East Side Games (ESG) is a Vancouver-based video game studio with a reputation for making top-notch narrative idle games, as well as creating the technology that developers use to tell amazing stories. The company is proudly one of the city’s original independent studios and was founded in 2011 by Josh Nilson (CEO), Jason Bailey (CPO) and Galan Akin (CCO). Since then, they have made quite a name for themselves by producing a number of highly successful and profitable mobile games, in addition to earning a slew of awards and accolades. We recently caught up with ESG to find out what new and exciting things are happening at the studio and what’s on the horizon.
Josh Nilson, CEO
What awards and accolades has ESG received?
ESG made the Deloitte Technology Top 500, for the fastest growing startups in North America and the Deloitte Technology Top 50 in Canada in 2017 & 2018. The studio was also recognized in the Globe & Mail Report on Business - Canada’s Top Growing Companies 2019. Recently at the Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Awards, ESG was a finalist in the ‘Best Developer’ category, and also in the ‘Best Marketing’ category for Always Sunny: Gang Goes Mobile. ESG was also just announced as a finalist in the first ever BC Business: Business of Good Awards in the ‘Indigenous Prosperity’ category.
What games has ESG released? Which of these are you most proud of?
In 2017, ESG launched Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money (TPB). TPB was a top 100 game in over 100 countries with great player reviews and excellent fan engagement. This title allowed us to pioneer the genre of narrative idle games, currently one of the fastest and most profitable genres. We have redefined what quality storytelling looks like. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Gang Goes Mobile launched in 2019 and is still growing and delighting its amazing fan base. We started 2020 with great momentum with the launch of Dragon Up: Idle Adventure, a collaboration between ESG and the brand new Night Garden Studio.
What projects are you currently working on?
ESG just launched Dragon Up: Idle Adventure, which was a collaboration with the brand new Nightgarden Studio. IdleKit, which is a branch of East Side Games, recently launched FUBAR: Just Give’r in collaboration with Kano Apps, and has three additional games coming out in the next couple of months!
How would you describe your company culture?
It would be impossible to talk about our culture without starting with our core values which include:
- Take Ownership
- Have Impact
- Be Humble
- Move Forward
We created these values in 2016 and they speak volumes to the way we operate as a whole. Rather than picking a handful of values arbitrarily on day one, we worked and lived in a way that was passionate and thoughtful. Then when we met to discuss what the values should be, they emerged naturally. This set of ethics is authentically practiced on every level, especially by our founders and leadership team. This in turn, makes an epic difference to the studio at large.
The primary focus of our unique culture is our commitment to our people. We live by our values, as we have already talked about. ESG is and always has been fully transparent with our employees. This transparency establishes trust and mutual respect that in turn supports them to emulate our values, in particular by taking ownership and having impact. We have placed incredible value on both mental and physical health initiatives. Our extended medical is best in business and we have just rolled out an industry-leading maternity and paternity program. We support several clubs and meetups within the studio to encourage social interaction to combat depression. We also have team workouts at the gym, and if that’s not your jam, our benefits cover all kinds of activities. This unique culture has been crucial to our success at East Side Games, and it’s integral to the success and growth of the games industry as a whole.
What would you say sets your studio apart from other ones?
Our commitment to our community. Our focus this year is to invest in Indigenous people in tech, women in tech and the Downtown East Side in Vancouver.
Are there any exciting facts about your studio we may not know about?
We have a massive swag culture and we produce some of the best branded merch around. Most of the office is outfitted with local designers, products and vendors (our desks are from East Van and we have Barkerville beer from Northern BC)! The studio is also aiming to be virgin plastic waste free in the next five years. We are proud supporters of the Vancouver Canucks and Cypress Mountain, our team uses the season tickets and lift passes all the time. We love coffee. We have a HUGE in-house community team that supports our amazing fans seven days a week. Every ticket is answered by them personally.
Are you currently hiring? If so, what are the open positions?
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