Soshi make games for fun and for charity

Start-Up Spotlight: Soshi Games

Soshi Games aren’t just out to be a commercial success – they want to give back while they do it.

Founded by Chris Dennett and Kevin Corti, Soshi creates games that benefit social causes by raising money for charity.

The Birmingham-based developer has released one Facebook game so far, with half the proceeds going to Fair Trade USA, and other charities set to benefit in future.

Dennett explains why they are championing social games for charity.

[Soshi are also offering Develop readers access to extra content in their latest social game. See below for details.]

How did you start your company?
Kevin Corti and I founded Soshi Games to focus on something different to the work we were doing at the time – it needed to be exciting, with massive scale potential. We were used to dealing with corporate organisations and planned instead to offer products to millions of individuals. At the same time, we wanted to do something for the benefit of others. So we combined all of these ideas into Soshi Games and incorporated the company on February 22, 2010.

How many people work at your company?
Apart from myself and Kevin, our only other current full-timer is our technical manager, Chris. We have a couple of full-time sub-contractors; our game designer Adam, graphic artist Lewis and a part-time project manager, Lisa. We’re a small team, but growing, so we offer placements for graduates and aim to create more full-time roles as Soshi generates more income. Our plans require some 20 staff by the end of this year and around 80 by the end of 2012, so there’s a lot of talent hunting to do. We’re particularly interested in Flash and PHP developers.

What’s your company culture like?
Soshi is pretty informal at the moment. We’re a new team, right in the middle of getting to know each other, but we’re already having fun and getting lots of work done, so that’s a good sign. We’re a bit cramped in our small office, so everyone tends to know what everyone else is doing. We go out for the odd beer and curry and are surrounded by other game developers, so our working environment has a really creative feel to it.

Tell us a little-known fact or anecdote about your company.
We were asked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to stop using the ‘Soshi’ name because the next Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi in Russia and they had concerns the names would become confused. This was a bit of a blow as we both love the name and everything behind it, and we’d also just spent precious money on a re-brand. After explaining our situation to the IOC, they were brilliant and agreed to let us continue using the name.

What could you, and/or your team members, not do without on a daily basis?
We can’t live without the three Cs: caffeine, chocolate and computers. Personally, I probably couldn’t do without the team we have built up. I spent a few years working from home as an independent consultant and it can be a very lonely experience. Being creative is just better in a group.

Why did you decide to enter the casual gaming market?
The obvious benefits of creating social games are the cost and ease of entry, though development costs are rising. However, it’s still cheaper – and I think more fun – than being in the triple-A console space, for example.

This also means that the whole space has become very crowded, which presents an interesting problem: how do you get heard above the noise? Different platform, networks and devices are all emerging and constantly changing, opening up new possibilities. There’s so much innovation online at the moment. In addition, the social gaming space has opened up a whole new player demographic and playing style, which opens lots of doors for creative expression and, of course, revenue generation.

What games/tools/services have you made since forming, and how have they been received?
Soshi has one live game available on Facebook called Village Raffles, plus a ground-breaking and exciting music-based game due out in June this year. We received great feedback about Village Raffles, and are experimenting with our marketing partners to find the best way of promoting the game so that the players, brands and charities all get the most from the experience.

What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
I can tell you that its codename is ‘Bob’ and it’s music-based but, above that, it’s a bit early to say anymore. We’ve created some fabulous concept art, are experimenting with game engines and have a pretty robust design document. We’re also getting the industry excited about the product and finding partners to collaborate with.

This new game is taking up most of the team’s time right now, particularly as we also have a long-term platform play that ‘Bob’ will help launch, which we’re keeping in mind as we develop Soshi’s next game.

What are your aspirations for the company?
There are plenty of ways to re-use the technology and content we have already created, so we’re looking forward to Soshi products being available everywhere. Long-term, we have an ambitious plan that should help developers to find customers, charities generate money and companies increase brand recognition, while making it fun for players.

I believe that Soshi’s music game will really put us on the map; it’s an exciting project with incredible scale and platform opportunities, and will be a truly unique and fun experience for the player.

Who do you admire in the games industry and/or beyond?
The best job I’ve had before Soshi was working in strategy for Orange. Its founder, Hans Snook, was CEO at the time, and I always admired his clarity of vision and passion for customer focus. I also met the Lego CEO Kjeld Christiansen a few times, who just oozed fun. Both men built and ran fantastic businesses that engaged the hearts and minds of millions.

Soshi’s co-founder Kevin particularly admires Phillip and Andrew Oliver at Blitz. They are universally known for building an environment in which people who want to make games can flourish, and constantly go out of their way to help the wider UK games sector. Along with their key staff, such as Blitz CFO Richard Smithies, the Olivers have taken a keen interest in what young studios such as Soshi are working on, and show a genuine desire to help us avoid the pitfalls that could lay in wait as we grow.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your company?
Soshi is looking for new investment, having already secured some private equity funding from business angels and grant funding. readers can get access to extra in-game music content for Soshi’s upcoming online music game. Register here and use your exclusive promo code: CGB0311

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