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Dyack: Developer layoffs and closures have been "staggering"

But Ontario region will expand over next five years, with Silicon Knights poised to be part of explosive growth

Silicon Knights boss Denis Dyack has said that the sheer number of developers being laid off from both in-house and independent studios over the past 18 months has been staggering, and that his company is now only a handful of studios with more than a decade of experience in the business.

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, Dyack said that as the industry and economy begins to recover, Canada's Ontario region will become a worldwide leader in games development, with the recent facility set up by Ubisoft only the start of major players entering the area.

"It's been really a rough year and a half for the industry as a whole. The number of layoffs in the industry has been staggering," said Dyack. "As an external developer it's been tough. I actually don't know anyone who's older than us any more. There used to be four or five people I knew of but I feel right now that we're one of the last of the V8s. I've talked to a lot of people and I know a lot of people who have gone out of business."

Earlier this year, French giant Ubisoft announced that it will be opening a new 800-person studio in Toronto, backed by CAD 263 million from the Ontario government. And this, along with other initiatives such as a CAD 605,000 investment and training programme, will change the development landscape in Canada.

"What that means for us is we're really excited because we're going to be able to come out, and the industry is going to rebound and grow, and we'll be one of probably five companies in the world that has any serious business beyond ten years," offered Dyack.

"Before, Ontario was a little isolated, there wasn't a lot of videogame companies here. But that's going to change. With all the positive steps that the government's done - were were huge proponents off - Ubisoft coming in for example, that's going to change everything for the better. I'm really looking forward to that, we're super-excited."

Dyack hopes that a rejuvenated industry in Ontario will be able to keep local talent in the area after benefiting from an already excellent education system, as well as pulling back more mature professionals that want the security of the Canadian system.

"I'm a big believer in education and our universities are subsidised quite a bit by Ontario. What the problem is in Ontario is we educate all these people and they leave because there's no employment here," he said. "It's really depressing going to [University of] Waterloo to recruit and we see that Microsoft was there before us and took all the best people. The tax payer paid for that education.

"Where I see some more growth for Silicon Knights in the future is I can see a very strong recruiting campaign that will say 'come back home to Ontario'."

He's also confident more business competition won't lead to staff being poached by rival firms, but become another factor in helping the region expand.

"It's a win-win for developers here with companies like Ubisoft, to see Silicon Knights grow and Digital Extremes grow. We'll only make a more fertile ground for us. You don't lose people because big companies come in, you lose people because you're not doing a good job managing those people that come in."

"Quite honestly Ubisoft is only the first. I expect to see Silicon Knights grow, I expect to see Ontario to be a really good place to be over the next five years and you're going to see a massive change," he added.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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