Interactive digital media matters in Manitoba
As the technological revolution rages on and changes how we live, work and do business, there is more to the Manitoba technology industry than meets the eye. There is a part of the tech sector that we may not always think about as an economic driver in our province. Interactive digital media plays a major role in our lives and our economy, and most of us probably couldn’t define it if we tried.
Interactive digital media 101
According to New Media Manitoba (the provincial sector council lead and industry association), the definition of interactive digital media (IDM) is: “products or provision of services that directly enable users to digitally interact with content and/or other users. These products and services include digital games, e-learning software, virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR)/mixed reality (MR) experiences, mobile apps, digital advertising, and/or the development of web-based applications. Services such as web development are only included if they involve robust interactive elements (beyond the simple display of text and/or images).” All of that to say, if you’ve ever played a video game, taken an online course, or used a mobile app, IDM has been part of your life.
IDM in Manitoba
As the tech sector in the province continues to flourish, so does IDM. The IDM industry has grown significantly since 2012, when it contributed $39 million to Manitoba’s GDP. In just five years, that number leapt to over $190 million in 2017. The industry today has 67 companies, employs 3,800 people and generates over $30 million in tax revenue annually.
Support for IDM
New Media Manitoba offers programs and funding to support IDM companies, including business development services and industry training to help companies both grow and scale.
In last year’s provincial budget, Manitoba Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (MIDMTC) was also enhanced to help grow the industry further. The MIDMTC was made permanent, expanded eligible labour activities, made eligible expenses more flexible and improved the application process. The MIDMTC is a refundable corporate income tax credit that provides up to a 40 per cent credit on qualified labour expenditures and some marketing and distribution expenses during the development of eligible interactive digital media products for market. Since its introduction in 2008, the MIDMTC has approved more than 175 interactive digital media projects, returning over $10 million in tax credits to Manitoba companies.
IDM is growing
The value of IDM to the local economy is evident with a recent announcement by Ubisoft. On Mar. 18, 2022, the company announced it would expand its Winnipeg operation with 200 additional jobs and $139 million in investment. Ubisoft officially opened its doors in 2019, lured by the MIDMTC and the province’s tech talent. Three years later, Ubisoft Winnipeg has 100 employees with plans to add 200 more and will invest a total $264 million into Manitoba by 2030.
“This investment in our Winnipeg studio reaffirms Ubisoft’s commitment to both the province of Manitoba and to the development of our technology. Production technology has always been key to our innovation here at Ubisoft, and its development will enable us to push the boundaries of what is possible in our games. In its first years, Ubisoft Winnipeg has already contributed to core technologies such as our Snowdrop engine, taken a leadership role in Machine Learning, and developed innovative new procedural tools and technologies that have the potential to change the way we build worlds. I am excited to see the work that Ubisoft Winnipeg has already produced in its first years, and look forward to this studio’s bright future as part of Ubisoft,” said Nicolas Rioux, Ubisoft’s global deputy vice president of production technology, about the announcement.
Ubisoft Winnipeg is just one example of how IDM boosts local employment, builds the province’s tech ecosystem and contributes to our economy. Next time you play a video game, scroll on your phone, or log into online learning, remember that behind the scenes, there is a thriving industry of people and ideas creating the technology that contributes to our overall economic growth. Play on!