Developer and publisher GameHouse has built quite the extension gaming portfolio over the past 25 years with over 3000 games and apps across mobile and PC gaming. GameHouse also focuses on making casual games tailored to women’s gaming interests and strives to advocate for an inclusive and diverse gaming industry.
We spoke with GameHouse CEO Simonetta Lulli to discuss the studio's journey over the past 25 years and how the team approaches new games with women in mind. We also touch on last month’s big visit to the studio from Apple’s CEO Tim Cook.
Pocketgamer.biz: What can you tell us about GameHouse and its long history? How do you reflect on its beginnings to where it is today?
Simonetta Lulli: GameHouse launched 25 years ago and is still making and publishing games on PC and Mobile, both for subscription and F2P. So, I would summarise it as a resilient company that has been growing and adapting to the ever changing gaming environment and, during all these years, always creating game IPs that are loved by millions of people.
GameHouse has solid expertise and a specialisation in game subscription, not only on PC but pioneering mobile subscription games for the female audience.Simonetta Lulli
During these years, GameHouse has created over 20 IPs - games for both PC and mobile, with an ever evolving universe with empowering female characters. The biggest IP, Delicious, with Emily as a Chef who travels the world and experiences romance, has been played by over 100M players, with our biggest title being the Delicious World F2P game. We also have other famous IPs like Heart’s Medicine Series, Fabolous or Sally Salon.
GameHouse has solid expertise and a specialisation in game subscription, not only on PC but pioneering mobile subscription games for the female audience. We currently publish over 3,000 games on PC with a minimum of 2 new games a week and have 60+ mobile games in our mobile subscription model that offers one new game a month. We are well respected by our peers and bigger companies for our subscription expertise, which seems now to be a model that other big companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Netflix are also embracing.
During this quarter of a century, we have nurtured amazing partnerships with Apple, Google and many others in the industry, thanks to our unique positioning as experts in female gaming behaviour that deliver quality, diverse and engaging games.
GameHouse focuses on game design with diversity and inclusivity in mind. How does the team approach new projects with this in mind?
We feel that, by and large, female players have adapted to games, but games have never really been created with female players' behaviours front of mind. We continuously talk and involve our audience, from ideation right through to live ops updates. We are lucky to have access to female players through our GameHouse ecosystem of games and outside. We survey them, playtest, and, in this way, co-create with our audience. We work with specific “personas” to ensure we understand the kind of content they want and how they will react to our game concepts and features. For us, it's key that we keep delivering on our promise to our players and keep exceeding their expectations.
However, the most important factor for us in our approach to designing diverse and inclusive games is having a diverse team. We do not believe diversity and inclusivity is achieved only by gender. We believe that great, diverse games come from great, diverse and inclusive minds, which is central to how we build our teams.
As our slogan says, “Everyone needs me time - game time”, and that is what we want our players to embrace: their me time - game time.
As a starting point, the company must believe that diversity and inclusion are core to its evolution and for the good of the company.Simonetta Lulli
What could others in the industry do to be more diverse and inclusive with their own games or even within the workplace?
I would like to believe that most of the gaming community wants to embrace diversity and inclusivity, some with more luck than others. But we are starting with a bigger gap because the industry is relatively new. So, naturally, there is a less diverse pool of people to hire from, and for this reason, we believe that core values need to stem from company culture to attract these scarce profiles.
When I got into GameHouse, there were zero females on the management team. Now, after two years, we make up 60% of it. We do not hire to set a diversity % in our company. In our opinion, that is absolutely the wrong approach as no one wants to be the ‘diversity hire’.
As a starting point, the company must believe that diversity and inclusion are core to its evolution and for the good of the company. Once this minimum basis has been set, we need to follow a few important steps:
- Open up the top part of the pipeline. Understand the diverse people you want to hire and how they apply to your roles. What do you need to do to increase the amount of diverse applications you get for the roles? Adapt the job descriptions already to be more inclusive. Once you have more diverse profiles to choose from, everything will be easier.
- Understand what values and culture they identify with. The majority of candidates mostly want a safe environment where they are respected and where they can have an impact with their job.
- If you are the CEO or in a senior role, involve yourself in the process first hand. If the change does not come from the top, it will not happen.
GameHouse recently had a visit from Apple CEO Tim Cook. What was this meeting like, and what does it mean for the relationship between GameHouse and Apple?
Apple shares many values with us at GameHouse. 48% of all mobile casual players are women, and we build games for and with these players. Tim was interested in seeing how we do it, what is different in our approach and the fantastic projects coming up in the following months. We showed him some integrations with Apple’s latest technologies and products. I took the personal opportunity to ask Apple and him to push more on promoting diversity in gaming and in games.
We also took the opportunity to discuss the 25th anniversary of Gamehouse (which is this year) and the story and key milestones of the business to date. We reviewed the importance of IPs in gaming and showed him our main IP, Delicious, with our games Delicious: Cooking & Romance just launched in our subscription mobile model and our F2P version, Delicious World.
We showed him the vast Delicious Universe and 19 different spin-off IPs. We also discussed how all these IPs center around female characters with empowering stories. Today, games are the most popular form of entertainment in the world. The stories, characters and images we create have a real impact and effect on people's perceptions and should be used positively.
We really enjoyed talking with him for a long time and seeing his interest in GameHouse, how we do things and the values that we stand for.
Any big highlights from the visit?
For me, the highlight of the day was seeing how quickly Tim embraced and absorbed everything we discussed and shared with him. Hearing Tim talking about our products and, after the visit, discussing diversity in gaming with the press present at our office was a bit of a win for us. It means that now he can think about what we shared, and maybe this will even impact and influence diversity and inclusion within Apple’s roster of games.
I see a huge shift in mobile F2P games right now. This is no longer about having a good game with great metrics, it is more about how you can compete within the current mobile ecosystem.Simonetta Lulli
What are some of the biggest changes and challenges you see in the mobile games market right now?
First, we have been doing mobile and PC subscriptions for many years. We are seeing how there is an interesting shift in the market towards subscription because the loyalty and Lifetime Value of the users is higher, making it easier to invest with positive return. We are also focusing on growing this part of the business as we see a great opportunity for GameHouse here. We are better positioned than other studios and publishers thanks to our considerable experience in this space.
I see a huge shift in mobile F2P games right now. This is no longer about having a good game with great metrics, it is more about how you can compete within the current mobile ecosystem. We are purposely approaching new F2P games with this front of mind. And, with our deep knowledge and experience in female player behaviours, we are confident that we will deliver amazing games very soon and, hopefully, that everyone will find as interesting and fun as Tim did!
Finally, what should we be on the lookout for from GameHouse in the future?
Keep an eye on our subscription business, on our new F2P games and on the bigger partnerships we are working on - there are a lot, and there are many exciting and interesting things coming soon!
We will continue to deliver incredible games that fill a valuable space in women’s ‘me time’ and design and create games that fulfil the needs of our target female audience and beyond.