Friday, July 15, 2011

Top Ten: Canadian game developers

In the game industry, we often think of Japan and the United States as the only relevant nations. And yes, the vast majority of games today do come from these two countries. But like Neil Young and Jim Carrey, many people we assume are American are, in fact, Canadian. Our neighbors to the north have contributed to video games in a huge way--they're the #3 biggest game manufacturer in the world. So let's take a gander at the top ten Canadian video game developers. Looking at the games on this list, it seems Canadians have a passion for strategy games. What does that say about them as a gaming nation?

10. United Front Games

A new developer created from former employees of EA, Rockstar, Radical Entertainment, and Volition, Inc. Developed the user-creation-driven kart racing ModNation Racers in 2010.

9. Rockstar Vancouver

Began life as Barking Dog Studios making extra content for other games, but went on to become a part of British giant Rockstar Games and create the underrated open-world boarding school game Bully in 2006. Currently working on the upcoming sequel to Max Payne.

8. Ironclad Games

Consists of former Barking Dog Studios employees. Developed the landmark 2008 science fiction strategy title Sins of a Solar Empire.

7. Silicon Knights

On this list primarily because of their masterpiece psychological horror work, 2002's Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. Fittingly, afterwards they went crazy and created the titanic disappointment Too Human in 2008.

6. Relic Entertainment

All about strategy games, largely in the spacey vein. Created the 1999 Homeworld and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War in 2004. as well as the crown jewel of World War II strategy games in 2006, Company of Heroes.

5. EA Canada

The biggest developer for the biggest American third-party publisher is based in Burnaby, British Columbia. A major player in the sports game genre. Created perhaps the best sports game of all time, NHL '94, and continue to perfect the art of hockey with the NHL series. The industry standard for soccer, too, with FIFA. Invented the snowboarding genre with SSX. Dethroned Tony Hawk's skateboarding monopoly with Skate (as EA Black Box).

4. Ubisoft Montréal

The most successful French-Canadian developer. Fittingly, a branch of French-French publishing giant Ubisoft. Brought stealth gaming to the masses with Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. Reinvented the Prince of Persia franchise for the modern era, then created a spiritual 3D platforming successor with Assassin's Creed.

3. BioWare

Name a major Western RPG with some sort of moral choice system, and there's a large chance BioWare developed it. Defined early 2000s RPGs with Baldur's Gate and the Neverwinter Nights reboot. Made what's widely considered the "greatest Star Wars game ever," Knights of the Old Republic. Developed the commercial smash hits Mass Effect and Dragon Age, as well as the vastly overlooked ancient China adventure Jade Empire.

2. Chris Taylor

The biggest name in sci-fi strategy games, with a few dungeon crawlers to boot. Worked with Cavedog Entertainment and later his own company, Gas Powered Games; both headquartered in the United States. Conceived Total Annihilation in 1997, the first real-time strategy game with 3D graphics. Went on to make his mark on the dungeon crawling genre with 2002's Dungeon Siege, then went back to his native science fiction strategy with Supreme Commander in 2007.

1. Sid Meier

Really doesn't need an intro. One of gaming's first iconic auteurs. Worked with MicroProse and later his own company, Firaxis Games; both headquartered in the United States. Sense a trend in Canadian video game figures? Created landmark pirate sim creatively titled Pirates! in 1987. Revolutionized strategy gaming with Civilization in 1991, followed by futuristic opus Alpha Centauri in 1999.

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