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Region Focus: Inside Vancouver's top games companies

Region Focus: Inside Vancouver's top games companies

We've already taken a look at the opportunities and challenges for the games industry in Vancouver, Canada. If you've not read that yet, you can check out the feature here.

This time we're delving deeper into the local companies themselves. We got the chance to speak with the senior execs about when and how the firms were formed, what they're currently working on and their plans for 2019 and beyond.

On this list you'll get profiles of Session Games, Hothead Games, Kano, Saturn Animation Studios Inc., East Side Games, Pepper.gg and LDRLY Games.

Click on the link below to get started.

 


Click here to view the list »
  • Hothead Games

    Hothead Games logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Gregan Dunn, director of publishing, Hothead Games: Hothead Games is Canada's largest independent game publisher. Founded back in 2006, when our Hotheads barely had cold feet, our goal was nothing less than total world domination.

    We are constantly on the lookout for exceptional developers who are looking for a publisher to help make their next great game a massive success.

    We have published multiple award-winning and top-grossing mobile games, including the Big Win Sports and Kill Shot franchises, and Hero Hunters, 2018’s most successful new IP launch on mobile.

    Our games have collectively achieved more than 300 million downloads across multiple categories on iTunes and Google Play.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    The most exciting news coming from Hothead is that we've just announced that we have finally opened up our publishing expertise to third-party developers that need support from a publisher to make their great mobile games a success in the market.

    Hothead has built a publishing infrastructure to support our internally developed games and we know first-hand how complex it is to develop, publish and support a live ops mobile game.

    The company has every skill set required to make a mobile game a success based on our experience with our own games. We are immensely excited to use our expertise to support up-and-coming developers and help them achieve the success they deserve.

    The company is currently accepting submissions and offering financial assistance for games in various stages of development that will benefit from Hothead’s expertise in analytics, marketing, monetisation and gameplay mechanics.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    Hothead has always managed to find a way to add our own unique twist to games over the years, and we've developed effective marketing strategies to make sure that our games get noticed in the marketplace. We have a long history of standing out as one of the more unique game publishers.

    From our early days publishing on console making memorable RPGs like Penny Arcade Adventures and Deathspank through to our long history publishing on mobile making unique and successful franchises like Big Win Sports, Kill Shot and most recently Hero Hunters, which just won a Google Play 2018 Most Innovative Game award.

    No great game is complete without a supporting cast of in-house teams, including:

    • Marketing, which has become proficient at developing optimised store assets, acquiring users at scale and cost efficiently
    • Analytics. We have our own proprietary analytics pipeline and platform which we share with our developers
    • Data science. Who knew you'd need a few people with Masters in math and statistics to be successful in the games business?
    • Quality assurance. No game is fun when you hit killer bugs
    • Player support. Gamers are demanding and it's great to have some front line people to handle their concerns

    What are your plans heading into 2019?

    Our goal for 2019 is to find a select number of exceptional external developers that we can bring under our wings, and help make their games far bigger successes than they could have achieved on their own.

    In an increasingly competitive market, it’s impossible for mobile game developers to have all the necessary support teams in house.

    Successfully publishing a game is a tremendous effort and requires a lot of bandwidth; Hothead has 55 employees in publishing-focused roles to handle all the tasks we’ve identified as mission-critical to a game’s success in the market.

    Incidentally, we have an additional 85 employees focused on our internally developed games, notably Kill Shot Bravo, Hero Hunters and Forged Fantasy.

    We are excited about helping others with the skills and expertise that we’ve developed over the past several years we’ve been focused purely on mobile (we switched over to an exclusively mobile-focused studio back in 2011).


  • Session Games

    Session Games logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Ian Verchere, co-founder and CEO, Session Games: Session Games is a game production company. We specialise in competitive action-sports games on mobile; what we like to call ‘msports’ games.

    We have a strong, experienced core team that we scale as needed with contractors and external developers.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    We continued operating our live game portfolio with Red Bull Media House, while developing our first Nintendo Switch title. In addition, we expanded our analytics capacity to incorporate meaningful KPIs for our brand and sponsorship partners.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    Our goal is to own action-sports on mobile. Our racing, mountain bike, skiing and snowboarding titles are authentic, fun and have over 32 million downloads to date.

    We deliver premium experiences to a very desirable audience for brands native to our favourite pastimes, and non-endemic brands that are looking to reach that audience.

    What are your plans heading into 2019?

    We’re busy and we’re working with some great partners. Session is the exclusive mobile game partner of FIS, the governing body of ski and snowboard competition.

    We’re bringing the mountains to mobile with an exciting, competitive alpine ski racing game. It’s our game top to bottom, so we’re pretty stoked.

    Could you tell us something unique about your company that people not may know?

    All four co-founders have histories as professional athletes, in alpine skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and skateboarding.

    We’ve built skate parks around the world, fronted punk rock bands, and been on a World Cup Boardercross podium.

  • Kano

    Kano logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Tim Teh, CEO, Kano: Kano is an independent, social/mobile game developer based in Victoria, B.C., Canada. Currently in our tenth year of business, we are a self-funded and growing studio with 30 full-time staff.

    We have five successful free-to-play titles in live operations on platforms like iOS, Android, and Facebook and we’re currently working on a new mobile game set for release in Spring 2019.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    2018 was an exciting year for Kano. We grew our team, started work on our new mobile title, had our best day of revenue ever and our last 12 months produced record-breaking revenue growth.

    We couldn’t be happier with our current position as we head into 2019 profitable and with a new product on the way.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    Player obsession is one of our core values and it’s something that really makes us stand out. When the goal is to create long-lasting social experiences, it’s important to never lose focus that you’re making more than just content.

    You are also creating a means for players to form satisfying, lasting relationships with one another. This becomes especially apparent when you see active players who started nearly a decade ago in our first game, Viking Clan.

    The fact that they continue to engage daily is a proof of concept and incredibly motivating. The community is a huge part of what we create and why we create. It’s truly amazing to see players meet in our games and build lifelong friendships.

    What are your plans heading into 2019?

    We are genuinely excited about 2019! We have a great community of players who engage with our live games daily and our focus centres around growing, adding to, and supporting those games.

    As well, with a new game set to release we have plans and designs around that too. Outside of that, we will continue to grow our team and, with our office almost at capacity, we’ll likely be looking for a new HQ in Victoria, B.C. very soon.

    Could you tell us something unique about your company that people not may know?

    We have an uncapped profit share program. Each year a percentage of our profits are distributed to our team and that profit share is uncapped.

    Meaning that, if we have ten times the revenue in the next year, everyone in the company will get to share in that success. With a new game on the way, we’re pretty excited by our prospects for 2019!

  • East Side Games

    East Side Games logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Josh Nilson, CEO, East Side Games: Founded in 2011, East Side Games (ESG) is a proudly independent and profitable game studio that is focused on making the best narrative idle games in the business, and creating the technology for developers to tell amazing stories.

    ESG strongly believes in community-driven design, making games built by fans for fans, and having the best culture around. Our games and our team have the same goal; to be inclusive and for everyone. We are the weird kids.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    We started working on our next big game, It’s Always Sunny: The Gang Goes Mobile. We are very excited about this.

    We love live ops as well, so we have been growing and working on our hit game Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money all year with some super greasy content coming soon. We really love our fans.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    You have to build something with your fans. Find your niche and continue to work on that over time. Start small and iterate, iterate, iterate.

    The biggest change in idle games is we build more than games - we build content for fans. We have twice-weekly events and also live streaming programming to keep our fans up to date with what we are doing.

    From day one we have done all of our community support in house. "Community is Everything" is one of our core pillars at ESG.


  • Pepper.gg

    Pepper.gg logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Samarth Chandola, Director, Pepper.gg: Pepper.gg is a competitive gaming and esports platform.

    Gamers take their favourite online multiplayer games like PUBG, Fortnite, Dota 2, League of Legends, Rocket League etcetera and link their profiles to their Pepper.gg account to be entered into daily, weekly, and monthly tournaments with real-world rewards for more wins and better performances.

    Their favourite competitions just got a little more competitive with something real on the line. It’s the same great game, with a little something added.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    The biggest development for Pepper.gg in 2018 is launching the alpha version of the platform, allowing gamers to win real cash prizes playing PUBG.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    Pepper.gg offers a platform that enables gamers of all levels to compete and have the chance to win real-world prizes. Whether you play every day, or just a few hours a week, Pepper.gg has a competition for you.

    What are your plans heading into 2019?

    Pepper will be adding additional games to its platform, and launching our first live event for casual-competitive amateur gamers.

    Pepper.gg is also planning a public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange later this year.

  • LDRLY Games

    LDRLY Games logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Jean-Guy Niquet, live ops lead, LDRLY Games: LDRLY Games is the world’s top publisher of cannabis games.

    Our games have had over three billion gameplay sessions since launch and serve an exploding market of enthusiastic players who embrace the cannabis culture.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    In 2018, we opened our office in Nanaimo on the beautiful Vancouver Island. We have hired a team of 10 people and have moved into a new studio on the water in downtown Nanaimo.

    In such a competitive games industry, how do you make sure you stand out and offer something unique?

    Our focus on cannabis games makes us unique within the game industry.

    What are your plans heading into 2019?

    2019 is a very exciting year for us. We are growing our studio to develop our upcoming titles and growing our advertising and publishing platform as well as continuing to grow the game development community on Vancouver Island.


  • Saturn Animation Studios

    Saturn Animation Studios logo

    Could you tell us a bit about your company and what it does?

    Nazim Ragimov, director, Saturn Animation Studios: What opportunities does augmented reality give users? What is real now and what can be done only in a few years?

    Saturn Animation Studios is looking for answers to these questions by developing a mobile application, VisionARy, which will enable users to easily create virtual scenes and share them with the audience.

    What have been the biggest developments for the company in 2018?

    There are many channels for video and audio, but there is no channel for augmented reality scenes.

    To address this, Saturn Studio decided to create a ‘YouTube’ equivalent for augmented reality.

    With the support of the National Research Council of Canada, we began development last summer and we hope to be able to present the first version of the VisionARy application in early spring of this year.


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