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Mary Kaye Fraser, Head of Studio at Clipwire Games – Interview Series

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Mary Kaye Fraser is the Head of Studio at Clipwire Games, and a 20 + year games industry veteran. Clipwire Games is a mobile games studio headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with an additional team based in Montréal. Since launching in 2010, Clipwire has created a suite of games, including Bingo Story which is currently the top grossing free to play game on the app store of any Canadian developper.

Clipwire Games is expanding their team in Montreal after having achieved a 500% revenue growth in 2020. What do you believe was the secret sauce behind this astonishing growth?

When I joined Clipwire almost two years ago, we were just a small team of eight or nine people that had a handful of games that were performing quite well considering our size. Because we were a small team, everyone needed to be scrappy and wear many hats to make a startup game studio work.

Scaling the business has been a delicate balance between where we are now and how we got here and our future opportunities. We weren’t able to get here without our amazing team. From the start, we strived to create a culture that welcomes ideas from everyone and doesn’t limit the growth potential of individuals. And now that we’ve been working with AppLovin for over a year now, we’ve only continued to grow and deepen our expertise with their partnership.

Having started my career as a designer, I learned that limitations are often the precursors of innovation. This has proven to be a very useful guidance system even while “designing” growth.

Montreal is known as one of the world’s top five video game production cities. What is it about the ecosystem in Montreal that makes it so enticing for game studios?

Montreal is one of the top gaming hubs in the world and has deep expertise across so many industries, including technology, gaming and other creative industries. Based on the Ville de Montréal’s Economic Development Strategy, the city is expected to generate nearly 92,000 jobs by 2022 in cultural and creative industries, including video games, digital arts, and visual and live arts — which is so incredible to see. Because of the city’s location, amenities and opportunities available, there is a high caliber of talent in the city which makes it really attractive for growing companies.

Working with AppLovin has enabled us to focus on making great games and accelerate our growth. We’re excited to build a team in a gaming hub like Montréal which enables us to access a rich pool of established game developers, designers, artists and more.

Why is Montreal such a great city to live in?

It’s so easy to get around the city with a bustling downtown area that has fabulous restaurants and vibrant European vibe. Plus, the local government provides a lot of assistance for new residents and citizens to acclimate to the city, which ultimately encourages even more growth for the city.

Last year Clipwire Games was named as one of the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth and was recently named one of Canada’s Best Places to Work. What makes the work environment so magical?

The people! Our team works hard and we want to make sure that individuals are recognized for their hard work. We have an initiative called, “Achievement-of-the-Month” that rewards stellar employees with an on the spot bonus. These used to include an invitation to dinner with the CEO, but these have been put on hold until the pandemic is over.

When we first started working from home, we surprised and delighted employees with a new engraved set of Apple AirPods in recognition of the great commitment and teamwork they’ve demonstrated since beginning to work from home. At Christmas, we shipped everyone a large gift box that included high end branded swag including a blanket, Moleskine notebook, pens, water flask, silicone lunch box, canvas lunch bag, mug, sweatshirt and more. Now we send the same box to all our new employees so that they receive it in their first week. We also made sure that employees had the right equipment and tools so that we could still maintain our collaborative culture. Luckily, it was a pretty seamless transition and we have even been able to bring on more new employees while working remotely.

What do you personally enjoy the most from working at Clipwire Games?

There is lots of room to grow. We’ve already scaled the studio by a factor of four times in the time I’ve been here and we do our best to find opportunities for people to stretch and grow in new ways. It’s also a lot of fun to make great games that people enjoy and get creative with how we build and tell stories through games. Working with AppLovin’s seasoned team of experts and solutions has also helped us grow what we can do with our games, which has enabled us to build a new team in Montreal.

What projects are currently being worked on?

We recently signed a deal with Fremantle Media to take the player experience to the next level with an event inside our hit game Bingo Story that is based on their classic TV show, The Price is Right. And there are several other great projects in the works.

It has been such a fun adventure and learning experience for the whole team. For some, this was the first time working on an intellectual property (IP), so working with Fremantle Media has been a great learning experience. We worked with them on everything from the design to event and game concept to prizes and more.

We had such positive feedback from our players about the integration event, that we decided to extend it and hopefully replicate again.

Why was The Price is Right the perfect show to create into a mobile game?

We saw that Bingo Story and The Price is Right have similar audiences, as well as a renewed nostalgia for game shows so we thought it would be a great opportunity to create something fresh and new for players.

We also saw there was good alignment with the game’s mechanics and both demographics, so putting The Price is Right into our top grossing game Bingo Story was a natural fit. Having grown up watching The Price is Right, along with the rest of our team, there was also an element of delight when we saw the game scenes and heard the music in the game build.

On top of all that Price is Right will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year and has seen a renaissance during the pandemic as people look to nostalgia that offers a sense of familiarity and comfort. I think our timing on this was pretty exceptional and Fremantle has been a wonderful partner.

With the team expanding, what roles are you looking at filling and what type of talent are you looking for?

We’re hiring mid to senior level roles across all our teams including art, design, programming and HR. People who have experience in games development are encouraged to apply, particularly if you thrive in a fast paced, highly collaborative team and encourage ideas (even from the most unexpected places).

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Clipwire Games?

Check out our openings in Toronto, Montreal and greater North America.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Clipwire Games.

Antoine Tardif is the CEO of Gaming.net, and has always had a love affair for games, and has a special fondness for anything Nintendo related.