Video game giant growing operations in city’s Exchange District
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2019 (1477 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Less than two months after the official opening of Ubisoft’s Winnipeg studio, the French video game company is already dramatically expanding its footprint here.
In early January the all-star international video game producer officially opened in Winnipeg with 3,200 square feet of space on the third floor of the Merchants Building. To the uninitiated, it looked cramped from the beginning.
The company has now leased an additional 16,000 square feet – the entire second floor of the McDermot Avenue building.
The company’s original decision to set up shop in Winnipeg was greeted with great fanfare befitting the arrival of a multi-billion dollar international company that previously had no presence here.
Its stated mandate from the start was to grow its operations in Winnipeg to about 100 people in five years.
Darryl Long, managing director of Ubisoft Winnipeg, said that continues to be the goal.
“Things are coming together at a great pace,” said Long. “It’s great that we have a strong head start on it already. As of this week we have 35 employees. That extra 16,000 square feet will give us the room we need to keep growing.”
Long said the hope is to have the new space available to move in some time this summer.
The second floor of the building is currently empty and unoccupied and the plan is to build a staircase from its current third floor space down to the larger space that takes up the entire second floor.
“The great thing about it is that it means the space on the third floor is no longer temporary space. It’s now a long term investment and part of our longer term road map to keep investing in the Exchange District,” he said.
While some might think that Ubisoft had its eyes on the second floor from the beginning. But Long said that was not the case.
“We knew we would be here for the long term but we didn’t know the city that well,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we found a good fit for the culture of the company. Ubisoft being a techno-creative company we like to be in a space that reflects that, that matches who we are. We don’t want to be in a super clean, sterile office environment. We want to be somewhere with character, down to earth, a fun to be place to be that has its own personality.”
So far, Ubisoft has successfully recruited talent within the city and has also re-patriated Winnipeggers who were were working with the company elsewhere. (The Winnipeg studio is the company’s sixth location in Canada, where it has close to 5,000 employees, including more than 3,500 in Montreal and about 750 in Toronto.)
It hopes to continue to hire people from the city but is also expected to recruit from outside and bring people in. Ubisoft’s Winnipeg shop is developing technology and tools to support the video game creators in Ubisoft’s other Canadian studios.
Ubisoft was the first big name video game company that took a chance on the talent pool that exists in Winnipeg and according to Long, so far so good.
“When we first came to Winnipeg we knew that Winnipeg was that hidden gem,” he said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.