Doctor of Philosophy
The video game industry has been examined since the 1970’s, yet individual country analysis from an economic geography perspective has been lacking. It is the contribution of this dissertation to utilize the agglomeration economy and location theory literature in its application to the Canadian video game industry.
To understand this industry, a mixed-method approach is used. Kernel density maps, standard deviational ellipses, and mapping processes were used to illustrate the dispersion and clustering patterns of studios in Canada. In addition, a Poisson regression was performed using count data of the number of video game firms in census metropolitan areas. The resulting data displayed strong clustering in the major trade cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, with the Poisson regression showing a positive relationship between the two variables, population and number of video game studios.
The interview data revealed that this is influenced by a mix of urban hierarchy and financial aid. These two go hand in hand as often these areas with the highest population and therefore the greatest number of video game studios, have the most opportunities for this aid. Interviews also revealed the additional element of networking. While this is somewhat limited in some given locations, there are more instances of open communication in the smaller-scale operations between developers.
The growth of the video game industry relies heavily on the branch economy that has developed over time. While it is possible to apply the initial growth of the industry in Canada to the economic geography literature, this is reduced to initial stages of development and labour pools.
Summary for Lay Audience
Canada is the third-largest producer of video games in the world. From small independent studio successes such as Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil and free to play masterpieces like Warframe, to AAA game titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Canada has become a powerhouse over the past few decades. The video game industry has been examined since the 1970’s, yet individual country analysis from an economic geography perspective has been lacking. It is the contribution of this dissertation to utilize the agglomeration economy and location theory literature in its application to the Canadian video game industry.
To understand this industry, GIS mapping techniques were used to illustrate the dispersion and clustering patterns of studios in Canada. This was used in conjunction with interview data to further understand the trends of agglomeration as well as internal industry dynamics such as the creative process, competition, and financial aid.
The Canadian video game industry clusters in the major trade cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. While this is influenced by urban hierarchy, these populations centers are more due to social factors where developers are from the area and have connections to the location. The greater influences, on a provincial level, are the funding and tax incentive programs that are offered. While there are federal and provincial opportunities, these do not greatly sway location unless there is city-specific financial aid. This support that Canada offers is one of its greatest strengths, yet the process to obtain such aid is a lengthy and complex one.
Due to most production being done virtually, the video game industry is extremely mobile, and this has great implications for future growth in Canada. Making the pull factors ever more important to retain talent here in Canada, as well as ensuring stability over time. Yet, in terms of utilizing the economic literature for such a purpose, it is reduced to initial stages of production and even that is reduced to understanding what attracts labour. The importance is in ensuring growth is within the confines of social aspects and community development, not entirely in the benefits of agglomeration economies.
Morin, Grant L., "A Walkthrough of the Canadian Video Game Industry: An Economic Geography Perspective on the Digital Entertainment Frontier" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7335.
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