Gree moves into Vancouver
While a number of studios focusing on the development of console games have abandoned Vancouver—most recently, Rockstar Games decided to consolidate its Canadian development in Toronto and Activision ceased game development at Radical Entertainment—Gree couldn’t wait to get here. The company, which got its start in Japan, opened an office in the city in September. In a phone interview with the Straight from an office at Gree’s San Francisco bureau, Steve Lin said the division is called Gree Canada, and that he’s its general manager.
Lin explained that Vancouver is appealing because it’s home to very talented people who have a creative understanding of games, even if they don’t have experience making games for the mobile space. “As long as we can tap into people who are passionate about making games they want to play,” Lin said, “that’s what we’re there for.”
The tax advantages offered by Ontario and Quebec, Lin said, are offset by the fact that Vancouver is in the same time zone as Gree’s U.S. division. “And what we’ve seen is that a lot of people on the East Coast are looking for a reason to come back west.”
The big transition for people coming from a job in video-game development for consoles is the schedule, Lin said. “There’s a two- or three-year development cycle in consoles,” he explained, but it’s not uncommon for a mobile title to move from concept to release in just a few months. “We have much more compressed schedules.
“It’s something I took from Google,” added Lin, who was employed by the tech company for nearly six years. “Release and iterate.” While something might not be perfect when it’s launched, it can be fixed on the fly and as needed. “And don’t be afraid to abandon something if it’s not working.”
In the global video-game industry, there are fewer big-budget console games being made, while the number of titles created for mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android smartphones is growing rapidly. “We think mobile gaming is going to continue to evolve in a way that is close to where it is on the console side,” Lin said. He also expects that mobile games will approach console quality soon.
Gree has seven studios worldwide, and Vancouver’s is the third to open in the West (after San Francisco and London). Lin said the idea is for the studios to take on the personality of the cities and cultures in which they’re located, and to share that with the global team. He likened it to a two-way street, with technologies and creative concepts developed in one place, say Seoul or Beijing, and then used in games made in Vancouver.
Lin, who coordinated the setup of Gree’s San Francisco operation in 2011, moved to Vancouver in early September to work out of a temporary office space during the hiring binge. He says Gree is aiming to be settled in a more permanent space sometime in October. “We’re looking for something that can hold 40 to 50 people, so we have room to grow,” he said.
And he hopes that the Vancouver studio he assembles will be able to ship a game early next year. He’s got a few ideas about what the title might be, and wants to get the new group up and running. “We’ll have the studio work with some of our existing technology,” he said, “get the team understanding the process of launch.”