A New Power Couple? Vancouver and Seattle Link Interactive Development Goals

04/06/2010

Last week, I read an article by Tony Wanless for BC Business Magazine called, A Cascadian Creative Corridor. It explored the potential that the interactive industries of Vancouver and Seattle could hold (and what that environment might look like), if they became more convergent. While I wanted to touch on some of the points he made, his post was also timely because the next day, DigiBC and the Washington Interactive Network (enterprise Seattle) actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding to get the ball rolling on this initiative. The partnership is intended to help foster the innovation, collaboration and foreign direct investment between the Vancouver and Seattle interactive communities. Besides the fact that our very own Michael Fergusson was invited to be a part of an executive top level discussion that took place before the signing, I wanted to mention a few points that were brought up after the event. (The VX Roundtable was an invite-only discussion.)

My take away from the presentations was that Seattle and Vancouver are both at the top of their class when it comes to being interactive gaming hubs. Citing a competitiveness study that was recently released, both cities house the best and the brightest in the interactive industries. Not only that, but our standard of living, quality of educational institutions are favourable the the folks who work in our industries.

As far as social gaming start-ups are concerned, the message from both sides of the border was similar about the potential that lies ahead in the space. The social gaming industry is changing the general way we think about games and who is playing them, which opens up new avenues for marketing and branding purposes. Furthermore, it seems that the revenue generation models with microtransactions at the heart are becoming more profitable. This is definitely something traditional media, larger gaming companies and businesses might want to take note of.  As an example, Seattle-based Detonator Games said that just a few years ago, building a Facebook game was in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, this value has almost doubled. Casual social games are starting to compete with larger multi-million dollar console games, but only cost a fraction of those games to make..and the engagement levels are unprecedented (more than 80 million people play Farmville, a popular Facebook game). Seems like a perfect formula for success.

What are some other thoughts that circulated around the event? Some people in the audience did mentioned concerns around currency and tax issues, however it seems that part of this partnership would most likely tackle them. Mr. Wanless offered some other benefits in his article, mainly that it would support talent exchange between the countries. He also mentioned putting Vancouver closer to the U.S.’s orbit of influence. He mentions that maybe through this partnership we can grow our “Cascadian Interactive Cluster” significantly enough, so that we can peek-out from the Valley’s shadow. (I personally don’t think this partnership was designed for that purpose, but that’s up for debate.) He also mentions that this partnership could bring some of that “American gung-ho, let’s-do-it, attitude” to the BC business scene (which tends to be more conservative). And who doesn’t like gung-ho? Overall, this partnership sounds promising, especially for smaller companies that might have a vested interest in doing business exclusively in the U.S.  For us, we’re certainly looking forward to seeing how this will benefit local start-ups. What are your thoughts? As always, you can leave a comment or contact us.

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