In case you weren’t aware, the York Region—nestled just north of Toronto—is home to thousands of technology companies, both big and small.
Less is known about the region’s hotbed of gaming talent, with more than two dozen companies including developers of mobile, console, computer, and social games.
Those firms include hardware powerhouses like AMD (with tech powering no less than all three major consoles on the market, not to mention PCs and Macs) and bleeding edge virtual reality (VR) players like Sulon Technologies and its ground-breaking Cortex headset. There are also casino gaming companies behind standalone slot machines and online poker sites.
To acknowledge the bustling interactive entertainment scene, York Region and the City of Markham partnered with The Remington Group—the developer behind the new Downtown Markham—to host an event called Gaming: First Contact, held last Thursday, November 13 on historic Main Street in Unionville, Ontario.
Yours truly was emcee and moderator for the esteemed panel of industry leaders. The standing room only crowd packed onto the top floor of Five Lamps Chophouse & Tavern to hear the words of wisdom from the panelists—consisting of Game Pill, Game Hive, Clipwire Games, Sulon Technologies and AMD—and attendees asked questions via Twitter related to the panelists’ respective trade.
Whether they’re a smaller outfit like Clipwire Games or a major player like AMD, panelists talked about the benefits of working in York Region, the kind of talent they’re looking to hire (or partner with), how perseverance pays off, why it’s ok to iterate on an existing concept instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, and how they envision the future of the multibillion dollar interactive entertainment industry (with many believing wearables, including VR, was a fascinating space).
Game Pill’s VP of operations Mary Sorrenti talked about what it’s like to work with AAA franchises from the likes of Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon and others; Game Hive’s cofounder Mark Wang shared his Kick the Boss story, a game series that went on to spawn more than 85 million downloads to date (created by his "fun-gineers"); and Clipwire Games’ CEO Ritesh Khanna explained how freemium games can really pay off.
Between the engaging panel conversation, networking, great food and drinks, and the presence of VIPs (including Markham councillor Don Hamilton and representatives from the Federal and Provincial Governments and the Netherlands Consulate), Gaming: First Contact hit the high-score on its inaugural event.
Here’s hoping we can level up and do it again next year, perhaps on an even larger scale.