The small rise in North American game industry employment (from 44,400 to 44,806) was marked by an unusually high number of new studios - particularly in social and online gaming – springing up to counterbalance the many closures that occurred throughout the rest of the industry. Canadian companies, however, saw growth that can almost be called explosive. The continued establishment of new studios and expansion of existing large studios led the region's employee count in the Census to rise 30 percent year-on-year. The totals - also boosted by additional Game Developer research on Canadian developers, with the help of local authorities - rose from 9,500 Canadian video game employees in 2008 to 12,480 in 2009. Much of the actual Canadian growth is due to the strengthening of the major development hubs in Vancouver and Montreal, as well as up-and-coming development centers like Toronto. By contrast, while U.S. states continue to maintain similar amounts of employees, anecdotal evidence indicates that American game development is becoming less clustered around urban centers.
In the United States, California remains the undisputed development heavyweight, with 20,815 developers (46 percent of the U.S. total) employed in the state. Washington is the second most-popular state for game employment, with over 4,500 employees, and Texas is third with over 2,600. Those rankings remain intact from last year. In total, eight states (California, Washington, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, and Maryland) have more than 1,000 game professionals working in them, with North Carolina close behind. Maryland is a newcomer to that group this year, in part due to the expansion of state heavyweight ZeniMax Media, Bethesda's parent company.
"We're pleased to be debuting the latest Game Developer Census for North America," said Simon Carless, global brand director the Think Services Game Group, including Game Developer Magazine and director of Game Developer Research. "The report offers a comprehensive snapshot of the financial health of the industry. For industry watchers, this is an essential document to discover the state of the games business."
Not included in the current Census estimate are game tools companies, game contracting/services companies, external PR, marketing, legal, and other business services, and liaison or licensing divisions at larger media companies. Game Developer Research putatively puts this figure at around 18,000 across North America.