‘Tons of jobs’ promised as video-game firm 2K sets up studio in Montreal

Montreal’s video-game playground just got a little more crowded.

U.S. developer and publisher 2K said Monday it’s opening a new development studio in the city, its first ever in Canada. Developers at Cloud Chamber, which is the name of 2K’s development studio, will work on the next iteration of the blockbuster BioShock franchise.

While 2K isn’t sharing exact hiring figures, “tons of jobs” will be listed, according to studio head Ken Schachter. A new website is being launched Monday to kick off the recruitment drive.

“The game is going to be in development for the next several years,” Schachter told the Montreal Gazette in a telephone interview. “There is some runway to recruit.”

BioShock is a first-person shooter video game that ranks among 2K’s most popular products, having sold more than 34 million units since its 2007 release. Montreal will share development responsibilities with 2K’s Novato, California office.

Schachter, a Montreal native who is returning to the city after stints in Toronto and the U.S., called his latest mandate “a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to build a new studio and work on the next generation of one of the most critically acclaimed games.”

2K is still evaluating various locations in Montreal, which Schachter wouldn’t discuss.

In the meantime, the company has hired “a few leaders that will comprise the core team,” Schachter said. “It is a small group, startup-style. We’re working from home mostly.”

With 140 studios, Montreal is the biggest video-game production hub in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Just last month, Chinese publisher NetEase Inc. said it would look to hire dozens of developers after setting up shop here.

Companies have been drawn to Quebec’s biggest city by government tax credits, low operating costs — compared with other North American cities — and an abundance of university and industry-focused training programs.

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“It’s not just about incentives. It’s not just about the talent pool,” Schachter said. “It’s a combination of the infrastructure, the great schools that are training people and the established studios in the community, including the independent studios. Once you add everything up that Montreal and Quebec have to offer, it really is the top choice in Canada.”

Montreal “culturally stands apart and creates an environment that really allows people to create in a unique way,” he added. “There’s a lot of great creative work that’s being done here, not just in games, but in arts as well.”

Quebec’s video-games industry now employs about 13,000 people, according to a 2019 report by the market-research firm Nordicity. That’s 31 per cent more than in 2017.

The arrival of 2K “confirms the stability and, most of all, the talent characterizing Quebec’s video-games sector,” Guy LeBlanc, Investissement Québec’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

2K is a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., a New York-based entertainment company whose products include the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead series. Take-Two has about 3,400 employees working in game development and posted revenue of about $2.7 billion in its 2019 fiscal year.

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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