MaRS Library Digital gaming
The digital games resources listed here cater to entrepreneurs and startups that develop digital games played on consoles, computers, social networks and mobile devices. As defined here, “digital games” generally excludes casino games or software that facilitates online gambling.
The terms “digital media” and “interactive media” encompass a wide range of content that may include games, video and music. As such, many of the organizations found on this page can also be found in the Digital video & music page as some define the category more broadly.
This page consists of the following sections:
I. Business of digital games
These links point to funding and mentoring resources specifically for the digital games industry.
Digital games accelerators and incubators
The following gaming programs are open to all Canadian startups. Be sure to also check out our general listing of Accelerators and incubators.
Digital Media and Gaming Incubator (George Brown College): Created by George Brown College, this gaming incubator provides affordable space, business and professional services, technology and human resources.
The Generator at One (Innovative Niagara): A state-of-the-art interactive media facility provides access to technologies and core business services.
Execution Labs: This hybrid game incubator and go-to-market accelerator based in Montreal, helps teams of experienced indie game developers create and launch their own games and startup game studios.
These funding programs are available to all Canadian digital game startups. Be sure to check out our Funding your startup page for links to general funding programs and opportunities.
Bell Fund Performance Accelerator: This program accepts only applicants with existing successful digital media projects, with the goal to help evolve and iterate the project to reach its maximum potential for audience acquisition and monetization. A grant of 75% of the cost of the project or a maximum of $75,000 is awarded.
Canada Media Fund (CMF): The Canada Media Fund offers various funds and programs categorized by its two “streams”:
- Convergent Stream, which supports the development of conventional digital gaming content
- Experimental Stream, which supports the development of innovative, interactive digital media content and software applications
CMF’s annual report details the various projects that have been funded through the past year and highlights success stories, recognition and achievement awards presented to funded projects. The report also provides information on CMF operations.
Indie Fund: This funding program was set up by a group of successful independent game developers and has a selective process. Once a game is created and launched, startups must repay the investment and share 25% of the revenue until the initial investment is doubled, or until two years after the release date, whichever milestone is reached first. After the two years, the agreement expires and nothing more is owed.
Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC): OMDC is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, which provides support to various Ontario-based digital media companies through advocacy, funding, tax credits and innovation. OMDC has various funding programs and one tax credit for which interactive digital media entrepreneurs are eligible:
- OMDC Interactive Digital Media (IDM) Fund – Production and Concept Definition: These programs provide content creators with funding up to $250,000 for original IDM projects that make a positive contribution to the Ontario economy.
- IDM Fund – Global Market Development: Through this program, eligible Ontario IDM companies receive funding to participate in international activities that support growth and produce measurable business and market development results.
- IDM Fund – Marketing Support: This program provides funding for OMDC-funded projects’ marketing activities.
- Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit: A refundable tax credit for Canadian Corporations producing interactive digital media projects.
New Directions for the Financing of Interactive Digital Media in Canada (Canadian Interactive Alliance, 2012) (PDF): Commissioned by the Canadian Interactive Alliance, this report examines the state of funding in Canada for interactive digital media. It assesses the effectiveness of financial mechanisms that support the sector and identifies potential new sources of funding support through organizations like the OMDC and the CMF.
Crowdfunding arises from a group of individuals pooling their resources to support a cause or project, mainly through online networks. It has become a viable source of funding for many indie game developers. Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding website, has reported that their games category has had the most projects cross the $1 million mark in funding, with a total of seven out of 11 projects to do so in 2012. The most successful campaign was for OUYA, an Android-based gaming console, which received $8.5 million from pledges in July 2012. The following websites are places you can post digital game projects for crowdfunding (payment processing fees are not included):
- Kickstarter: It takes 5% if the funding goal is met.
- Pledgie: It takes 3% whether the funding goal is met or not.
- RocketHub: It takes 4% if the funding goal is met, or 8% if it is not reached.
- Indiegogo: It takes a 5% platform fee on all funds raised.
These articles offer key advice on launching a successful crowdfunded digital game campaign:
- Kickstarter Crowdfunding Guide for Indie Game Developers (Jacob Robinson, 2016)
- 8 Best Practices from Crowdfunding Experts (Indiegogo, 2015)
- 4 Steps For Crowd-funding Your Indie Game (Gamasutra, 2013): This article is a great primer on what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign.
- 6 Kickstarter nightmares, and how to prevent them (PCWorld, 2012): PCWorld informs readers on potential roadblocks to crowdfunding success.
- Most Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns
List of online game stores
Just as crowdfunding has enabled game developers to depend less on traditional digital game publishers, online game stores have enabled digital game distribution to bypass traditional retail outlets. In addition to Xbox LIVE, the PlayStation Network, WiiWare and the Apple App Store, many viable online store options exist for developers to distribute their products. Some online game stores include:
- Steam ―offers games made by small indie developers as well as by large software companies
- OnLive ―a cloud gaming platform that allows you to play games stored on remote servers
- GamersGate ―offers PC and Mac games for download
- Desura ―focuses primarily on small independent developers
- MacGameStore sells titles for use on Apple devices
- GameFly―provides online video game rental subscription services for games played on consoles or handheld game consoles
II. Digital gaming trends & statistics
Look to these reports, links and infographics to find the latest trends and relevant statistics on the digital gaming industry.
Casual Games Association: This professional trade organization provides educational resources and community support for developers, publishers and distributors of casual games. Their main publication is the online magazine Casual Connect. It provides access to articles and research reports that supply metrics on the freemium, mobile and social media games industries.
Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC): ESAC is a trade organization representing developers, publishers and distributors in Canada. It conducts regular research on gaming in Canada. Two notable publications available on its resources page include:
- Canada’s Video Game Industry in 2015 (PDF): This report presents an overview of the gaming landscape; it compares growth and opportunities in different provinces.
- Essential Facts 2016 (PDF): This annual ESAC publication provides a guide to the current landscape of the Canadian gaming industry, with demographic, economic and public opinion data.
Entertainment Software Association (ESA): The ESAC’s American counterpart provides a similar annual Essential Facts report (PDF), citing statistics on the computer and video gaming industries. The Industry Facts section offers statistics and research on areas such as:
- Games: Improving the Economy (PDF)
- Games: Improving Education (PDF)
- Games: Improving the Workplace (PDF)
- Games: Improving Social Issues (PDF)
Its paid service VGChartz Pro delivers comprehensive market intelligence data, including user demographics, review scores, competitive intelligence, trend reports and custom reporting.
Interactive Ontario (IO): Interactive Ontario is a non-profit industry trade organization committed to the growth of the Ontario interactive digital content industry. You can sign up for IO’s weekly newsletter, which highlights events, trends, funding opportunities and more.
Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) Research Library: OMDC has an extensive library of reports covering interactive digital media. Topics include cultural policy, technology trends and statistics, legal and regulatory issues, and OMDC’s annual reports.
International Game Developers Association (IGDA): IGDA is a non-profit organization that supports the careers of game developers through professional development and advocacy. The IGDA also provides resources that give an industry overview and statistics, as well as best practices.
Children’s Technology Review: This newsletter summarizes products and trends in children’s interactive media. The format is in PDF, which is emailed monthly to subscribers for a yearly cost of US$19 (12 issues). Children’s Technology Review contains no advertising.
Statistic Brain offers data on video game industry statistics, as well as gamer demographics.
- Video Game Playing Statistics (2016)
- Video Game Industry Sales (2016)
- Gamer Demographics and Statistics (2016)
These infographics from Visual.ly offer insights into broad statistics on the video game industry:
These infographics from the Digital Buzz Blog and Visual.ly offer insights on the state of the mobile gaming industry:
Games by the Numbers Q3 2016: Overview of the Mobile Games Landscape: Unity, a game development platform, publishes statistics on mobile gaming landscapes, as well as other new developments in the industry.
III. Emerging areas in digital gaming
Some emerging areas in digital gaming include indie game development, serious games/gamification, and social media games.
Indie game development
Indie games are digital games created by an individual or small team without the financial support of a larger game publisher. Indie games have flourished over the last few years due to new online distribution methods and software development tools. Compared to more traditional retail games, independent digitally published games have a very different development and funding path with their own set of challenges.
Indie game developers can find valuable tips in these two articles:
- Why Indie Game Devs Thrive Without Big Publishers (Mashable, 2014): This article provides advice and examples for new and existing indie game developers.
- 7 truths about indie game development (Gamasutra, 2014)
Other helpful resources for indie game developers include:
- What NOT to do when starting as an indie game developer (Indie Games: The Weblog, 2013)
- 9 Tips for Indie Game Developers I Learned at GDC 2013 (Tuts+, 2013)
In contrast to “casual games” that are designed for the purpose of fun and entertainment, “serious games” are designed to guide users through real world problems, so that they may apply what they have learned in practical settings. Similarly, gamification is the application of game design elements, thinking and mechanics to enhance processes in non-game contexts, such as education, engineering, healthcare, corporate training and scientific exploration.
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world (TED, 2010): In her TED talk, Jane McGonigal draws attention to the idea that serious games can inspire real world action.
2010 Trends: The Year of Gamification, Part 1 (Unity Technologies, 2010): This blog post by David Helgason discusses the evolution of gamification and cites successful real-world examples such as Foursquare (geolocation) and Mint (personal finance) to illustrate this trend.
Games For Change: Games For Change is focused on the creation and distribution of digital games that balance entertainment as well as an engagement for social good. Its mandate is to use digital games for humanitarian and educational efforts.
AbleGamers Foundation: The AbleGamers Foundation provides support to disabled gamers by way of assistive technology grants, education and personal services. Its database of games contains reviews on the accessibility of many mainstream video game titles.
Gamification Corporation: This website publishes news, insights, research and commentary on gamification.
Gamification Wiki: This wiki is sponsored by Badgeville and presents gamification information from across different sectors, including art, commerce, education, government, health and fitness, and social innovation.
Social media games
Social media games are those played through online social networks. The resources listed here do not cover massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) or network games played on consoles.
AppData charts weekly the top downloaded apps and games on various platforms, including Facebook, iOS, Google Play and more.
SocialTimes: This social media website delivers news from the world of social media. Use the keyword “social games” to find the latest on social media gaming.
IV. Tracking latest developments in digital games
These blogs, news sources, directories and events help keep entrepreneurs up-to-the-minute with developments in the digital games industry.
Blogs and news sites
Gamasutra: Gamasutra is one of the most comprehensive websites to find news on programming, designing, and marketing digital games. It also features articles on industry trends, advice on how to best maneuver through the industry, and tips for programming and design.
The Gamasutra network includes Game Developer Magazine, which presents interviews with industry leaders and with subject-matter experts in areas such as technical solutions, game development tools and design strategies.
Develop: This website focuses on the technical and business side of game development. Its news section covers areas such as jobs, funding, studios, tools and middleware, and general industry developments. Featured articles include reports on the startup landscape and funding and technology trends, as well as in-depth industry profiles on individual developers and companies.
The Penny Arcade Report (Penny Arcade): The mandate of The Penny Arcade Report is to provide in-depth analysis of the gaming lifestyle, gaming culture and gaming experiences. The Penny Arcade Network organizes the series of conferences known as PAX (Penny Arcade Expo).
Games Industry International: Games Industry International publishes information for the digital game professional and reports on the retail, development, mobile and marketing aspects of the digital games industry.
IGN: One of the more popular sites dedicated to gamers and gameplay, IGN offers content such as industry news, game reviews, tips, cheats and video previews of the latest digital games. It is a useful tool to stay in the know.
Edge: This website caters to developers and gamers alike and delivers industry news, reviews of games, and video previews of upcoming games.
The following directories can be used to identify competitors, collaborators and industry associations. These directories focus specifically on the digital game sector―from developers to publishers to distributors:
CanDevs: CanDevs is a directory for Canadian digital game companies.
Gamedevmap: This interactive map allows users to search for and identify international digital game companies.
Games Industry: This international directory contains detailed profiles of companies as well as job listings and game industry news.
Fan Expo Canada: Held annually, this conference attracts fans of video games, comic books, anime, sci-fi and horror. It offers an insight into what is trending in the world of pop culture.
GameON: Ventures (formerly GameON: Finance): This yearly forum connects digital game entrepreneurs with investors and offers information on financing. Keynote addresses and panel sessions highlight funding opportunities for developers who are working on games for mobile, online, social or console platforms.
nextMEDIA 3.0: Canada’s leading digital media conference and networking event focused on the creation, distribution and monetization of digital media content and technologies. The two-day event caters annually to the who’s who of the digital content community, attracting interactive producers, creators, distributors and marketers, online publishers and broadcasters.
Montreal International Games Summit (MIGS): This annual summit helps digital game developers, publishers and distributors develop expertise and share knowledge. It also seeks to promote trade and business development between industry stakeholders.
Penny Arcade Expo (PAX): PAX holds a series of annual festivals that celebrate game culture and invite gamers and game developers to interact and share ideas. The conference hosts live demos, free play areas, in-development games, panel discussions, a tabletop games section and live music. The main PAX events take place in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, and Melbourne, Australia. Their PAX DEV conference is also held in Seattle and specifically caters to the game developer community.
Game Developers Conference (GDC): This annual conference produced by the UBM Game Network (which also owns the Gamasutra network) brings programmers, artists, producers, game designers and entrepreneurs together to share ideas on digital game development. The conference also includes side events such as the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards.
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3): This annual trade fair produced by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) presents digital game publishers an opportunity to demonstrate upcoming games or game-related products. Restricted to industry professionals, this fair is not open to the public. Attendees are screened through an application process to ensure that they work in the electronic entertainment industry.
Gamescom: This pre-eminent trade fair is dedicated to video games. Held in Cologne, Germany, developers give gamers previews of upcoming games.
Tokyo Game Show: This annual Tokyo convention enables game developers to showcase their latest productions.
Casual Connect (Casual Games Association): The Casual Games Association holds a number of Casual Connect events throughout the year in Europe, Asia and the US. Its mandate is to advance the casual games industry and connect leading experts in the field. Its publications and event lectures are described in the Digital Gaming Trends & Statistics section of this resource.
- Financing Social Enterprises: Government grants, corporate funders, foundations, bootstrapping or funders and investors?.
- Wearable Tech: Leveraging Canadian Innovation to Improve Health.
- The Social Venture exit Part 1.
- Digital Transition: Canadian Media Experiments in 2014, Part 2.
- Subscription agreement (angel or venture capital investors): Sample template for Ontario startups.