Sherbrooke's first video game week a win for local industry
Eastern Townships city hopes to become next big gaming hub in Quebec
Sarah Doyon and her partner Gabriel founded the video game company Misstic Studio, working from home in the small town of Richmond, nestled in the Eastern Townships.
They leapt at the chance to present a prototype of the farming game they're preparing to launch at the first-ever video game week held in nearby Sherbrooke.
The local business development organization Sherbrooke Innopole created the event to promote the region's budding gaming industry in a region better known for its lakes and rivers and rolling hills.
"I think it's terrific because it highlights the small businesses from here and allows them to shine," said Doyon.
The event drew big companies known worldwide for their video games, like Ubisoft and Eidos Interactive.
"We are trying to make Sherbrooke become the third [most] important place for the gaming industry in Quebec," said the video game week's organizer, Marc-Henri Faure, the director of business services for IT companies at Sherbrooke Innopole.
Hub with unique assets
Faure has been working on growing the gaming industry in the Eastern Townships for years.
"Six to seven years ago I saw that the gaming industry was one of the key IT sectors [that] could help Sherbrooke to strive, economically speaking," he said.
Eidos Interactive, which belongs to a large Japanese video game publisher, was among the first to set up a branch office in Sherbrooke after evaluating the region's business potential.
"In Montreal the gaming industry is really saturated," said Isabelle Dery, the partnerships and projects director at Eidos-Sherbrooke.
The move to Sherbrooke means "the opportunity to get closer to nature," said Dery, and to live in a city where home ownership is affordable and the commute is short.
Dery says the city is well-placed to become a hub for the video game industry because it has a large pool of local talent and expertise to tap into. The city's two universities and its CEGEPs offer programs in software development, artificial intelligence, mathematics and design.
With more big names setting up shop in the region, Doyon is confident that more professionals will move there.
"When we'll be ready to hire it'll be easier because there will be artists and programmers that will be here, there will be more students looking for internships and also jobs," she said.
The event, which ends Sunday, brought together professionals, students, teachers and gamers to participate in workshops, networking sessions, competitions and exhibitions.
"For us it was really a no-brainer," to sponsor some of the activities, said Dery, as it was an opportunity to build relationships with students and local gamers, and to promote the company to potential employees.
"We do believe that it's important to make it a success, so that the people in Sherbrooke know that we're here," Dery said.
"We want to develop this ecosystem, and we want to invest the time and money in this."
With files from Holly Mueller