Thank you so much for having me this morning. I would like to first apologize. I have a “man cold”, so I may sound a little “Clint Eastwoodesque”, but since I'm from Warner Bros., that should be a good fit.
My name is Martin Carrier. I am Studio Head at Warner Brothers Games Montréal. I am pleased to appear before you today to help you better understand the Canadian video games sector. I thank the committee for having invited me. After my presentation, I will be pleased to answer your questions.
I am wearing three hats as I sit before you: I represent Warner Brothers, but I'm also president of Alliance numérique, the Quebec video games industry umbrella group, and a member of the board of directors of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, better known as ESAC.
I have worked in the video game industry in Canada since 1997. I began my career at Ubisoft Montreal. I also worked in Paris. From 2008 to 2010, I worked as a consultant, setting up a new studio in Montreal which became the Warner Brothers Studio.
I am going to tell you a bit about Warner Brothers Games Montréal, the Warner Brothers development studio.
I have just a couple of notes. I heard before we started that we had some fans of Looney Tunes in the house. I heard some great impressions. Obviously, we know Warner Bros. from TV and we know Warner Bros. from the movie side of the business. We've been around for 90 years and we've been known for some classics throughout those years. About seven years ago, we turned our sights to video games as a way to bring some of our content to the new masses of consumers, namely those people who play video games. We have great brands that we use and that we can bring through the medium of video games.
As Warner Bros. decided to enter the space of video games, we acquired studios around the world. We have studios in the U.K., and in Seattle, Chicago, and Boston, among other places. In 2010 we decided to set up a studio in Canada because, as I told the folks at Warner Bros., if you want to make movies, you should go to Hollywood and if you want to make video games, Montreal is definitely a place where you want to be.
That did not endear me to the movie-making community in Montreal. However, I do believe it is the place to be for video games.
The Montreal studio activities began on June 1, 2010. On that first day, there were four of us. I am proud to tell you that today, 400 people work in Montreal for Warner Brothers. We work on the studio's big brands, that is to say everything related to DC Comics, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, The Flash and all the others, and also of course, Looney Tunes, as I mentioned briefly. Warner Brothers owns many properties.
In four years, we launched four major titles. First, Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, for Wii U. That also includes two titles for children, Cartoon Universe, which features Looney Tunes, and Scooby-Doo, as well as LEGO Legend of CHIMA Online, that can be played online on the Web, and simultaneously, on iPhone and iPad mobile devices, which constitutes a first in that market. Our most important product is Batman Arkham Origins. That game was offered for sale on October 25 last. From the outset it ranked first in global sales, and was among the first 20 most successful video games at the end of the year. That is a huge success for a young studio like ours.
To achieve that level of success and quality, we count on multidisciplinary teams made up of artists, designers and computer programmers. Clearly in Montreal we have an incredible talent pool. In a radius of 2 km, about 6,000 people work in the video game sector. This concentration is unequalled anywhere else in the world. That is an incredible asset, and one of the reasons that explains our meteoric growth in Montreal.
From our studio in Montreal, we have also built our quality control global excellence centre.
They are also known as testers, and do the quality assurance on our products.
Thanks to our testing and production activities, we create hundreds of jobs in Quebec and contribute to an ecosystem that employs 9,000 people in the province.
Building on the success we have known up till now, we anticipate going from 400 to 500 employees in our studio, by 2018 at the latest. We can thus say without reservation that the headquarters of Warner Brothers, based in Burbank California, trusts its Canadian studio and the business environment that surrounds it. I must point out that this business environment and the special expertise of Canadian resources and talents are important for the growth of the studio.
When I am asked the question, I like to remind people that in Canada video games began to take root in the 1980s when the NFB launched digital animation programs that led Daniel Langlois to create Softimage. This led to the creation of a creative and technological community, which then led to video games.
From that spark the sector grew quickly, relying on a strong academic environment and partnerships with institutions. In Quebec, tax credits were the real spark plug that was the catalyst for existing conditions involving high technology, the academic environment and creativity.
Government programs, it must be said, including provincial tax credits or federal R&D credits such as the SR&ED program allow us to be competitive as a studio within the Warner Brothers Group. Since our name is “Warner Brothers”, people come to us every week to ask us to open a studio in their area. In Montreal we compete internationally to obtain a mandate. So it is important that we benefit from a positive competitive and regulatory environment to help us attain that objective.
This also allows us to take certain risks and to innovate by creating a game such as LEGO Legends of Chima.
I see Mr. Van Kesteren has an iPad, I believe.
Maybe he's playing Lego Legends of Chima online as we speak.