Visit the Edmonton office for Improbable Games Canada and you may be stunned by the beauty of the exposed brick and marled wooden beams. But don’t be fooled — the real magic is what happens as programmers and designers type furiously at their computers.
Their lines of code or conceptual artwork could shape the story of a video game that has the potential to reach millions of players around the world.
“It’s absolutely the fastest moving segment of entertainment in the world. Nothing is evolving faster and nothing is as technologically savvy,” says Aaryn Flynn, Improbable’s General Manager for its games business in North America.
Improbable is a U.K. technology startup that was founded seven years ago to build a platform for online games. SpatialOS was created, running in the cloud and erasing the need to operate physical servers.
Improbable was largely focused on the success of SpatialOS until 2018, when Flynn joined the company and opened a studio in downtown Edmonton. Shortly after that, Flynn and his team pitched the idea of building an entire game.
That’s no small feat, with the majority of games taking on average three to four years to go to market, says Flynn, who is the former general manager of BioWare.
The new venture is only known as “Project Edmonton” externally, and it is an online role-playing game.
“It’s intended to be very systems-driven to take advantage of the tremendous power of the cloud,” explains Flynn. “That’s what SpatialOS does — it harnesses all this power to let developers do more things for players.”
The project’s game development is based out of the Edmonton office, which allows Improbable to access a diverse set of people who can do the quality work needed to make a game stand out in a crowded global marketplace.
From talented engineers, to artists, producers and designers, “the Edmonton region’s got a big enough footprint where there’s talented and experienced people in all of those disciplines,” says Flynn.
In addition to their London, U.K. headquarters and their Edmonton office, Improbable also has operations in China, Seattle and Washington, DC.
That cross-country collaboration is imperative to the gaming company’s success on the world stage, says Flynn, because it’s important to always be learning about the industry and players.
“Perspectives from those places are hugely beneficial for us as we think about things. Just to be able to understand what’s going on in other parts of the world means we’re more informed about what we can do here that might have market appeal or applicability there.”
‘A dynamic industry’
As the startup continues to grow, Flynn plans to use SpatialOS to make better games, and in return, the games that are developed will help improve Improbable’s platform.
“Technology is a dynamic industry — we can’t rest on our laurels … and we have to have a vision,” says Flynn.
He welcomes competition within the space, acknowledging fellow Edmonton region gaming companies like BioWare, Beamdog, Serious Labs Inc., and a number of indie developers.
The market for video games has the potential to grow into a $300 billion industry by 2025, according to a 2019 report from GlobalData. Mobile and cloud gaming are expected to contribute substantially to the swell.
‘Heart and soul’
The opportunity in building games excites Flynn, especially because of who they may reach.
“You can actually impact people anywhere in the world with this industry, they just have to want to experience what you’re making,” says Flynn.
“So you put your heart and soul into creating something that will be appreciated and loved … that matters to you and hopefully matters to others.”