Alberta offers tax break to digital gaming, media companies

Alberta's growing digital media industry is getting a boost from the provincial government.

Tax credit would refund companies 25 per cent of employee salaries

Trent Oster, who co-founded Bioware and started the international gaming company Beamdog, says the tax credit will put Alberta's digital industry on the same playing field as other provinces. (CBC)

Alberta's growing digital media industry is getting a boost from the provincial government.

The province is offering digital gaming and media companies a tax credit that covers 25 per cent of salaries and bonuses for current and new staff and five per cent more for employees from diverse or under-represented backgrounds.

Digital gaming and media companies say it will put Alberta on the same competitive fields as businesses in B.C., Quebec and Ontario, which offer similar incentives.

Trent Oster, who co-founded Bioware and started the international gaming company Beamdog, said the tax credit will help the industry in Alberta.

"I'm happy to be an Albertan and to be able to play here with a level playing field excites me greatly," he said at a news conference Thursday morning

"We're the best in the world at interactive content, high-speed simulation, user interface. The next 20 years is going to be built on these technologies.

"Augmented reality, virtual reality are all based on high-performance simulation. The games industry is going to feed that and it's going to grow huge."

Heather Sworin, with CodeHatch Corp., said Edmonton is already on the development map, but she would like to see the industry expand — not only in the city, but across Alberta.

"We're excited to see how this program will help local studios to expand, both in size and ambition, as we bring our games to a global, highly competitive market," she said. 

The province said there are more than 50 interactive digital media studios in the province, employing more than 500 full-time workers, who earn, on average, more than $70,000 a year.

The industry contributes roughly $80 million to Alberta's annual GDP, the province estimates.

Further details and the cost of the tax credit will be announced in the provincial budget, which will be introduced next week.