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THQ's Danny Bilson

The exec VP of core games on why Montreal is the best location for a new 'super-studio'

The reinvention of THQ continues - following a period of change at the publisher, it announced today it was investing in a brand new 'super-studio' in Montreal that will eventually grow to house 400 staff.

Here we talk to executive VP of core game brands, Danny Bilson, about the thinking behind the decision - why it's not just about the money, which projects will be created there, and who the studio's leadership will be.

GamesIndustry.biz You've announced that you're creating a 'super-studio' in Montreal - I'm guessing there's primarily one reason you've chosen that location, but do you want to just spell it out?
Danny Bilson

There's more than one reason! There are actually two main reasons - first of all it's a phenomenal digital development community. There are 2000-3000 game developers there that have been working in studios over the years, and they've been building out a really robust talent community there.

Also their university system offers a lot of training in the digital arts, so the province has a world class community there and they're determined to grow it.

And along with that comes a fantastic subsidy to make it more economically feasible for us - they're giving us thirty-seven and a half cents in every dollar of labour there, which is a huge win in the world of blockbuster games, which is what the core division of THQ is about.

We want to deliver a great experience for our gamers in really huge, immersive worlds - and it's starting to cost upwards of $35 million and more, so to be able to get a [tax] break, it enables us to put more on the screen.

That's kind of what we're all about, giving our users the best experience, and that's the primary reason for going up there - the combination of an established talent pool and a phenomenal break on the labour will enable us to make really huge games, of the kind we want to make for our gamers.

GamesIndustry.biz I know a lot of people in other parts of the world look on with some envy, but Montreal - and Canada as a whole - is doing a pretty good job of becoming a magnet for the development of those big core games...
Danny Bilson

It goes province by province by Canada. I know that BC has initiated some new incentives last September. But we were actually talking to another province at one point, and Montreal really stepped in quickly, and made it easy because they have these systems in place - and they've been doing it for a while. Other companies are building out up there as well.

So they're building a great community, but are there other great communities all over the world? Absolutely. There's a great development community in the UK, and there has been for 20 or 30 years. There's great development in the States.

It's the combination of talent, resource and then funding - so it's just working out really well. But to be clear, we're not closing any studios in the rest of the world to move there - we're building out and expanding with Montreal.

We do respect our talent and where they live as much as we can.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you know at this point what the headcount of the studio will be in total?
Danny Bilson

I do - the commitment to the province is 400 heads within five years, so that's serious. We're going to be building out two full teams there on major game franchises, as well as some QA, localisation and an art in-sourcing system which is beginning to support the Warhammer 40,000 MMO any minute.

GamesIndustry.biz You mentioned this is additional to existing studios; does that imply that the two teams will be working on projects that are in addition to the company's existing franchise line-up?
Danny Bilson

One is going to be the team being built out by Patrice Desilets, working on original IP, and the second may be a game that we already have in existence, so we'd be extending that franchise up there - but that's undetermined. If not it'll be another original title.

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