From gaming to bioscience to farming, diversity is the foundation of P.E.I.’s new economy

Posted on July 01, 2021 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments

A rabbit is probably prey, though we’re going to pretend it’s a new-found friend for Rob Curbishley’s Dino-inspired creature in an image for video game art company The Lost Pixels.

 

Tyler Noiles moved to Prince Edward Island and started building his career in the videogame industry just under 15 years ago. Last year, he was leading a small Island studio owned by Electronic Arts (EA) when the company told him it was quietly shuttering the location. It left him asking: “What now?”

When a “new economy” industry is so new or concentrated that it’s dependent on just one or two operations, a single closure can be a devastating hit. It can set the people responsible for economic development and diversification back to a very difficult square one. And it can leave skilled professionals racing for larger centres during the struggle to rebuild.

On the other hand, a more mature and diverse industry has the strength to carry on when one or two participants are  sidelined, offering new opportunities for displaced workers. If recognized and supported, it can also arguably flip the bad news to good, bolstering other local businesses in the same industry or leading to new start-ups. 

In the first example, a closure leads to the question of: “Do I stay, or do I have to go?” In the other, the question is more of Noiles’ “What now?”

Noiles said EA was supportive in the transition. And while deciding what he would personally do next, he felt the encouragement of colleagues from the Island’s no-longer-infant gaming industry. Late in the year, a contact at Crown corporation Innovation PEI asked him if he had thought about starting his own studio. 

“I just kind of chuckled and said ‘No, I don’t think so,’” he recalled. “Fast forward a month later and I’m back in the office saying, ‘So if I did start a company…’”

He obviously had experience in game art and development work, having handled well-known intellectual property (IP) in addition to new concept work. He also had experience in management and had personally picked talent from university and college programs in Atlantic Canada, fostering the professional development of other workers now skilled in art and animation, working with big-name IP from The Simpsons to Star Wars. 

After reaching out to a few people, Noiles decided to take the plunge. His new studio—The Lost Pixels—had a committed team and its first contract before it was even incorporated. He brought the first employees on board at the start of February of this year. He hired seven professionals whose work he knew, and who were eager to continue to live and work on the Island.

“Knock on wood, but it’s turned out pretty well,” he said, speaking to Atlantic Business Magazine in late May, referencing contract work ongoing through the year.

Noiles made a point to credit Innovation PEI and the efforts of the Government of Prince Edward Island in helping his “new economy” business get started, and for being mindful of the opportunity to be had from tapping into the global videogame industry. 

“The P.E.I. government has actually been really easy to work with. They listen and even understand things like the difference between a quarterly rebate and a yearly rebate. That stuff makes a difference if you need capital and you’re a small company,” he said. “They make some smart decisions on behalf of the tech industry here that I think has really allowed the industry to continue even through tough times and we’ll probably continue to grow.”

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