Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is questioning the Liberal government’s support for a St. Catharines video game development company that laid off 45 people last year.
But the government is saying little about the details of a multi-million dollar commitment to Silicon Knights.
“Exactly how much money has Silicon Knights received to date and have further installments since been made?” Horwath asked Premier Dalton McGuinty during Question Period in the Legislature on Tuesday.
According to Horwath, in February 2011 the government signed a $2.5-million contract with Silicon Knights, which said it would use the money to create 90 jobs and sustain another 100. Following news of the lay offs last November, the government told the Legislature one installment of provincial money had been paid out.
Horwath said the NDP requested further information on the government’s dealings with Silicon Knights using freedom of information legislation, but the requested information was “censored.”
“In fact, the copy of the Silicon Knights contract that we obtained contained one appendix, consisting of only 26 censored pages,” said Horwath. “Don’t the people of Ontario have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether companies that are getting public money are meeting their job creation targets?”
McGuinty did not answer Horwath’s questions, but instead referred them to Brad Duguid, minister of economic development and innovation for a response.
“As is becoming a pattern with NDP questions, they continue to ask questions about investments that have been made, expecting, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps we shouldn’t be working with businesses across this province, we shouldn’t be working to attract foreign direct investment, that we should be ignoring that responsibility to create jobs and promote economic growth,” Duguid said in response.
“Mr. Speaker, we’ve been working very closely with Silicon Knights. It actually is a very fascinating company, a company with great potential. We’ll continue to work very closely with them. They’re in a field, Mr. Speaker, that’s a challenging field, that does have ups and downs. We’re willing to continue to work with them.”
Horwath’s questioning comes just a week after Welland NDP MPP Cindy Forster questioned a $900,000 economic development grant awarded to New Food Classics. The St. Catharines food processor has gone into receivership after running into financial troubles.
Silicon Knights had some troubled years. After MGS: Twin Snakes for GCN, they reached an agreement with their major shareholder Nintendo as their creative visions were completely different (casual games vs cinematic big budgets titles). SK began to work on Too Human for Microsoft and made a Silent Hill pitch (The Box), which was signed by Sega, then renamed to The Ritualist and later sold to THQ. As THQ was in financial difficulties back then already, the game got canned and the team at SK helped out on Darksiders.
Since then SK worked on various prototypes and pitches. One was signed by Activision (X-Men Destiny) and was met with poor receptions. Another one, Siren in the Maelstrom or just Siren, was financed by a Canadian fund (Telefilm Canada) but wasn't signed by a publisher.
After the poor reviews of X-Men Destiny one publisher backed off from their title, which led to layoffs late last year. Due to a pending trial with Epic, long delays, and mediocre games, SK only has a limited choice of publishers willing to fund their titles right now.
So what's going to happen? With both the Ontario government and Nintendo as strong partners, they are now preparing for the new generation of consoles. Wii U support of their tools and technology was added during mid to fall 2011 already.
Their new title is supposed to be revealed later this year. Don't attempt to leak it, the ninja will kill you.