In February Queen Bee Games received approval for significant development funding through The Canada Media Fund. Under the Experimental Stream’s Innovation Production Program, this grant will allow the company to grow.
The PEI-based independent video game company is the only one in the Maritimes to receive this kind of national funding so far this year. Co-founders Kathleen and Steven Cassidy will put the money towards a second game, Another Now, which they hope to release in early 2018.
“It gives us a boost of confidence,” says Kathleen, who is also the Executive Producer. “It will help us grow and fulfill our mandate of creating games infused with high quality stand-out art, animation, and fun gameplay.”
Steven is head programmer and creative director of the company. Kathleen, who’s originally from PEI, and Steven, who’s from New Brunswick, had careers in video gaming and animation in Ottawa. In 2013, when she was on maternity leave, they decided to move to PEI to raise their first child closer to family.
Local funding supports
“We are both creative people, and we knew we wanted to start our own video game company,” says Steven. “We were eligible for the Self Employ PEI program and spent a year developing code, art, and animation for our first game, Onion Force.”
The Self Employ PEI program is administered through SkillsPEI, a division of Workforce and Advanced Learning and funded through the Canada/PEI Labour Market Development Agreement. The employment benefit program is designed to help people start and succeed with owning and operating their business.
“I dove into the business side of video gaming, researching all I could,” says Kathleen. “Self Employ PEI gave us the time to do this. We self-publish our games and it’s a lot of work initially, but it’s not difficult with the computer programs and platforms available.”
Once they completed the Self Employ PEI program, the couple got a loan and a mentor through Futurpreneur Canada. This program provides pre-launch coaching, start-up financing, mentorship, and resources for entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39. They also received funding support from Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund in 2015.
“We have worked closely with Innovation PEI since we started, so we were well aware of the grants and programs available through them,” Kathleen says. “The Ignition Fund helped us put the finishing touches on our game and helped pay our salaries. Onion Force was released in mid-2016.”
The couple spent the last few years developing an elevator pitch to describe their company to potential investors. Steven has advice for anyone in the same situation: “Know your product very well, so that they can’t ask a question you can’t answer.”
Future hiring plans
Within six months, the couple would like to hire a programmer or animator. “We would like to hire someone who can show us samples of previous work, and is reliable and punctual.”
PEI’s video game development industry
Twelve companies work in the video game/animation industry on PEI. The sector employs 185 people, and the average annual salary is $60,980.
For more information about Queen Bee Games, visit www.queenbeegames.com.
For more about Futurpreneur Canada, call 1-800-464-2923 ext. 3896. Visit www.futurpreneur.ca.
Visit www.workpei.ca and search Self Employ PEI for Job Seekers.
To learn more about the Canada Media Fund, visit www.cmf-fmc.ca.