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  10 Canadian Game Developers I’ve Mostly Never Heard Of  
Posted 2007-01-19 by Tony Walsh
Telefilm Canada has released the names of the 10 finalist companies in its Great Canadian Video Game Competition. Each of the following firms will receive $50,000 in funding to refine the original concepts presented, create a strategy for acquiring private-sector funding, and develop a visual identity:

  • Big Blue Bubble: Based in Ontario, this firm pitched a game called Hobby Shop for the Nintendo Wii. Big Blue Bubble has produced numerous mobile titles, including the Nintendo DS.
  • Cerebral Vortex Games: This Ontario firm pitched Ambush! Trivia for Xbox Live Arcade. I don't know anything else about this company.
  • Dark Matter Entertainment: Ontario-based Dark Matter pitched a console game titled Vertical Ascent. I don't know anything else about this company.
  • HB Studios & TPB Productions of Nova Scotia pitched a console game based on the hit Canadian show Trailer Park Boys. HB Studios is the maker of numerous EA Sports titles. TPB Productions makes the hit TV series. I don't know how this combo could possibly have failed, and if I had to pick a winner at this point, the deck seems heavily stacked in their favour.
  • Hop To It Productions: This Ontario firm has pitched Create-a-date, an online game (presumably web-based) that one contest juror said "is exploring some totally new areas in the gaming industry..." I don't know anything else about this company.
  • Hothead Games Inc.: From British Columbia, this firm pitched the PC game SWARM!, described by a contest juror as "highly relevant in terms of trying to clean up the world, without being ultra violent." I don't know anything else about the company.
  • Humagade Ltd: Based in Quebec, this company pitched Tamano for the Nintendo DS. Humagade has developed a number of mobile and ICTV games, as well as a PC-based puzzle game and GBA/DS game.
  • LiveWires Designs Ltd.: This B.C. firm pitched Reckless a wireless game. LiveWires has previously developed software called "CYBERCOPS," which includes educational games.
  • MindHabits Inc: This Quebec-based company pitched a brain-training handheld game (DS, I'm guessing) called MindHabits Trainer, no doubt based on MindHabit's previously-established work in attitude-adjusting serious games.
  • Murmur Inc: Based in Toronto, Murmur began as an audio project involving location-specific stories communicated through phone messages. Dial-a-message, basically. Team member Gabe Sawhney contributed his technical skills towards the ReGenesis series of alternate reality games (created by Xenophile Media in association with Shaftesbury Films). It seems fitting that Murmur's game Echelon is built on themes of conspiracy (most ARGs are also built on these themes).

As I've reported earlier, there's $2M ultimately up for grabs in this contest, but the sole winning firm has to spend about $550k to receive $750k in the final stretch. Based on the selection of finalists, most companies pitched games that could reasonably be developed on a small budget. At the very least, I hope that these Canadian developers will benefit by an elevation in profile. Only a few even have web sites (that I could find). This might sound stupid, but I don't have much confidence in a game developer that doesn't have its own domain name and at least a single web page up.

I'm definitely picking the HB Studios & TPB Productions co-production of the Trailer Park Boys game for the win. Both companies have proven their ability on major undertakings--hell, there's even a Trailer Park Boys movie. No other finalist has that kind of clout or experience, it's as simple as that. I'm not sure if the game will be any good, but it's the only recognizable brand name of the bunch.
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Comment posted by Duane B
January 19, 2007 @ 11:50 am
This contest seems a little iffy at best. Only the already established can enter, which takes away from the idea of having fresh ideas enter the marketplace with new people. At least, that was my take away after reading why they were doing this contest/promotion.

I've heard of Hot Head Games as they are working on the Penny Arcade Adventure game as well as Big Blue Bubble, which I know of because of a friend. The rest I've never heard of and I do try to track all Canadian dev companies being a gaming PR guy in Toronto.

The guys at Hot Head Games have a lot of experience if you check out their website ( I'm not saying it's more or less then HB Studios & TPB Productions but I wouldn't count them out in any way. It should be interesting to see how things progess with this. Maybe they'll do a one hour TV special on CBC in the summer or something.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 19, 2007 @ 6:31 pm
Duane, I don't know how you can say the contest is closed to all but the established. Guess it depends on what your definition of "established" is -- Murmur, for example, is not what I'd call an established game developer. You say most of the names in the final 10 aren't ones you've heard before -- so how established could they have been?

I attended the announcement party for this contest--it seemed pretty open to me, lots of rookie developers were in the house. Frankly, the money at stake isn't sufficient for the largest (i.e. "most established") developers in Canada to even consider.
Comment posted by Duane B
January 19, 2007 @ 8:22 pm
I mean establish as in they have produced something, a product or service, before. Most of the companies seem to have more then have not on this list, at least that's what I gathered from their websites.

Also, I didn't mean established as in I've heard of the company before. There are tons of development companies out there that I've never heard about because I'm not interested in the games they make or they are half way across the country.

The reason I think this contest is closed off to anything but the truly establish is because they do have to bring money to the table at the end of the day. Anyone can enter but at the end of the day, if that company can't get the $550K then they are out of the competition, regardless.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 21, 2007 @ 2:00 pm
Yep, that $500k is definitely a limiting factor for truly small companies. Although even those who don't get that far still receive a substantial boost.

And it is definitely more difficult to get Telefilm funding for a firm with no previous credits. But that's across the board, not just with this competition.
Comment posted by Duane B
January 22, 2007 @ 12:17 pm
Yeaj, Telefilm is not greatest place to look for money. I've a couple film friends and I hear about the good, the bad and the ugly of going through them.
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