A lot happens in three years. The last time the MEGAMIGS conference was held in person in Montreal, there was more talk about the impact of cloud services on the future of video games than about the lack of diversity and inclusion in the industry. A pandemic and a few scandals later, it is these last themes that are on the agenda of the 18e edition of this video game event of international scope.
The technological aspect is not however evacuated from this important annual conference, which will bring together from October 19 to 22 in Montreal some 3,000 professionals from the video game sector from all over the world. The arrival of streaming giants — Amazon, Apple, Netflix and company — in video games is no longer news, but it will continue to fuel conversations, as will the emergence of virtual reality. and its persistent worlds.
NFTs (“ non-fungible token “, or “non-fungible tokens” in French), this technology associated with cryptocurrencies and which in principle allows players to more easily monetize the virtual goods that their characters own, are also likely to be subject to debate. Among video game professionals, NFTs are far from unanimous, despite the desire of some studios and publishers, such as the giant Ubisoft, to adopt this technology.
For Ubisoft, precisely, this is probably the kind of debate that will do the most for him during MEGAMIGS. In 2021, the French group went through a crisis linked to cases of sexual harassment that occurred in its Quebec offices, and it certainly wants to forget this chapter.
The Guilde du jeu vidéo du Québec, which organizes MEGAMIGS, also hopes to take the next step on issues of inclusivity, diversity and equity in the video game industry. The program for the 2022 edition includes several conferences on these themes, primarily oriented towards sharing solutions and “good practices”. The Guild will also publish a guide on the subject for the benefit of the industry.
“We have adopted, at the Guild, a very committed position on these questions, which is moreover shared by the industry”, said in an interview with the To have to Jean-Jacques Hermans, managing director of the group. “I think the studios have evolved and today we are somewhere else [qu’il y a deux ans]. »
Mecca of video games
Casually, Montreal is the third largest place in the world for the video game industry, both in terms of the number of companies and in terms of their size or the number of employees working there. And even if it does not entirely escape major economic fluctuations, the industry lives on a production cycle of its own: studios generally work three to five years on a product before launching it on the international market. .
In this context, the two topics that are likely to fuel the most backstage conversations during MEGAMIGS will have more to do with the way in which public assistance is granted to creators here and elsewhere, whether it is whether it is financial assistance or employment assistance.
In the case of financial assistance, the Guild finds that many investors lack a clear understanding of how the sector operates, which affects the flow of capital in the industry — and especially among small independent producers. Because when it comes to investments, lenders tend to trust the value of companies more than the value of the projects in which they are involved. A company with a few employees may have a one-time need for money to engage in a project that exceeds its own size.
It’s a bit the same thing that happens on the hiring side, which has fewer and fewer borders. Many Quebec video game professionals are hired directly by foreign companies without having to leave the province. And since the skills of these professionals are also sought outside the industry, these companies are sometimes not video game producers, explains the general manager of the Guilde du jeu vidéo du Québec.
“Telecommuting, over the past two years, has created a job market in video games that is international,” says Jean-Jacques Hermans. Foreign studios are hiring here, Quebec studios are hiring abroad. The phenomenon is so recent, but so important, that we do not yet know whether the Quebec industry is a winner or not, notes Mr. Hermans. “It’s not clear whether we’re taking advantage of it or not, but it’s a more than anecdotal trend. »
The trend mainly benefits video game companies, which can promise higher salaries. For their part, smaller companies must fall back on more flexible working conditions – fewer hours worked, more active involvement in decision-making, etc. – to stand out.
However, this challenge for employers is also a great opportunity for professionals. “The workers are the winners, that’s for sure,” concludes Jean-Jacques Hermans.