The move represents a greater push for international expansion by NetEase as it seeks to break free of intense regulations in its native China. Canada has long had a thriving mobile games scene, and until last year was the home of much of Square Enix’s mobile gaming interests through the Square Enix Montreal label.
The announcement came with a short video taking inspiration from adult animation such as Rick and Morty or Little Demon, seemingly lampooning studios which focus on trends as opposed to gameplay.
The new studio is being led by Ubisoft veteran Sean Crooks, who previously worked as lead producer on the acclaimed Watch Dogs franchise. The team is currently working on an open world, multi-platform title inspired by cult cinema, mixing elements of adventure and horror.
"I'm honoured to be leading this talented team of developers in Canada," said Crooks. "We're all passionate about creating memorable and meaningful experiences. NetEase Games has given us a warm welcome, with an abundance of support and creative freedom to allow us to do what we do best. Our first game is a passion project that gives us the opportunity to truly free our brains."
What about mobile?
At present, the company hasn’t confirmed whether the announced (and unnamed) title will be coming to mobile devices. Although NetEase has long been one of the biggest players in the mobile space, it has recently been branching out into other platforms in an attempt to maximise revenue streams. Previously, the company has funded Japanese console developer Studio Flare as well as acquired French developer Quantic Dream, best known for its work in the Interactive movie genre, with PlayStation exclusives such as Detroit: Become Human and Beyond: Two Souls.
Meanwhile mobile remains the world’s most profitable platform and NetEase remains among the biggest names in the industry. The company recently revealed its line up at its NetEase Connects event with mobile gaming receiving the bulk of the focus.