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Upstart gaming company already seeing results

Miramichi Leader KRIS MCDAVID

MIRAMICHI (12/21/2013) – It’s never an easy adjustment moving to a new place, especially when that new place is thousands of kilometres away from where you’ve called home for the past five years and basically a polar opposite in every possible way.

But only a few months into his decision to relocate his business to Miramichi from San Francisco, California, Mike White says he already feels at home.

White, the founder of Egg Roll Digital Studios, is all settled into his company’s cozy little pod within the city’s Creative Technology Centre on the ground level of the Miratech building, as he and his now-expanded team plug away at a couple of new games that are currently in development.

With a staff of four, including two recent graduates of NBCC Miramichi’s animation and graphics program, White said the foundation is officially in place.

Egg Roll submitted its second game to iTunes, Apple’s media downloading service, a few weeks back and is nearly ready to submit its third to the software giant likely sometime in early January.

All told, White says things are off to a solid start considering the massive transition that needed to take place in order to get to this point.

“With our little team here we’re doing the equivalent of what 40-man teams are doing at some of the big gaming companies in San Francisco or other places out west,” he said.

“It’s basically boils down to experience and strategy – at some of the larger companies a lot of time can be spent on just communicating ideas whereas here guys are free to sort of drive the vision.”

Delegating that level of responsibility to his designers, he said, speaks to the team he has in place and the calibre of their work.

It isn’t a collection of people who are “trying to reinvent the wheel,” White said, they’re just a bunch of guys with some good ideas and who know their way around the technology.

They’re also committed to making this work, and growing the business in a calculated, steady fashion, right here in Miramichi, a process White acknowledges won’t be without its challenges.

“If things go well I’d love to continually add to the team, grow our product line and get really aggressive and go up against some of the big guns,” White said.

“I think part of our struggle will be fighting the displacement and the lure of bigger cities that are also looking to draw talent.”

White said having access to a steady stream of talent coming from the city’s community college bodes well for being able to attract some of those sought-after young workers when the company decides it’s ready to expand.

The two grads White managed to scoop up out of NBCC Miramichi, Clyde Blakely and Brent Kilbasco, have hit the ground running and the work they’ve been doing has been invaluable thus far.

He said where it’s not uncommon for a single game to take eight months to a year before it hits the market, it speaks volumes about his team that it’s already pumped out two titles since Oct. 8.

Egg Roll specializes in the development of games which are playable on all Apple mobile applications, including the iPhone and iPad.

Its first title, Candy Goblins, was released on those platforms earlier in the fall with its second game, a 3D fashion show-themed title marketed toward female players, currently in the latter stages of approval from Apple.

The nearly-completed third title is a puzzle game themed around mundane office life.

“We’d ultimately like to grow in scale but our biggest challenge is going to be marketing these games. One of my biggest things is that making the product is only 10 per cent, 90 per cent is getting people to know the product even exists,” said White.

White said he was extremely grateful to the City of Miramichi for providing his staff with rent-free workspace while it gets up and running, and also to Frank McKenna’s Miramichi Technology Fund, managed by the Wallace McCain Institute, for providing the company with an initial investment that paved the way for it to set up shop here.

Miramichi’s Creative Technology Centre, also known as the Creative Lair, is an initiative of the city’s economic development department that was conceived as a way to spur innovation and job creation by offering rent-free, convenient and fully-equipped workspace to technology startups.

To get a closer look at some of the things Egg Roll Digital Studios is working on, visit eggrolldigital.com.