Ubisoft’s new videogame Blacklist: Splinter Cell comes out Tuesday and its reception will be closely watched as a bellwether of the gaming industry in Toronto.
Blacklist is the first game from Ubisoft Entertainment’s Toronto shop, founded in late 2009 with a promise to created 800 highly skilled jobs over 10 years. Ubisoft chose Toronto, in part, because of incentives introduced by the Ontario government meant to build the local videogame industry. The province gave the company $263 million to secure a $500 million investment.
Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond says Toronto also has a large talent pool and it has been able to hire game developers from Ontario universities.
"We saw such success in Montreal, that the company was interested in replicating that success in another city," she said. "We built the studio from scratch in Toronto. I moved here about 2 ½ years ago and built the studio from basically no one to over 300 developers and this is blockbuster game that takes over 600 people to make."
Developers in Montreal and other Ubisoft offices also worked on Blacklist, a stealth action videogame.
A blockbuster game costs upwards of $40 million to develop, a significant investment Raymond says requires an agile approach.
"It’s about being agile and adapting to the market so we all see major shifts. There’s new platforms on the rise. The way people are playing games is changing rapidly and our business model – a lot of games that are free to play and the revenue model [is shifting]," she said.
Raymond says Ubisoft aims to sell about five million copies of Blacklist.
As it waits for reviews of Blacklist to flow in, the Toronto shop is now working on five new projects. More jobs are coming to the Toronto gaming sector, Raymond says.
A significant new market for videogame development is older women, she adds.
"Older women, women in general are playing a lot more games with mobile phones, more web-based and app-based," Raymond said.