French-Only Quebec Law Jeopardizes Gaming Industry

by Anastasia Deripaska

A new law in Quebec, Canada will scare talent away from the gaming industry.

One of the world’s biggest cities for game development—Montreal, Canada—will be faced with a drought of talent as new legislation enters the city’s home province of Quebec.

Quebec, the only Canadian province where French is the common language, enacted a law that requires companies of more than 25 employees to use French as the default language in the workplace.

With Montreal boasting some of the largest game studios in the world, industry workers expect rising talent will choose to avoid the Canadian city, shifting the gaming industry to different locales in coming years.

Montreal—North America’s Game Dev Hub

Montreal is currently one of North America’s game development capitals, with over 200 game studios.

Back in 1997 when Quebec’s economy was struggling, the government offered to exempt 37.5% of game developer’s salaries from taxation. The result was a rush to set up new studios in the province, many of which ended up in Montreal.

The city also became home to several major gaming events such as the Montreal International Game Summit.

Soon Montreal became a hub for major game studios, including Ubisoft Montreal, who developed titles for the Assassin’s Creed series, the Far Cry series, and created the recent game Rainbow Six Extraction.

Other big-name studios in Montreal include Eidos, Square Enix, Warner Bros Games, Unity, Bethesda, Epic Games, EA Games, and Amazon Games.

With so much of the gaming industry invested in Montreal, it should come as no surprise that the recent French-forward laws will be a huge upset.

How Bad Will The Law Be?

Bill 96—also called “An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec”—came into effect on June 1st 2022. In an effort to encourage the use of the French language, businesses, health care, and government services are now expected to operate in French by default.

For the gaming industry, which predominantly uses English in-office and for business relations, the law means anyone trying to work in Quebec would have to learn French.

As the industry becomes more globalized, many new workers from around the world must already learn English to find work, so learning a second language is impractical, especially when work outside Quebec is available.

The new law also means that immigrants moving to Montreal-based studios will have severely limited access to services in their native language, a hurdle that many find it not worthwhile to clear.

Osama Dorias, a game designer and teacher who worked in Montreal for 15 years, said in an interview, “It’s going to be very hard for [Montreal] to compete on a global level.”

Dorias goes on to explain that the industry is facing a labor shortage, so any developers Quebec studios would be losing to the new law, present or potential, will be very hard to replace. If studios find they cannot hire in Montreal, they are likely to relocate soon.

While Bill 96 may be just a minor inconvenience in the short term, its inconveniences will stack up for the gaming industry and push valuable talent, and therefore money, away from Quebec.