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25 Most Innovative Organizations: XGen Studios

This Edmonton-based game developer says social gaming means face-to-face interaction

Nov 1, 2012

by Alberta Venture Staff


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Senior executive: Skye Boyes
Date founded: 2001
Headquartered: Edmonton

  • Offices Offices “There was quite a discussion about whether we should have a collaborative space for everyone to work in or individual spaces. We eventually decided that for a company like us, it’s too distracting to have everyone in the same room, so we decided on individual spaces where people can customize it to their liking and get together in some of our collaborative spaces when we want to hang out.”
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  • “We wanted the lobby to make an impact when people walked in and to provide, right away, an idea of who we are and what we do. So this wallpaper is made custom by one of our artists. The retro TVs are reminiscent of the NES era which myself and a lot of others who work here grew up with.” “We wanted the lobby to make an impact when people walked in and to provide, right away, an idea of who we are and what we do. So this wallpaper is made custom by one of our artists. The retro TVs are reminiscent of the NES era which myself and a lot of others who work here grew up with.”
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Skye Boyes of XGen Studios is bringing new meaning to the term “social media.”
Photograph Ryan Girard

Logic says you should go where the customers are. In the gaming world, that increasingly means casual games on Facebook or mobile devices, or massive multiplayer online experiences like World of Warcraft. By those standards, Edmonton-based game developer XGen Studios is doing something completely illogical: going back to basics. While hundreds of millions of users interact remotely through online games, XGen is pushing users to play socially, and that means being in the same room.

The company’s newest project, Super Motherload, is what XGen founder and CEO Skye Boyes calls a “couch co-op” game. Instead of playing online, four players get together in a living room to play the same game. “It’s more of a social experience because you have face-to-face interaction, which is richer and more rewarding than any sort of online interaction that you can get today,” Boyes says. It’s also reminiscent of video games in the ’80s and ’90s, when kids huddled together around a shared Atari or Sega console. “We’re trying to recapture some of the same experience that a lot of people seem to have nostalgia for.”

And despite the millions of users playing games on their smartphones, Boyes isn’t interested in competing in that market. “The mobile market is a gold rush right now,” he says. Instead, the company is focusing on consoles like Sony’s Playstation 3 and the upcoming Nintendo Wii U, where game studios need developer status and competition is less fierce. That has its own challenges, though, like the fact that console games are more costly to develop. And unlike many other console developers, XGen is self-funded and publishes its own games. XGen used Kickstarter, a web-based crowd-sourced fundraising tool, to raise $50,000 to complete the Super Motherload project. The company fell short of its goal, but Boyes isn’t worried. “It generated a lot of press for us, and people really rallied around the idea,” he says. “We’re going to go ahead and self-fund the game to completion anyway.”

16 Million – the number of plays of the original motherload game

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