Game developers: London companies score $800,000 boost from Ontario fund

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With more than $800,000 in provincial grants to play with, it’s game on for the Forest City’s growing digital media sector.

Four London game developers are getting a major boost from the Ontario Media Development Corp.’s Interactive Digital Media Fund – a $10-million annual initiative to help companies grow and create new products.

The province announced its 97 recipients Thursday, and from holographic virtual reality games to mobile apps, two downtown game developers have plans as big as their windfall.

Joydrop is jumping for joy, after securing $50,000 from the province to build a prototype of their First World War live-action virtual reality game, War Room.

The real-time strategy game is not unlike other tabletop classics like Warhammer, but instead of plastic figurines, rulers and dice, it’s brought to life by wearable holographic technology from Microsoft.

“It spatially maps, figures out the room and the surroundings around you, and then electronically transforms your living room into a battlefield,” said Mark Mikulec, Joydrop founder and chief executive.

“Wherever the chairs and the furniture are, they become like hills. Any flat areas become a plain . . . The little toy soldiers start running around and coming to life.”

The game is still in its early stages of development, but for Mikulec, the provincial funding is helping Joydrop get ahead of the virtual reality curve. When the boutique technology goes mainstream, the company will have a game ready.

“I’m a real believer of this technology and I feel that a lot of companies are moving towards this,” said Mikutech.

“It’ll allow us to be ahead of the game, no pun intended, when something more ubiquitous and consumer-friendly comes out in the next few years.”

London gaming giants Big Viking Games and Big Blue Bubble are in line for $47,900 and $500,000 respectively.

Meanwhile Tiny Titan Studios is sizing up its $233,000 sum – the first outside funding the three-year-old company has ever received.

The game developer is creating a followup to its 2015 breakout hit Dash Quest, an Apple and Android mobile app inspired by the charm of vintage video games.

“We’re really looking to push the quality and the scale of it enormously,” said chief executive Jeff Owens.

“We’re probably about halfway through the project now.”

Tiny Titan is gearing up for the soft launch of its yet-to-be-named sequel this October. Nine people are working full-time on the project, something Owens says wouldn’t be possible without the provincial boost.

“The OMDC is just absolutely incredible . . . It really helps a lot of companies our size or even smaller or larger keep the talent on board and work on new and exciting things,” he said.

“It helps us mitigate some of the risk on producing something new and creative.”

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2016-17 Interactive Digital Media Fund

Southwestern Ontario recipients

Big Blue Bubble, London – $500,000

Tiny Titan Studios, London – $233,000

Phantom Compass, St. Catharines – $95,000

Joydrop, London – $50,000

Red Meat Games, Kitchener – $50,000

Big Viking Games, London – $47,900

Falling Squirrel, St. Catharines – $23,600

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