The Call of Duty brand is synonymous with players; even those outside of gaming generally are familiar with the series to some degree, but some may not know that for the better part of a decade, Canadian porting-super star Beenox has contributed towards the creation of the legendary franchise. Beginning in 2015 with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which Beenox helped co-develop, until 2018 when the company shifted towards handling the PC ports of the franchise, Beenox has been integral in adapting the beloved first-person-shooter series.
During FAN EXPO CANADA 2022, CGMagazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Beenox Creative Director Etienne Pouliot and UI/UX Director, Marc Alexandre Milot, to discuss the history of Beenox and its presence in Canada.
CGMagazine: First of all, congratulations on the new branch in Montreal. How has that been going for Beenox?
Etienne Pouliot: It’s been like a year that we started to hire people for Montreal and everything, but now we have a building now, so it feels like we have a home and office, and it’s official, and it feels pretty cool.
CGMagazine: What would the both of you say makes Canada such an appealing and unique spot for game developers to congregate to?
Etienne Pouliot: I think we have a story of success in game development in Montreal and Quebec City and other parts of Canada with games that resonate with people. I see all that talent and growth through the years. Just look at Beenox. We’ve been open for 22 years, and it’s been a huge ride. Montreal adds another 25 years of stories and experience from 100s of developers and designers.
Marc Alexandre Milot: 10 or 15 years ago, there was a lot of support from the government to bring some video game companies, mainly in Quebec and Montreal. This really helped towards a fast growth. In Beenox there are people who are part of a school program and teachers who help. general public, One thing they help with is first of all letting people know that video games exist as an industry job and that the industry is pretty wide, you can work in the online managing, server-backend, or on my team who works on the PC version of Call of Duty, working with AMD, Intel and other different vendors.
So it’s nice seeing people who used to work at Beenox and now have started their own studio, and it’s great to hear from them and see the kinds of games they’re working on. It especially makes me proud to see new companies, both large and very small studios, and it makes me proud because as a player myself, I really enjoy Call of Duty but also sometimes like to play different videogames.
CGMagazine: Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Beenox has a lot of places to pull a diverse and eclectic group of people from. How does it correlate into Beenox’s culture?
Marc Alexandre Milot: At Beenox, we speak French, at least most of the people do with some who speak English, but we also offer French courses to people who work with, and we also offer English courses for those who speak French, so we have a big immersion program.
Etienne Pouliot: Yeah, and we have a success story for people who come from the South, and they just moved to Quebec city who end up sticking with us through the years as we have good cultural integration programs. I think it is important to have different kinds of people working on our games and I see the results of that. At the end, it is important to have those kinds of discussions about the products we are making, and I hope we continue in that way.
CGMagazine: So, Beenox is known for a lot of ports and work on licensed properties. How does Beenox approach iteration on already recognizable and well-established IPs.
Etienne Pouliot: To give you an example, using Call of Duty, we make sure to take the time to learn as much as possible about the franchise, why it’s so successful, and what the player loves about the series. At Beenox we don’t break what is already there, because if you play Call of Duty, you don’t want to play another game. We are passionate about the games we work on, and it really shows in the care we take to make them.
CGMagazine: If given a chance, are there any licensed properties you would like to revisit in the future?
Etienne Pouliot: Call of Duty is such a well-known franchise globally there is so much to craft around it, I think there is an opportunity to craft new crossovers in the future. I will say something totally crazy, but maybe in the future there could be something like a Skylanders game cross-over for Call of Duty. Activision has a broad catalogue that could be revived through Call of Duty, so I think the possibilities are there for us.
Marc Alexandre Milot: Personally, I have always been a PC fan. Since I was very young, I always used to play on PC, like Call of Duty 2. I made some life-long friends and real connections, so being able to work on the PC version of Call of Duty games is a real honour for me. That’s something I am really proud of.