Hippo & Yeti get a boost

As one of the world's largest clusters for visual effects and digital animation companies, B.C. is looking to continue their reputation thanks to a $100 million government investment to the high tech sector.

For the second year in a row the province celebrated Screen in B.C. Day an opportunity to recognize the contribution of screen-based industries to the economy.

More than 16,000 people are employed in the digital media industry and approximately 600 of those work in the Okanagan.

Local company Hyper Hippo employs 30 people to build and design games that are released to web, mobile, Steam and PlayStation platforms, including the award-winning and record-breaking title, AdVenture Capitalist.

CEO Lance Priebe explains the company currently works in three teams on two of Hyper Hippos flagship products.

“AdVenture Capitalist has actually been downloaded and has more than 20 million players,” Priebe said. “Surprisingly 10 per cent of those players are still playing a year later.”

Those working for Hyper Hippo range from residents who attended local schools to former Vancouverites and are paid anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on their experience.

Just a block away from Hyper Hippo is another Okanagan digital success story. Yeti Farm Creative sparked in 2007 in the basement of Kelowna resident Todd Ramsay.

“When I moved back from Vancouver I started with five people working on a project for electronic arts and from there we slowly grew to where we are today, at 30 people,” said Ramsay.

Steve Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, and Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, toured both the companies on Wednesday.

Letnick says to really have B.C. be involved in the tech sector, the government needed to commit.

“We heard that loud and clear, and Premier Clark said to do that, we are going to have to put up some real dollars…. to partner with other companies to really encourage the investment and tech in B.C.,” he explained. “That is what the $100 million is for.”

This comes as good news to both Hyper Hippo and Yeti Farm who see the investment as an opportunity to create more jobs and keep the talent in the Okanagan.

“There is so much growth here now, so much opportunity for script to screen. Not just animation but story board, writing, every aspect of that mission,” said Ramsay.

B.C. is currently the third largest full-service production centre in North America with an outstanding infrastructure of studios for physical production as well as an experienced cast and crew that can service more than 50 projects simultaneously.

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