By Vipal Monga
Google is planning to more than triple its Canadian workforce over three years, as the technology giant steps up hiring at its Stadia gaming studio as well as for cloud computing and artificial intelligence projects.
The Alphabet Inc. unit, which currently employs 1,500 people in the country, said Thursday it will expand offices in Montreal, Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario. The moves would increase its staff in Canada to 5,000 people by the end of 2022.
"There's a lot of momentum in Canada," said finance chief Ruth Porat in an interview at Google's Toronto office. She said the company has been expanding its workforce outside of the San Francisco Bay Area faster than near its home base.
Google had nearly 119,000 workers world-wide as of Dec. 31, having boosted its head count by 20% from a year earlier. Ms. Porat has said adding staff to Google's Cloud business was the biggest driver of employment growth companywide, and that total employment is likely to grow at a faster rate in 2020.
The company said it would open a new office in Waterloo, just outside of Toronto. It will accommodate as many as 3,000 employees, who will work on global initiatives such as selling cloud-computing services to clients in health care, aiming to store data and develop software for hospitals. Google has about 1,000 employees in its existing Waterloo office.
Ms. Porat said Thursday that Google sees opportunities in merging knowledge from the cloud health-care group with the artificial intelligence team in Toronto, where the number of employees could jump to 1,000 from 400. Toronto is the center for a Google Brain artificial intelligence research program headed by University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton, a renowned computer scientist.
Canada has become a magnet for tech companies. Google joins Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Intel Corp. in building out operations in major Canadian cities. They have been attracted by a deep pool of educated labor, more-liberal immigration policies than the U.S., and cultural similarities between the two countries. Developers and engineers in Canada also command lower salaries than those working in expensive high-tech centers like San Francisco and New York.
Google's Stadia gaming studio, headed by Montreal-based industry veteran Jade Raymond, will be adding software developers and engineers to help create new games and boost its presence in videogame streaming. Ms. Raymond previously ran studios at Electronic Arts Inc. and Ubisoft Entertainment SA.
Google said it plans to add as many as 800 employees in Montreal by 2022. It employs roughly 200 in the city currently.
Google unveiled Stadia last year, introducing a way for people to play high-quality games online without a console. Like Microsoft and a handful of others, the tech company is trying to move into so-called cloud gaming, in which games are streamed over the internet rather than on a player's own hardware. With Stadia, players can stream games on computers and Google Pixel phones, as well as TVs, using a Chromecast Ultra Device. The company said subscribers will be able to play games on more devices later this year.
The global videogame market generated an estimated $148.8 billion in revenue last year, according to research firm Newzoo BV. Google already has a significant presence in mobile gaming through its Google Play store for Android devices. Last year, the company launched a subscription service called Play Pass that gives access to games and other apps on the store for $4.99 a month. Apple Inc. offers a similar service for its App Store.
--Sarah E. Needleman contributed to this article.
Write to Vipal Monga at firstname.lastname@example.org