Following the USA and Japan, Canada is home to the third largest video game industry in terms of employment. Approximately 80% of Canadian games studios are situated in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario while some of the most famous Canadian developers include BioWare, Ubisoft and EA Canada. Clearly, Canada has a long and successful history when it comes to gaming, but did you know that mobile gaming is now the nation’s most popular gaming platform?
On September 12, 2016, the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) released research and statistics revealing that mobile devices had officially become more popular than consoles or PC with over half of all Canadians choosing smartphones over the alternatives. In honour of National Video Game Day, Jayson Hilchie, the President and CEO of ESAC, stated: “There’s no doubt anymore that video games are entrenched in popular culture and entertainment… video games are omnipresent thanks to the mobile games phenomenon.”
So, how and when were mobile games first introduced to Canada?
Ever since the very first mobile devices were released there have been mobile games. Many original games were all preloaded or embedded titles that utilised monochrome, matrix graphics that could be controlled using the phone’s inbuilt buttons. For instance, perhaps the most famous early mobile game, 1997’s Nokia 6610 game Snake, used these graphics and methods.
After the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) was introduced to devices, mobile phone users could finally access a primitive version of the web, which led to the development of numerous client-server games, though these were often lacklustre to say the least. Once again, Nokia came to the rescue with the release of their 7110 which featured WAP as well as Snake II.
By the early 2000s, Canadians were finally getting their hands on camera phones featuring colour screens, improved download abilities and extra storage space. Due to these power boosts games developers were able to create far more graphically capable titles, many of which utilised the inbuilt phone cameras. Unfortunately, mobile games were still not popular enough and although Nokia attempted to create the world’s first dedicated mobile gaming platform, the N-Gage was unsuccessful.
In fact, it wasn’t until ten years ago in 2008 that the mobile gaming hubs we recognise today were successfully launched. The first was Apple’s App Store, which enabled consumers to access, download and store games on their devices to be played whenever and wherever they pleased. Not long afterwards, other brands followed suit and soon almost every mobile phone was a smartphone capable of running dozens of titles.
Even gaming brands and companies that had previously existed exclusively on the internet or on consoles began to create smartphone apps to try and keep up with the demand. The iGaming industry, which had heavily focused on online platforms for many years, has begun releasing companion apps over the last ten years. For example, an increase in lottery gaming led to global lottery affiliate Lottoland creating their own app where Canadians can access lottery draws from all over the world easily on the go.
Now, there are a number of highly successful mobile games created by Canadian software developers. There’s Alto’s Adventure published by Saskatoon’s Noodlecake Studios Inc and created by Ryan Cash, founder of the Toronto company Built By Snowman. Storm Casters Ultra, Asphalt Nitro and Pull My Tongue are just some of the other extremely popular Canadian-made mobile games. Even incredibly successful franchises have adopted Canadian developers, for instance a Montreal team developed Lara Croft Go and The Walking Dead: Road to Survival was created in Vancouver.
Hopefully, mobile gaming will continue to thrive throughout the nation of Canada, thus encouraging our home-grown developers to create even better games over the next ten years.