It seems like everybody who’s anybody has a studio in Montreal or somewhere nearby within the Canadian province of Quebec. Ubisoft has long had a major foothold in Quebec, but has since been followed by major publishers and studios like Sony, EA, Warner Bros, Epic, Bethesda, Eidos/Square Enix (since sold to Embracer Group), Gearbox, NetEase, Quantic Dream, and Deck13, amongst others. The province is also home to a number of major indie studios, including Behaviour Interactive, Compulsion Games, Red Barrels, Tribute Games, and more. The popularity of Quebec is largely due to its generous tax breaks, but it seems a new law may threaten the industry, which generates $1.75 billion annually for the province and employs over 11 thousand people.
Quebec recently passed Bill 96, which aims to aggressively promote the French language in the province. It establishes French as the only official language in the province, meaning you’ll need to speak it to receive government services. Generally speaking, the bill aims to make the province less amenable to English-only speakers, which describes a lot of the people in the video game industry as much of the workforce is recruited from out of province.
Quebec will be investing in new resources to help people learn French, but according to a new article from the CBC, there is widespread concern about what this could mean for the Quebec/Montreal video game scene. Ubisoft has already had to raise pay in order to retain workers, and the worry is the new French-language laws may make it even harder to recruit talent. While Canada as a whole will undoubtedly remain a desirable place to make games, it seems likely a number of studios now located within Quebec may move to other provinces. While the Video Game Guild of Quebec is generally supportive of Bill 96, they’re also worried about the potential message being sent…
But we have a lot of people coming from everywhere around the world to make video games here in Quebec. Our fear is that this is sending out a message [that Quebec is] not inclusive to other cultures. I think everyone understands the importance of the French language… I think it’s just a question of making sure that [newcomers] feel included as well.
Do they stay or do they go? It will certainly be interesting to see how video game companies that have invested so much in Quebec might pivot following Bill 96.