All over the world, digital gaming has exploded in popularity over recent years. With more than 3 billion active global gamers, the industry is now more popular than movies and music streaming combined. The past few years have also seen gaming innovations develop at breakneck speed, with titles becoming more immersive and experiential than ever before.
Gamers in Canada now have unprecedented access to games developed on an international scale, but that doesn’t mean the games created a little closer to home should be ignored. In celebration of the fact that Canada’s gaming industry is currently at an all-time high, with the sector contributing a significant percentage to annual GDP, let’s take a look at some of the best Canadian video games and gaming experiences.
Gaming in Canada: A Primer
When compared to the notoriety of its North American neighbours, the Canadian gaming industry doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves outside the borders of the Great White North. While the gaming community is more than aware of the notable games development studios which are based in the region – more on them below – the actual impact of video gaming on the Canadian economy isn’t as well known.
A 2021 report into the gaming industry in Canada revealed some fascinating insights into just how popular gaming is in the region. With mobile, console and desktop devices all being used for gaming activities, the industry was able to contribute $5.5 billion to the annual GDP. This, in itself, represented a growth of 23% within just two years.
It’s estimated that there are around 23 million regular gamers in Canada, while the country houses no less than 937 video game studios.
A Hotbed of Games Development
Canada has quietly been ploughing away at video game development for decades. Recently, however, more and more game studios and publishing houses have launched in the country, from micro-sized indie gaming app developers to internationally-renowned video game companies. From 2019 to 2021 alone, the number of active studios in the country jumped from 692 to 937.
According to the 2021 report, the vast majority of Canada’s gaming entities can be found in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, although the rest of the country also experienced a boost in growth with 86 new companies opening in the provinces of Atlantic, Manitoba and Saskatchewan from 2019 to 2021.
Of the 900+ gaming companies now present in Canada, there are several highly recognisable names on the list. BioWare, the long-running studio behind some of the best RPG games in the world, has its headquarters in Alberta, while French development company Ubisoft has a significant presence in the country, counting studios in Halifax, Montreal, Quebec and Toronto.
But that’s not all; EA Games, Rockstar Games and Capcom all have a presence in Montreal and Vancouver, respectively.
The Best Digital Games for Canadian Players
Given the starry array of video game development companies that are based in Canada, gamers of all genres have plenty of home-grown games to choose from. The BioWare stable, for instance, includes mammoth franchises like Mass Effect, Dragon Age and quite possibly the best Star Wars gaming adaptation: Knights of the Old Republic.
Meanwhile, almost all the main Ubisoft franchises, from Assasin’s Creed to Watch Dogs and Far Cry, were created in one of the company’s several Canadian locations.
Poker fans will rejoice at the news that several poker rooms Ontario have gone live in 2022. During the spring, the iGaming market was officially inaugurated in the region following the landmark passing of the C-218 bill by the Canadian Senate. This bill legalised remote real money gaming and wagering activities, making playing real digital poker on Canadian-based websites a reality for the thousands of gamers in the country.
eSports is another market undergoing extensive development in Canada and is primed for a new generation of competitive gamers. The country is home to a number of eSports teams and leagues ranging from collegiate to professional level. Furthermore, with three eSports arenas in the territory and monthly audiences of over 1.5 million people, Canada is regarded as a strong eSports market in the west.
Canadian eSports players are currently represented in the top gaming events and tournaments of the year, including the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League (OWL), Rainbow 6 North American League (R6LNA) and the League of Legends Championship Series. National Canadian eSports federations include the likes of Esport Canada, the Canadian Gaming Association, and the Univesity of British Columbia Esports Association. Meanwhile, major Canadian eSports brands and organisations include Overactive Media, Luminosity Gaming, and Battlefy.