Microsoft opening game studio in Victoria
AP Photo-Matt Sayles
Don Mattrick, president of Interactive Entertainment Business for Microsoft, speaks at the Microsoft Xbox global media briefing during the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, June 6, 2011.
Vancouver gets a lot of attention as a hotbed for Canada's video game industry, but it's going to have to share the spotlight starting next year with nearby Victoria, where Microsoft is opening a new development studio.
The software giant is launching Microsoft Studios Victoria at the beginning of 2012, with an eye to hiring 50 to 60 people in its first year. Heading up the new operation will be industry veteran and long-time Victoria resident Christopher Robertson.
"It's really a fantastic opportunity for me to finally be able to work and grow a business in the city I love so much," said Robertson, who has spent time at several Vancouver-based studios, including Black Box and United Front Games. "It's already surprising how many people are coming out of the woodwork and are excited for an opportunity to move and go to work in Victoria."
The studio will likely be located on the city's waterfront, but Microsoft has not yet disclosed the sum of its investment. The company is also not saying what the studio will be working on, although Robertson said its games will be "somewhere between" the industry's two current trends - big-budget blockbusters and small mobile and social games.
Victoria was chosen for a number of reasons, he added, particularly because of its location halfway between Vancouver and Seattle, near Microsoft's headquarters.
The city's technology scene has reached critical mass so it will be able to support the studio's ecosystem, Robertson said. It will also attract developers who are getting tired of long commutes and other problems in Vancouver.
"[That city is] bursting at the seams. For a lot of people there are quality of life issues," he said.
Also helping was the fact that the godfather of the Canadian games industry and the current president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment division, Don Mattrick, lives in Victoria.
Mattrick kickstarted the industry in 1983 with his friend Jeff Sember when the duo published Evolution, a computer game in which players started out controlling an amoeba. The tiny game grew into Distinctive Software, which was then purchased by U.S.-based Electronic Arts in 1991.
Mattrick moved throught the ranks at EA and joined Microsoft in 2007, where he headed up the successful Xbox division before moving into his current role. Some observers have pegged Mattrick as potentially the next chief executive of the whole company.
Mattrick will therefore be watching the new Victoria studio closely, Robertson said.
"It's a project that's very near and dear to his heart."