Tech Pitch: 22cans

The company behind Godus; the game where you "play God", tells us about its aim to give free-to-play games a good name...

Company name: 22cans
Founders: Peter Molyneux CEO, Tim Rance CTO
Background: Leadership team with a background in games studios
Based in: Guildford

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

22cans is an independent games studio founded in March 2012 with a passion for creating the next generation of innovative digital entertainment. We believe that a great team with great ideas can lead to great success. We’re driven by true innovation and creativity and are determined to make some truly unique game products.

After the successful launch of our first social experiment in 2012, “Curiosity – What’s inside the Cube?” we launched Godus this summer; the reinvention of the God game for mobile and tablet.It reached number one on the Apple iOS store in over 19 countries on launch.

Godus is an open world simulation where the player plays God with powers to sculpt every inch of an entirely mouldable world. The user also nurtures and grows a civilisation of reactive ‘living’ followers who worship him or her. The player leads them through a journey in history from a primitive age through to the space age, as well as spreading followers across vast uncharted lands until they meet the rest of the Godus world. Our ambition is to connect all lands in the game so that the entire online population of Godus is included.

We built the game with a small team of just 22 software developers although the amount of gameplay and content is much larger than is usual for a casual free to play game. However, at the outset we realised that this market needed to be constantly fed with new cool stuff so we adopted a ‘continuous delivery’ process. We have had over 30 different streams on the game compared with maybe three of four while working at Lionhead on Fable. This strategy has allowed us to reduce the operational costs associated with releases, which allows more product releases for ongoing game updates – critical in a freemium game. This would be impossible otherwise with the size of our team. The right tools and processes are critical in getting this right.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

Free-to-play has been given a bad name in the past, where situations have been engineered to entice players to spend money for other reasons while playing their games, bad practice by a few have given it an unsavoury name. In our mind, free-to-play should be the most amazing thing for the gaming community and the more developers who explore it, the more choice for the gamer.

We’re sure we’ll see the payment models change, we think that games as a service is where we’re headed and everything we’ve said about continuous development applies in that case too. We think the freemium model is flawed; users should be informed, up front, as to what you pay and what you get for it it. Freemium will never satisfy that desire.

Are you funded?

Yes, we’re partially privately funded and partially Kickstarter funded.

What were you doing before starting?

22cans has focused on recruiting a team of top games talent. The three founders are ex Lionhead – one of the UK’s best known games studios – and have also held roles at Electronic Arts among others.

Our founders are industry veterans Peter Molyneux, ex Microsoft Games Studios, Tim Rance; the former technical director of Electronic Arts and ex CTO of Lionhead, Microsoft Game Studios, and Dimitri Mavrikakis also ex Lionhead.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

Guildford is rapidly becoming one of the hubs of the UK games industry, which itself is growing fast and represents some of the best talent in the world. There are some big studios here, such as Lionhead, but there’s also a plethora of smaller start-up studios. We also have access to resources such as the local university which is known for technology innovation, its computer programming courses being one example of this.

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