It’s no secret that Canada is North America’s up-and-coming centre for tech startups—and that Vancouver is one of its most exciting hubs. Home of companies working on projects including turning wastewater to fertilizer, creating dating websites, and building virtual reality, the city is making its mark as the go-to location for creative solutions.
The same is true of Vancouver’s exploding gaming industry. Around 27 per cent of all of Canada’s video game producers are located in British Columbia, with most in the lower mainland. As that market share grows, so do the companies themselves.
One of the city’s greatest success stories is that of Blackbird Interactive. Founded in 2010 in the garage of CEO Rob Cunningham, the company has since become Vancouver’s fastest growing independent game development studio. Recently achieving international acclaim with 2016’s Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak—a real-time strategy game set in space—the company was tapped this year by NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory to create an interactive art demo of a base on Mars.
Increased recognition has come with a growing number of employees. Luring game developers from both Vancouver and international destinations, the company has more than doubled in size over the last 18 months to 100 staffers as of January 2018, and will reach 160 not long after. Currently operating from a 9,000 square foot studio on the False Creek flats, the company will rent another temporary 10,000 square foot space elsewhere in Mount Pleasant before taking over two separate locations on the Great Northern Way Campus in the near future. The move aims to secure enough space to take on more than 300 employees over the next five years.
“It blows my mind to think how far we’ve come,” says Cunningham. “Blackbird is blessed with some very special people. It is their talent and hard work that has made this growth possible. They deserve the very best workplace we can create and in this awesome city, finding studio space is a huge challenge. Fortunately for us, we’ve been tenants of the Great Northern Way Campus since day one of its spectacular development, and are positioned perfectly to make the most of it. The timing is uncanny though—I can’t explain that part.”