Video game software developer opens up new Toronto studio

Japan-based Koei Co. Ltd. — publisher and developer of action/strategy type video games such as Dynasty Warriors and Nobunaga’s Ambition — announced last month it is expanding its operations in Toronto. Four years ago, Koei opened its first Canadian office to focus on computer graphics.

The expanding Koei Canada Inc. software studio will be the headquarters for the company’s North American product development, the company said.

Koei’s Japan and China-based offices develop and publish video games that rely heavily on local history and culture in their storytelling and gameplay.

At the official launch, Koei’s founder and chief advisor, Yoichi Erikawa, said the Toronto studio will be the development hub for the North American and European markets.

The new Toronto operations will be tasked with developing games geared towards North American and European audiences as well as increasing market share within those two lucrative sectors, Erikawa said.

The company currently has 30 team members with plans to have between 150 and 200 developers in the new office within the next three years.

The office also plans to develop games for online and mobile devices to grow its market share, he added.

Currently in development by Koei Canada are two new titles, including a launch title for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 3 console, “Fatal Inertia,” which the lead developer Michael Bond describes as a “futuristic 23rd Century aerial combat racing game.”

The firm’s Toronto-based programmers and designers will team up on the title with game creators from Koei’s Japanese studio.

The game is tentatively slated for a Spring 2006 launch.

The new operation will also create material for both Microsoft Corp.’s upcoming Xbox 360 console, and Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP).

Canada is fast becoming a centre for video game software development. But while Toronto has a relatively small game development community (a majority of Canadian video game companies are run out of Montreal and Vancouver), Koei found Toronto to be the ideal setting for its new North American arm, Erikawa said.

Close proximity to post-secondary institutions University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo — both respectively known for their information technology and computer science graduates — played a key role in the decision to set up shop in Toronto, Erikawa said.

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