Norcat’s Evolution: From Local Player to Global Leader in XR

Detailed Case Study

1 min read

Today, we’re unpacking the success formula behind NORCAT’s standout achievement at the XR Awards with their ‘Certi-Fire VR’ in the XR Education & Training Solution of the Year.

This is no ordinary run-through…

We’re peeling back layers to offer you a granular, action-by-action exploration.

Drawn from our exclusive chat with Ed Wisniewski, NORCAT’s Chief Technology Officer, and Andrew Kostuik, the studio director at the helm, this guide is a goldmine of insights into their winning strategies.

Here’s the real deal:

This guide, fueled by NORCAT’s journey, is a masterclass in XR industry excellence.

We’re not just sharing theories; we’re delivering a practical blueprint, mirroring the steps that elevated NORCAT in the VR education sphere.

If you’re hunting for actionable tactics and solid, real-world case studies, this analysis is your go-to guide.

Let’s dive in.

01 The Strategy Behind the Nomination

Playing the long game: A “compound effect” strategy

From day one, Norcat put a winning strategy in place with an eye on the future rather than just the present.

Their focus relied on using the awards as a showcase event, to compare their place in the industry.

Andrew Kostuik, studio director, says…

We could showcase our work and see if it met [an industry] threshold, which we knew we poured a lot of love into.”
Andrew Kostuik, Studio Director, Norcat

After years of striving to become a global leader, Norcat aimed to showcase that VR extends beyond the confines of the game industry.

But what led to their win?

Norcat’s Strategy:

  1. Long-standing Dedication

    Motivated by a decade-long dedication to VR technology and education, the team at Norcat consistently entered the Awards year on year, learning and refining their process each time.

    Andrew highlighted, “[2021] opened a lot of doors for us which led to our 2023 submission for Certi-Fire”.

    Having secured recognition in 2021 for their educational Pre-Operational Circle Check Program with Vale, one of the world’s largest integrated mining companies, the team’s confidence grew, and by 2023, their project Certi-Fire earned them another accolade.

  2. Seeking Industry Validation

    ‘Certi-Fire VR’ is just one of the many projects Norcat has been developing in order to educate about safety in the workplace.

    “There’s a lot of people doing some really amazing work out there and it’s nice that VR Awards are here to showcase what people are doing in the shadows, because a lot of this stuff is not the same as gaming”

    Norcat’s approach was not about winning.

    It was about using it as an experience to validate what they have been working on and benchmark it against their peers work.

  3. Working with communities

    Situated in a northeastern Canadian community with limited technical exposure, their success at the XR Awards has become a showcase for attracting and retaining talent, both locally and from outside regions.

    Leveraging their initial exposure from entering the awards, and simply being listed as a finalist, enabled them to attract the right talent.

    “We brought up some attention, we networked with people and that has actually been able to draw talent from elsewhere to come to Sudbury to prove that we can do it too”, explained Andrew Kostuik. 

Their approach focused on one crucial thing…

…focusing on a long term view of nominating. Finalists status and wins had a compound effect on their success.

Takeaway for Studios:

Continual dedication and past success can inspire confidence for future nominations. It’s also a way of proving the industry about your motivation in validating VR’s effectiveness in specialised fields. 

Wisniewski echoes this sentiment: “By having the 2023 award it just solidifies that we truly are dedicated to education, health and safety and using learning technologies”.

It’s also a great way to attract and retain talent, enhancing the profile of your organisation within your community and beyond.

02 Cost vs. Benefit: Was Nominating Worth It

Evaluating the Return on Investment: Insights from Norcat

Norcat’s engagement with the XR Awards through their project ‘Certi-Fire VR’ serves as an ideal case study for unravelling the cost-benefit dynamics associated with participation in this esteemed event.

Providing insights from Andrew Kostuik and Ed Wisniewski, the narrative presents a real-world perspective on the concrete and intangible gains stemming from this strategic investment.

Breaking Down the Costs:

  • Nomination Fee:

    There is an inherent monetary cost in nominating a game. Both Kostuik and Wisniewski did not mention that to be a problem. 

  • Resource Allocation:

    The preparation for a compelling nomination demands both time and resources, which could otherwise be directed towards project development or marketing efforts.

Weighing Against the Benefits:

  • Increased Visibility and Industry Recognition:

    The increased visibility and recognition have had a profound impact on Norcat’s projects and company dynamics.

  • Valuable Learning Tools:

    Participating in the VR Awards provided more than just a chance to win; it offered a valuable learning experience. Norcat gained insights into cutting-edge technologies, problem-solving approaches, and alternative perspectives from peers worldwide.

  • Boost in Team’s Morale and Standards:

    This recognition instilled a sense of pride and motivation within the team, driving them to excel and set higher standards.

  • Marketing Leverage:

     Being associated with the XR Awards and AIXR serves as a powerful marketing tool, since this recognition reinforced the program’s status as one of the best globally, providing a valuable marketing point for the client’s certification initiatives.

  • Long-term Strategic Benefits:

    The team is dedicated to pouring their efforts into upcoming projects with the aspiration to maintain their position as industry leaders.

Cost-Benefit Analysis by Norcat:

Although the project members, Andrew Kostuik and Ed Wisniewski never mentioned a breakdown cost made by the team

Both team members’ experience revealed…

Participating in the XR Awards, reveals a favourable outcome, since the tangible benefits extend beyond the submission process, which incurs a relatively modest cost in terms of time and effort.

The opportunity to receive feedback and recognition is highlighted as a significant advantage, contributing to professional development and industry visibility. Attending the awards ceremony is considered a valuable investment. 


While there may be associated travel and participation costs, the immersive and eye-opening experience of being present at the ceremony is deemed invaluable, as described by the Norcat team’s experience.

Advice for Future Participants:

‘Submit your work, let people see it’ highlights Kostuik. 

Norcat’s positive assessment positions the XR Awards as a strategic and worthwhile investment if you are seeking recognition and engagement within the VR landscape. 

03: The Winning Edge: What Set Them Apart

Crafting a Champion: Making a Stand Makes You a Winner 

Norcat’s journey with ‘Certi-Fire VR’ to the XR Awards is a story of relentless dedication, innovative strategies and 

Despite starting as a small company…

With only four members…

…their approach to the mining industry and their willingness to follow their instincts when it came to innovation gave them the tools necessary to expand inside and overseas.

Key Differentiators of ‘Certi-Fire VR’:

The belief you can always be better

The continuous commitment and passion demonstrated through successive submissions, such as ‘Certi-Fire VR’ in 2023, showcased Norcat’s evolving capabilities and contributed to another exciting victory.

The Chief Technology Officer reflects on how hard it has been to try and convince clients into understanding their line of work.

There’s a lot of challenges in the past to convince these resource sectors and industries to buy into this type of technology
Ed Wisniewski, Chief Technology Officer at Norcat

But one theme was always constant:

Their persistence in trying to combine two different worlds kept on going and has already earned them two XR recognitions. 


Coming from a small town in Canada, which doesn’t “have much in terms of technical game design” as Kostuik describes, allowed Norcat to make a big stance in their region. 

After getting recognition by the first award in 2021,  this change was also facilitated by valuable networking opportunities, drawing attention to their achievements and fostering connections within the XR industry. 

However, this recognition…

Became a crucial tool for talent acquisition, positioning Norcat as a desirable location for skilled individuals, while challenging the notion that groundbreaking VR work is confined to traditional tech hubs.

And post-win?

Norcat’s members realise that they are working in a growing field, but the team is aware of how much hard work they have to put in in order to maintain their status. 

But their focus is also…

Their clients…

And the opportunity it brought for each of them to be using a program that is both nationally and internationally recognized.

Ed Wisniewski underlines…

“What this award does, not just for us, but it also does it for the client, is they now can scream from the rooftops that if you come to their program you’re taking one of the best programs in the world”

This achievement is particularly noteworthy considering they started out as a small company who’s now making a stand in Education & Training. 


The XR Awards distinguish themselves by offering a level playing field for all participants, regardless of their size

Advice for Companies:

Winning an XR award as a growing company gives you the opportunity to expand quickly and smoothly. Companies aiming for success in such competitive awards need to focus on:

    1. Relentless dedication 
    2. Trust in your own methods and overcome Industry scepticism
    3. Client Empowerment

    Norcat demonstrated, a committed, trustworthy strategy can lead to extraordinary success, even if you are coming from a small business with few resources in their area.

    04 Networking Goldmine: Beyond the Award

    Leveraging Recognition for Unprecedented Connections: Norcat’s Experience

    Besides coming out victorious with ‘Certi-Fire VR’, the canadian company was met with several networking opportunities with different peers from the industry. 

    Andrew Kostuik and Ed Wisniewski talk about how since the victory in 2021, they still feel the impact of said connections they made in the event and the post-win buzz they got on several media outlets. 

    Let’s dive in.

    Post-victory: Norcat witnessed an influx of outreach and interest from across the industry.

    It was just a really nice time, where everybody that’s in this industry gets together, talks amongst each other, makes new friends, networks, (creates) new business opportunities.”
    Andrew Kostuik, Studio Director, Norcat

    Explains Kostuik. Their impact on the industry, and specifically on their community, even got them coverage on local and national news. 

    Their active presence on platforms like LinkedIn amplified their networking reach, with a lot of attention flooding in. Both team members highlight the fact of getting to be in touch with international companies and the chances of collaborations that have arisen from their victory. 

    What about their team’s networking?

    The award not only benefited the studio at a corporate level but also empowered individual team members.

    Ed Wisniewski recounts how in conversation with a Polish team at the event, they were able to share knowledge and learn a lot from each other afterwards. 

    The XR Awards have been a powerful tool for Norcat in order to expand and tackle different projects since 2021. 

    “We were a team of 4 and, since the 2021 Award gave us the recognition, we are now a team of 19. Our recognition as being the best international for Education Development got us a lot of work”, affirms Wisniewski

    This recognition opened doors to collaborations, discussions, and led to significant increase in their teams number, which would move on later to become a winner in 2023. 

    For companies contemplating participation?

    Recognizing the benefits of winning goes beyond the accolade itself; it’s a gateway to substantial growth.

    By participating, you not only secure an award but also open doors to expanding your industry connections, empowering your team with newfound capabilities, and amplifying your studio’s presence in the global VR community.

    05 The Ripple Effect of Winning

    Elevating Excellence: Norcat’s Motivation Post-Victory

    Norcat’s success with the ‘Certi-Fire VR’ project at the XR Awards had a profound impact, not only externally but also internally.

    It played a pivotal role in boosting team morale and raising their standards to new heights.

    Let’s see how.

    The moment of victory was more than just an achievement; it was the motivation needed to continue the good work.

    Kostuik explains how the event got featured on local TV news and all the team got together to watch it at the office. The collective experience of winning strengthened their sense of unity and pride in their work.

    The Chief Technology Officer at Norcat states that this moment led to the whole team acknowledging the importance of surpassing themselves, driving them to uphold the standards associated with such a title.

    But team dynamics were affected…


    It wasn’t just about celebrating the success; it became a motivating factor in their daily work. While the primary focus is on delivering excellence in their work, the acknowledgment of being the best in ‘Education & Training’, for the second time at that, serves as a powerful driving force.

    Once you’re labelled the best in something for that year, you kind of don’t want to lose that. It does create a real drive.”
    Ed Wisniewski, Chief Technology Officer, Norcat

    In preparation for the upcoming submission cycle, Wisniewski affirms the team at Norcat is diligently crafting this year’s project with an eye on next year’s entry. 

    Pouring their collective passion into the project, the team recognizes the intrinsic motivation that comes with the prospect of winning an award. 

    This drive for excellence became a core part of their studio culture, influencing their approach to future projects and day-to-day operations.

    Your Next Steps

    Norcat’s triumph at the XR Awards underscores their decade-long dedication to innovation and XR education. The project not only elevated the company status but positioned their client as a global leader. 

    NORCAT’s advice emphasises showcasing work, participating in the unique awards ceremony experience, and recognizing the dynamic growth in the VR industry.

    Overall, their success with ‘Certi-Fire VR’ exemplifies the transformative impact of recognition, global exposure, and strategic commitment within the XR landscape.

    Which strategy from today’s insights are you going to implement first? Will it be harnessing the power of community feedback, focusing on a unique game feature, or maybe leveraging the award for broader industry connections?

    Finally, this is your call to action: don’t just contemplate; act.

    If you believe your company or studio has what it takes, step forward and nominate your project for the XR Awards.

    Or, if this article has sparked new ideas and strategies, share it with your team and peers.


    The journey to XR Awards success starts with a single, bold step. Are you ready to take it?

    Begin Your XR Awards Journey

    Download the Kit – It’s time to get your XR work noticed.