CEO of Clipwire: ‘This is the One Thing You Need to Make a Massive Hit Game Like Bingo Story’
As many game developers know, getting excited about an idea, only to find out you’re the only one who feels strongly about it can be disappointing.
Ritesh Khanna, CEO of Clipwire Games believes that listening can help address that issue. “Listen to what the universe is telling you. If something isn’t working, move on to the next thing and don’t get too attached to an idea.”
Ritesh recently sat down with AppLovin’s VP of Product of Gaming, Christina Liu, in a fireside chat to discuss what it’s like to be head of a fast-growing Toronto-based studio and how Bingo Story came to be such a hit game.
CL: What got you excited about games?
RK: I chose to start a studio because I like building things. I chose Toronto because I was born and raised here—I love this city. There’s a lot of great talent here and people who want to build great games and build an industry. The government is very supportive of this industry. It’s just a great place to be running a game studio.
CL: How does Clipwire approach new games and game development?
RK: The days of something being a success right out of the gate is few and far between. When it comes to developing new games, look at the metrics and what people are playing, and what consumers are interested in. Balance the three and start prototyping.
Also when you start, make sure you’re excited about what you’re building. If you’re not, it’s going to be hard to make it successful.
Then, be prepared for a lot of work and iteration. Don’t be discouraged if users are leaving. It’s normal. Just go back and look at the data and really listen to your players.
CL: What were some major changes Clipwire has made to propel Bingo Story to the top of the charts?
RK: Bingo on its own can be a pretty slow, repetitive game to play. So for Bingo Story, you’re not just playing one card, you’re playing up to four. There’s also a lot of power-ups and live ops that add to the game. So it’s not just about caring about what number is being called and pushing the corresponding button, it’s about competing in the live ops, taking part in the social club, and working together to achieve goals.
For live ops, there are three to four things going on and they’re all tailored in a different way to keep the experience unique and fresh so it doesn’t feel like you’re just playing Bingo over and over again.
The social aspect—we encourage players to join bingo clubs to play and interact with people.
CL: How does your team balance data with designing engaging and fun features?
RK: Fun and data belong together! We look at how much of a positive and negative impact is happening—if your data says something is positive, then it’s doing what it’s meant to do. The bigger the feature is, the more data you’ll want to look at.
CL: So much of a great studio means finding great people to work with. How does Clipwire find talented people?
RK: I definitely agree with investing in people. I like to make sure people are engaged and want to make a game successful and something they’d want to play. I also make sure that people’s jobs are adding to their quality of life. If not, something is wrong.
People should be doing what they want to do within the company.
For example, the lead designer for Bingo Story joined the team as a producer, but over time, we realized her contribution was great. She’s not only our lead designer now, but she’s also the person behind a lot of the live ops, which has been hugely successful. Clipwire promotes from within a lot—we want to make sure people are successful in their roles. We want them to be happy and enjoy the job.
CL: How has working remotely impacted Clipwire’s culture?
RK: At first, I thought culture would be one of the hardest things to maintain, but I was mistaken. Once we made this transition, it wasn’t too hard to keep it going. I looked at GitLab and they have a document online that talks about what they do. But really, a lot of this stuff we did in person, we transitioned over to Zoom or Slack.
For example, we used to do a lot of after-work activities or have dinner once or twice a month as a team. We now have virtual dinners where everyone gets a credit on UberEats. Last week, we had a virtual dinner and played Among Us. This is a big part of who we are as a company and luckily, we’re able to bring that online. It was really cool.
CL: What advice do you have for developers working in a remote environment?
RK: Don’t let the remote environment discourage you. Make sure you bring up your grievances and be more vocal about things you would otherwise have kept to yourself. You no longer have the office environment to just walk over to people easily, so message them and let them know how you feel more often.
CL: What advice do you have for new developers who want to get into the mobile game industry?
RK: There will be a lot of setbacks but don’t give up. Figure out what your next challenge is and address it. If something’s not working, move on to the next thing. It’s important to move quickly and build that next game and get it out there. Also, establishing your KPIs (key performance indicators) will help you push forward and iterate.
CL: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from Bingo Story’s success?
RK: Listen to everything around you and be attentive. Listen to the data and signals from the universe. Sometimes, the signs are right in front of you but it’s hard to see if you’re not paying attention. A perfect example of this was when we created Bingo Story—it wasn’t our first bingo game. When we first put it out there (after spending a lot of time making it) we realized that maybe this isn’t what people want. We picked a few KPIs and basically started from scratch. We did things like create live ops and improved social features. We listened to what players liked and didn’t like and replaced it with things that were more exciting.
Without revealing too much, we’re still adding more to Bingo Story, so stay tuned!
CL: What’s next for Clipwire?
RK: Our focus is on Bingo Story because our goal is to make it a tremendously exciting game.
We also want to fill a bunch of positions at Clipwire to get things out quicker. We’re doubling down on data and design and then using data to upgrade and make the game better.
We’re on a great path for growth and want to make the studio a great place to be—we’ve added a lot of benefits for the team. For example, employees can take days off to volunteer and we now give employees a lifestyle spending account. We’ve upgraded our health benefits twice. We’ve got a ton of openings, both in Toronto and Montreal!
Learn more about Clipwire’s open positions.