is pretty straight-forward: lots of talent locally, and (more importantly) a huge tax incentive for the studio. Game companies are having to spend enormous wads of cash on games now to get gamers to play them, and a 37.5% tax break is a HUGE incentive. Business go where they can do the work they do the cheapest, and Bilson encourages States here south of Canada to do more to entice companies to make bases in their cities. I’ll leave the eco-political remainder of that idea alone.

More than just my pleasure at seeing a game studio doing well, and expanding business, I found the interview with Mr. Bilson to be interesting on a broader, gaming-reality sense. He was being asked about what kind of direction a huge new studio is projecting for the company, and what the goals of the studio would be. He answered with this:

The difference is that it used to be, about ten years ago, that videogames sold just because they were videogames. The artform was cool and people just gobbled up all kinds of stuff – but with the economy the way it is, and people just getting smarter or more experienced in games… it’s more like the movie business. Only the great ones, the blockbusters, will cut through – so our mission is to launch one of those every quarter and support it fully both with marketing and production, to compete at the highest level with the best games in the world.

Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy talking about all aspects of the video game industry. Not just MMOs. It’s an analogy that has been used time and again, and its  not surprising given Bilson’s past work in film. Still, the comparison of games to movies isn’t becoming any more inaccurate as time moves on. We’ve acknowledged that both are an art form, video games can tell immersive stories that draw in its audience, and both are relatively young (in comparison to traditional art). Video games however, are much younger than film, and so, we’re seeing a lot of the same growing pains that took place in the film industry. Early on (two decades ago), there was a floundering of sorts on the parts of some as they try to find their way, and now we see a lot of fly-by-night productions that create quick and easy games when they see a chance for an easy revenue stream. So, while games share the highs and joys of film, they also share it’s problems.

Thankfully, with the continual advancement of technology, and the wonderz of the interwebz, the length of these growing pains are being shortened. We already see a diverse branching in studios on what they focus on, whether it’s genre or scope. Fans are cropping up, refining their tastes in what they like best, whether it’s games created by independent studios or mega-corporation conglomerates. We have our Michael Bay and we have our Coen Brothers, and all the levels in between. Games even have all the pretend snobbery/fraternity idiocy that comes along with a striated culture of tastes.

The rest of the interview is interesting as well. His answers to questions seem to say all the right words, talking about supporting talent, and that game making is a talent-driven industry as opposed to process driven. So, while he says that the location of a new studio is all about money, he delivers it in a way that acknowledges the importance of capital on any venture, without acquiescing to it as a product defining paradigm. It’s delivered in such an off-hand, casual manner, that the message he conveys is that the cost is secondary to the quality of the product. Perhaps the most reassuring thing he could have said, to me as an audience, is this statement that I’ll leave you with.

…our audience is still, and always will be, the core gamers that built the core game business. I’m a firm believer that the games business was built on those people that want the deep, immersive experiences – they’ve grown up with that, and funded it.

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

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