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Interactive Ontario's Ian Kelso

The president of the Ontario trade association discusses how to foster a successful platform for a thriving games community

With over 200 members, Interactive Ontario is a regionally focused trade association promoting the interests of digital media companies in the Ontario province of Canada - enlisting government support and private sector partners to grow the industry in the region.

Here, president and CEO Ian Kelso discusses some of the recent successes of Interactive Ontario, and also shares his views on the growth of the wider videogame business, how to foster a community of business and creative talent, and why convergence with traditional film companies is the future of the interactive market. Can you begin by giving us an overview of Interactive Ontario, and how it fits into the the Canadian games business?
Ian Kelso

We're a trade association like Tiga, but at a regional level. And we're part of an umbrella organisation called the Canadian Interactive Alliance, consisting of seven new media organisations that includes Alliance Numerique and speaks on federal issues, and consists of the heads of the different associations together. I'm also the current president of that.

We have about 220 companies in Ontario in the interactive digital media space. About a quarter of those are in the videogame business, and that's grown substantially. We started the organisation in 2001 with nine companies and we grew incrementally for a few years. For the first three years we were mostly just a volunteer organisation and we ran a few lunchtime events and speaker series'.

But in 2005 we really took off, we started a multiplatform interactive conference and grew year over year doing more events and things like trade missions – going to markets, networking and working with the government on policy stuff. We started as a provincial organisation, and we'd like to see more activity at the federal level, but unfortunately that hasn't been forthcoming. And we've certainly seen a lot of change in the province in terms of growth in the sector, the gaming industry has got huge momentum behind it right now. What are the main priorities of Interactive Ontario?
Ian Kelso

The overarching goal is to help our companies do better business and we've been doing very specialised events that bring more focus to the industry every year. One of them is Game ON: Finance - it's a smaller event than the Montreal International Games Summit, there was about 180 people this year and attendance was up 40 per cent. It's only the third time we've done that event. Toronto is also the heart of business economy in Canada so linking that with finance around alternative platforms in games, and giving people ways of retaining their own IP, in terms of leverage with publishers, finding different ways to bring investment in whether private of at a corporate level. And then also helping companies get better tax help.

There's obviously a huge investment up front with prototype development and now there's a project about to launch with the Ontario Media Development Association, which will offset the costs of building a prototype. There was a pilot fund about two years ago which Silicon Knights took advantage of as did Digital Extremes. It was a million dollar fund - two CAD 500,000 dispersements. We have something called the Intellectual Property Development Fund, which will be launching soon. It's an entitlement fund, it's kind of like a tax credit, but it's market driven, you bring the development activity that you've done and you can get a rebate on that. How much is available in the Intellectual Property Development Fund?
Ian Kelso

It's a CAD 10 million fund and it applies to all screen-based industries so it applies to film, TV, games, interactive media. It's being rolled out for the first time and our hope is it's going to become a tax credit as well. It's been modeled that way but for the first year there are some caps on it to try and contain it and see what kind of traction it gets. It's that early stage funding that's really the most difficult to get for companies of all sizes. And what other events is Interactive Ontario branching out into?
Ian Kelso

In the interactive media space there are touch points not just in videogames but healthcare and education. We're very interested in education because it's a content industry as well and I think in games there's a lot of opportunity to bring active play into learning. That's something we're excited about. We're doing a conference in May for the first time - looking at interactivity with kids, called INPlay, and it'll involve everything from games to the broadcast convergence sector to companies that specialise in magazines and books. There's an edutainment side of it which will be very good for broadcast companies that specialise in children's programming. The educational sector is a really fast growing component focusing on getting media in the classroom.

Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: 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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