The videogames industry is a notoriously volatile and fast-moving business, with its place at the forefront of technological change requiring readiness for upheaval at any moment. That makes it all the more impressive that Liverpool-based Ripstone is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a games studio this year, successfully building a company fit for the modern gaming landscape and continuing to prepare itself for where games are heading next.
A decade ago, co-founders Phil Gaskell and Leo Cubbin recognised that the industry was in the midst of a transition that offered huge opportunities for a company willing to embrace them wholeheartedly.
‘We both recognised that digital distribution was going to be transformative for the games industry, so we hatched a plan for a games publishing label that specialised in that space,’ says Phil, recalling the founding of Ripstone. Fulfilling that vision wasn’t easy – Phil recalls breaking down in tears in his kitchen in the company’s early years, fearing that they might go bust.
However, a series of smart decisions shifted the company’s focus to games development and consigned those tears to the past. With over 40 million sales and successful titles under its belt, including Chess Ultra, Poker Club, Snooker 19 and Pure Pool, the company is thriving in the modern gaming landscape. In 2021, everyone wants games that keep players coming back, and with a roster of evergreen simulation titles that do just that, the company is in an enviable position.
Ripstone’s ability to adapt to the demands of the moment has been underpinned by a strength of vision that has helped it stay the course while others around them grasp at the ‘next big thing’.
‘I think we’ve been good at resisting the gold rush and staying true to our vision,’ Phil reflects. ‘When we set the company up, the talk was that console games were dead. Our people at the time wanted us to plant our feet firmly in both the mobile gaming and Facebook gaming space and we had to work hard to convince them that our vision was the right one. We were right to do so.
‘We continued to deliver high-quality premium console games and watched on as those around us flocked to mobile, and, sadly, mostly failed. Now, 10 years later, console gaming is stronger than ever and Ripstone has tactfully positioned itself to reap the benefits and continue to grow in a booming sector.’
Alongside its financial success, the company has also built a reputation as an exceptional employer, cemented by the recent recognition by GamesIndustry.biz’s Best Places to Work Awards 2021. The award recognises positive approaches to diversity and other employment practices.
‘We’re a people business and always have been,’ says Phil, explaining that a lot of work has gone into making sure Ripstone offers the right benefits and environment to enrich its employees’ working lives. ‘Winning an award shows that your work is paying off and the team is happy. When you foster a workplace like that, you know you will be getting the very best out of the people, and it will shine through in the games you make.’
Two new studios in Birmingham and Marathon, Greece, are a big part of the company’s plans as it continues to evolve and focuses on building strong internal development teams founded in Ripstone’s positive work culture.
‘Birmingham is headed up by Mark Williams, an incredibly talented programmer who we worked with on some of our early games,’ says Phil. ‘We’re actively growing the development studio there over the coming years with game programmers, artists and production and design staff. They’re working on an as-yet-unannounced title, and knowing how good Mark is with technology it’s promising to be one of the most visually stunning games you will ever see.’
The company is growing its development and marketing teams back at its home base in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, too. ‘We’re brimming with ideas and, thanks to our continued success, we’re well placed to make ambitious original games, grow our profitable live games and work with partners eager to harness the creativity of our fantastic talent,’ Phil explains.
The new studios and a growing team provide a base for continuing Ripstone’s tradition of staying ahead of the curve. This includes exploring opportunities in China and the rise of streaming, which is making inroads in the realm of gaming after revolutionising other forms of media.
‘Our focus at Ripstone is to create a catalogue of games that will continue to delight global audiences and generate solid revenue on all streaming platforms,’ says Phil. Ripstone’s vision has carried it through a decade – and it looks primed to stay strong as it heads into the next.
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