937 active video game studios in Canada
A 35% increase since 2019
The chart shows a breakdown of the universe by size category (as measured by employment). The industry is primarily composed of Micro-sized (less than 4 employees) and Standard sized (5 to 99 employees) companies, which together comprise almost 95% of all video game companies operating in Canada in 2021. However, it should be noted that the Large category includes a small number of very large (outlier) companies that generate a significant share of total employment and economic activity in the industry.
The table shows the change in the number of companies in each size category from 2019 to 2021. Most of the growth in the number of companies took place in the Micro (less than 4 employees) category, which increased in number by 35% from 2019 to 2021 (or 132 companies). Most of those are likely new companies entering the industry.
There was also a notable increase in the number of companies in the Standard (5 to 99 employees) and Large categories (more than 100 employees) over the same two-year period. This change may not be due to new companies entering the industry but rather due to companies categorized as smaller companies (i.e., Micro or Standard) in 2019 having grown and moving into the larger categories.
Most (80%) of Canada’s video game companies are located in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
Although all regions showed an increase in the number of companies, the growth was concentrated in Ontario and Quebec which together added 137 companies to the Canadian industry. British Columbia and the rest of Canada (Atlantic, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) also experienced a notable growth with 45 and 41 companies added, respectively.
The table shows the relative growth of the universe by company size in each region.
While the Atlantic region and the Prairies have experienced a three digit percent increase in the number of micro companies, one must keep in mind that the initial universe was much smaller than in other provinces. As such, a 139% increase in Micro companies in the Atlantic region represents 18 additional companies while a 24% increase in the same category in Quebec represents 29 additional companies.
The growth in the number of Large companies is likely Standard-sized companies growing rather than new companies forming.
The figure shows the breakdown of companies in each region by size of company.
For the second time in the history of this report, British Columbia appears to be unique in that it has a greater number of Standard companies than Micro ones, which may reflect the relative maturity of the smaller companies in that province.
Ontario on the other hand remains the region with the greatest number of video game companies of any region in Canada currently, followed closely by Quebec, which is the largest contributor to this industry in terms of employment.
“Canadian video games are an innovative and critical export sector – we bring Canadian talent and Canadian stories to the world stage. And with 84% of our sales to foreign markets, driving billions of dollars of revenue and supporting tens of thousands of good jobs, it’s safe to say our industry is making a global impact.”
Jayson Hilchie President & CEO of ESAC
The Canadian video game industry contributes $5.5 billion to Canada’s GDP
An increase of 29% since 2019!
According to the results of the 2021 Industry Survey, video game companies in Canada employ 32,300 FTEs, which is 17% more than the direct employment in 2019. Indeed, 57% of companies indicated that they have more employees now than they did in 2017 (as shown in the figure below).
When examined by company size, the figure below illustrates how the majority of direct employment generated by the industry can be attributed to a small number of Large and Very Large companies. As such, in Figure 4, employment at Very Large companies (400 employees or more) is reported separately to highlight how a very small number of companies account for over a third of the industry.
Indeed, although they constitute only 6% of companies operating in Canada, they employ 76% of all FTEs in the industry.
32,300 Direct Full-Time Employees
An increase of 17% since 2019
Supporting an additional 23,000 Indirect jobs
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
The workforce is largely composed of men, with women constituting only 23% of the total workforce. This figure is, however, higher than in 2019 when women constituted 19% of the Canadian video game workforce.
On a regional basis, British Columbia has the lowest proportion of women (20%) as a part of the workforce and Ontario has the highest (26%), as seen in the figure below.
Additionally, the proportion of women in the workforce does not vary widely across different company sizes, as seen in the figure below. What does appear to vary is the percentage of those women that work directly on games (see Figure 13)
Women working in Micro-sized companies are most likely (82%) to be working directly on games, while those working in Large companies are least likely to be working directly on games. Although only around a third of women work directly on games at Large (37%) companies, there are likely a wider range of roles at these companies and more job specialization for all employees than in smaller companies. In other words, any employee working at a Micro-sized company is more likely to be working directly on game development than an employee working at a larger firm, regardless of their gender identity.
It is also important to note that Micro-sized firms account for a very small portion of the overall industry employment in Canada’s video game industry. As such, while Large companies may employ a smaller percentage of women as part of their game-specific workforce, these companies represent a large share of all women employed in the Canadian video game industry. As a result, they also employ most of the women in Canada working directly on games.
According to the ESAC 2021 Industry Survey most video game companies in Canada (56%) have not developed any program to support equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) among their workforce.
This share varies greatly based on the size of the company. As companies grow, they tend to formalize strategies to attract, retain and support women, gender diverse, gender fluid and BIPOC talent. As such, 81% of large companies, where most of the industry is employed, have adopted at least one type of EDI program.
However, these results do not suggest that smaller companies feel less concerned about equity, diversity and inclusion considerations but only that they did not develop formal plans due to a lack of resources or time, or simply because they do not need one at the moment (e.g., the staff is already diverse and gender-balanced, the team is too small for any plan to be relevant).
Most (75%) video game companies in Canada are Canadian-owned, showing a notable change from 2019 when 84% of companies were Canadian-owned. This slight shift could be due to recent acquisitions and new Canadian studios established by foreign companies over the past two years.
However, the share of employment at foreign-owned versus Canadian-owned companies has changed very slightly since 2019. In 2019, 84% of the workforce was employed by foreign-owned companies and 16% at Canadian-owned companies. In 2021, 83% are employed at foreign-owned companies and 17% at Canadian-owned companies.
Mode of Work
The figure illustrates the dramatic evolution in the most common modes of work used by video game companies, accelerated by the pandemic.
The most striking example is the Large companies which virtually all worked from a fixed office before the pandemic and have all implemented remote working (or a hybrid model). Only one out of ten Large companies intends to go back to a fixed-office mode. A hybrid model between office time and remote working will become the new standard in a post-COVID world.
Survey data tells a similar story for Standard companies: 61% of companies expect to primarily use a hybrid model and 24% will maintain a completely remote model post-COVID.
Only 18% of Micro video game companies had a fixed office space pre-COVID. As such, many Micro companies were not hit as hard by the pandemic in terms of productivity (Figure 22). Nine out of ten Micro companies plan to maintain a remote or hybrid model post-COVID.
In the context of the expansion of remote working, some companies are considering increasing the number of collaborators based outside of the province where they are established. About a third (32%) are planning to work with slightly more or many more people based outside of their home province.
The share increases with the size of the companies: almost half (59%) of Large companies anticipate increasing their collaboration with talent based outside of the home province, against only 24% for Micro companies.
Note that as of May-July 2021, a significant portion of companies (44%) still did not know whether they would implement any changes.