These are the tech whizzes are ensuring the revolution will be gamified—and Canadian. Check out the full 2023 Power List here.
MORE: See who made the 2023 Maclean’s Power List
1. Jade Raymond, for ensuring the revolution will be gamified—and Canadian
Click here to find out why Raymond gets the top spot
2. Chris Overholt is making gaming enthusiasts out of Canada’s irl sports fans
President & CEO, Overactive Media
After more than 20 years working in traditional athletics—including stints with MLSE, the Miami Dolphins and the Canadian Olympic Committee—Chris Overholt made the leap into a new arena: e-sports. In 2018, he became president and CEO of OverActive Media, Canada’s largest e-sports ownership group. So far, Overholt’s roster includes teams like Toronto Defiant, which is devoted to the wildly popular game Overwatch, and Toronto Ultra, which plays Call of Duty (also professionally). And here’s good news for gaming fans keen to geek out in person: in 2021, Overholt announced plans to open a 7,000-seat, multi-purpose arena in Toronto that could host e-sports events. Soon, a night out drinking beer and watching gamers do their thing could be as hot a ticket as the Raptors or Jays.
3. Rémi Racine is the biggest name in indie gaming
Founder & CEO, Behaviour Interactive
Want to play hide-and-seek with Ghostface from Scream? (Probably not.) In Dead by Daylight, you can run from him, plus a whole host of other scary characters. The multi-platform game—which has more than 50 million players—is the flagship title from Behaviour Interactive, the largest indie gaming company in Canada. Studio head Rémi Racine is the brain behind Behaviour’s burgeoning empire, which started as a small firm that made CD-ROM games before producing Jersey Devil for the original PlayStation in 1997.
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Behaviour Interactive has just released a new instalment in the Dead by Daylight franchise
By 2000, it was developing games for three major companies (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo). But Behaviour’s biggest success by far came with the release of Dead by Daylight in 2016. In 2022 alone, the company earned more than $260 million, acquired the American developer Midwinter Entertainment and set up a brand-new Toronto office.
4. Christophe Derennes is uploading diversity to the gamersphere
Head, Ubisoft Montreal
Ubisoft, the company behind the massive Assassin’s Creed series, was the first big studio to set up shop in Montreal. But when Christophe Derennes took over in 2020, he inherited a fractured workplace. Former Ubisoft Canada head Yannis Mallat left in the midst of an HR meltdown, with allegations of discrimination and misconduct swirling at several international Ubisoft outposts. Since then, Derennes has overseen the instalment of a company ombudsman and code of conduct, but there’s also been an effort to diversify the characters in the video games themselves. Rainbow Six Siege has rolled out several LGBTQ+ characters for players to choose from. Derennes’s job now will be finding Ubisoft’s next big hit: its roster of upcoming games includes a new Assassin’s Creed iteration, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, and, soon, a new Star Wars title.
5. Imane Anys is a Canadian Twitch trailblazer
Pokimane is, without question, one of the hottest celebrities in the world of online streaming. Behind the headset is a 26-year-old Moroccan-Canadian woman named Imane Anys. In 2013, she started streaming League of Legends, amassing an enviable audience on assorted social-media channels, but especially on Twitch. Popular streamers on the online platform—where viewers watch both the game and the person playing it—can make thousands of dollars in a week, thanks to subscription payments, tips and various kinds of advertising. Anys herself is estimated to make seven figures per year. On a platform where nearly 80 per cent of users are men, Anys’s warm, personable style helped her stand out. In April of 2022, she smashed through the nine-million-follower mark on Twitch, making her the most popular woman on the platform.
6. Shyang Kong is taking the Halo franchise to new heights
Managing partner, SkyBox Labs
Of the thousands of games on the market today, few have reached the popularity of Halo. The ongoing tribulations of main character Master Chief are big business for Halo’s parent company, Microsoft—US$5 billion worth—and the franchise was recently adapted for a TV show on Paramount+. A large chunk of that success is owed to Shyang Kong, an exec at B.C.’s SkyBox Labs—along with partners Derek MacNeil and Steven Silvester—who also worked on Halo Infinite, the latest entry in the first-person shooter series.
Season 3 of Halo Infinite arrives tomorrow! 🔥
Get a closer look at the #HaloEchoesWithin Battle Pass, the MIRAGE IIC and CHIMERA armor cores, a plethora of free new coatings, changes to the Shop, and more.https://t.co/eL6UdpK0fB pic.twitter.com/I2L79t4jFU
— Halo (@Halo) March 6, 2023
Last year, SkyBox expanded to three offices—two in Burnaby, one in Victoria—to help with the immense number of gaming contracts coming down the pipe. The biggest news, though, is the most recent: earlier this year, SkyBox announced it had been acquired by NetEase, a Chinese tech firm, for an undisclosed sum.
7. Henri-Charles Machalani is giving big bonuses to Canada’s loyal gamers
Smartphones have transformed how many of us game. But unlocking bonuses and seemingly infinite levels can get expensive: in the United States, new gamers pay about US$17 a month, while established players can spend more than US$26. Henri-Charles Machalani, a McGill grad and tech entrepreneur, saw an opportunity. In 2015, he launched Mistplay, a loyalty program for mobile gamers. The longer a user plays their chosen games, the more points they earn—which they can then use to redeem rewards. (The company makes money through referrals from game publishers and advertising.) Looping in mobile-game big-timers like FarmVille and Rise of Kingdoms has paid off for Machalani: by 2022, Mistplay had grown by more than 4,000 per cent. Machalani also sold a majority of the company to GrowthCurve Capital, which he hopes will further extend its reach.
8. Nour Polloni heard the Call of Duty
Studio head, Beenox
There’s nothing quite like sitting down after a long day, kicking up your feet, firing up Call of Duty and hightailing it into a war zone with your friends. For this wholesome extracurricular pastime, we have Nour Polloni to thank—at least in part. Polloni’s the studio head of the Quebec City–based gaming outfit Beenox, which has been an assistant developer on the massively successful Call of Duty franchise since 2015. (Beenox also engages in some friendly competitions with its American counterparts, who they often beat.) In 2020, yet another team effort was announced: Beenox, already hard at work co-developing Call of Duty: Warzone, would also be taking on a new mobile game for the popular first-person shooter series. On the heels of this news, the company has hired 150 people since 2021. It also opened some brand-new office digs in Montreal just last year.
9. Peter Kieltyka made blockchain gaming bankable
CEO, Horizon Blockchain Games
Cryptocurrency took a hit last year, but a few intrepid blockchain-backed companies have survived the winter. Take Horizon Blockchain Games, a startup that brings gaming to the NFT world. In its flagship game, Skyweaver, players can buy and trade items in a blockchain marketplace. (This means they’re competing for things with real-world value.) Horizon’s also created Sequence, a smart wallet and developer platform that aims to be the go-to infrastructure for Web3 games and applications. Although uptake on blockchain gaming has been slow to start, venture capital firms are betting on the long term. In October of 2022, the company closed a Series A funding round worth US$40 million. CEO Peter Kieltyka says they will expand the game, launch a new market where users can trade tokens, and focus on marketing efforts to attract even more new players.
10. Sasha Hostyn is StarCraft II’s winningest woman
Pro video game player
From a young age, Sasha Hostyn—better known by her username, Scarlett—was known for her analytical mind, mastering games like Magic: The Gathering and Xiangqi, or Chinese chess. But in 2011, when Hostyn started playing StarCraft II, a real-time strategy game from Blizzard Entertainment, she was vaulted onto the international stage. A year later, she handily defeated a number of highly ranked pros at a tournament in Las Vegas. Now something of a StarCraft legend, Hostyn, who hails from Kingston, Ontario, has been widely considered one of the best players in the world, pocketing more than US$270,000 to date—the highest amount earned by a woman in e-sports. (By 2018, Hostyn’s earnings were so massive that they landed her in the Guinness World Records.) Since 2021, she’s been playing for Shopify Rebellion, a pro StarCraft team. Unsurprisingly, Scarlett’s kicking butt.
Check out the full 2023 Power List here
This article appears in print in the March 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.