Ritesh Khanna is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Clipwire Games, a fast growing mobile games studio in Toronto. Ritesh is responsible for leading the design and engineering teams — facilitating the ideation, building, and growth of Clipwire’s high-performing mobile games. Prior to Clipwire Games, Ritesh was an early employee at Zynga, where he ran the MMO games division and founded the original office in Toronto.
When did you first fall in love with gaming?
I first fell in love with games at a young age, but who didn’t love games as a kid? What really caught my interest was when another student showed me some simple programming in QBasic in fourth grade. He printed sheets of code that I took home, typed up and ran with — which is how I learned you can edit games like Snake and Gorillas. The idea of making something that someone else can play, even if no one ever played it, was exciting.
What I find interesting now is that I see my nephew also making small games within Roblox; it’s very similar but with today’s technology.
In 2003, you founded Odd Thought Inc. which was one of the Internet’s original social game companies, predating modern social networks. What inspired you to launch your own gaming company and what did you learn from the experience?
I started this back when I was doing my undergrad at the University of Waterloo. I was looking for a way to make some side money and I started reselling web hosting. It turned out to be painfully hard to sell web hosting, even well before Amazon Web Services (AWS).
In an effort to get people on to my web hosting website, I wrote a browser-based game in PHP. The game was an energy-based game where a player got 2 units of energy every 25 minutes. Eventually I had the idea of trying to sell the energy. I figured even if I could get a few sales, I can cover my losses on the hosting.
It turns out a lot of people bought it, and bought it many times. Google picked up the game and ranked it high for popular keywords, which helped it get quite a bit of traction. I eventually brought that knowledge to Zynga, where I built a game called Triumph and we performed Zynga’s very first virtual goods sale, eventually adding in-app purchases to all the games.
You then went on to launch Clipwire Games in 2008, could you discuss these early days?
After my time at Zynga, I started Clipwire Games. I had a lot of ideas for games that I wanted to build. Back then MySpace was still popular, and they were introducing their “OpenSocial” platform to compete with Facebook’s Canvas. It was a great opportunity to build new games for a massive audience without any competition. Everything was in place to get a great start, so I hired another developer along with a co-operative education student, and borrowed an unused, windowless boardroom in the back of another company’s office and got to work.
We worked as fast as we could — I remember taking my laptop with me everywhere I went in an effort to get our first game out as fast as we possibly could — so we could be one of the first games on the platform. We got lucky and were able to generate decent revenue from our first game within a few days of launching.
How is the final decision made on which types of games to develop?
We take a look at data to make sure we’re set up for success. Once we determine it’s the right time to take on a new game, we do as much research as we can. Market data and intelligence services like App Annie and Sensor Tower are great indicators of the types of games people are playing right now.
We look for genres that we think will be fun to build in and where we can leverage our existing know-how and technology the most. We want to make sure there is room for us to add something original to a genre.
Clipwire Games has hit some major milestones recently with Bingo Story becoming the top grossing game in the US and Canadian app stores developed by a Canadian studio. Could you tell us what Bingo Story is and why players love it?
Bingo Story takes the classic game of bingo and adds many layers to it to make it a much more enjoyable, modern, and social experience. There are still bingo cards and daubers, but we have added tournaments, missions, clubs and much more to make the game far more immersive
We release several special events per month, so the experience always feels fresh — and players tell us they love this aspect of the game. Bingo Story is also the only major bingo game on the app store that offers free, unlimited play and highlights your progress within the game. We have also added many social mechanics and have players that created close friendships with others in the game, so the community is very vibrant!
Were you personally surprised at the success of Bingo Story?
It is extremely rewarding to see people play and love something that you took part in building. It takes a long time to get a game right and while you’re building it, you always imagine how it will look and feel when it is full of players. We are fortunate that players enjoy the game enough to play every day and share it with their friends
A year ago, I would not have imagined we could see as much engagement as we do today. The speed of growth in the last several months was a pleasant surprise and has enabled us to grow our team
What are some of the other games currently offered by Clipwire Games?
In addition to Bingo Story, we are also the creators behind Solitaire Buddies and Word Buddies
One of your partnerships is with AppLovin, a global leader in mobile entertainment. What does this partnership mean for the future of the company?
Our goal is to build the best possible bingo experience for our players and a great place to work for our employees. Partnering with AppLovin has enabled us to set a higher bar for success and work towards that goal faster. This has led us to explosive growth over the last several months. We’ve been able to leverage AppLovin’s expertise and share our learnings with other partner studios. As a result, our revenue has grown more than 500% in the last six months, downloads increased 4x from this time last year and we have amassed hundreds of thousands of new daily active users (DAU) across our entire suite of games. We’ve made a lot of progress and look forward to continuing to work with AppLovin and its partner studios.
What’s next on the agenda for Clipwire Games?
We have a lot of exciting events and features that will roll out in Bingo Story over the next several months, and we are committed to taking the player experience to the next level.
We are continuing to grow our team as well. We are in the process of looking for an even larger office in downtown Toronto. We love this city — it is an amazing place to live and work and we are proud to call it home.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Clipwire Games?
We have recently started hiring for all positions in Montreal, as well as Toronto. Montreal is a great city with a lot of exceptional talent. We’d love to build out our team in Montreal and have more incredible talent join us.
We are a certified Great Place to Work in Canada, built with an experienced leadership team that is focused on mentoring the next generation of future leaders who are excited about mobile gaming, willing to take the time to collaborate on new projects and learn new skills. If this sounds like you, please check out the careers section on our website. We would love to connect!
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Clipwire Games.