Innovation Spotlight: Petricore Games Wants the World to Play Along

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Spotlight Profile
Company: Petricore Games
Interviewee: Ryan Canuel, Co-Founder and CEO

When most people think about video games, they are reminded of big name companies like Bungie, Valve, and Blizzard. These giant studios, known as AAA companies, can be found clustered in techie hotspots like Washington, California, Montreal, and even our very own Boston. But while big cities tend to attract big companies, there are many cases where innovative game creators are much closer to home.

Petricore Games is one such example. Located in Worcester, MA, the company got its start two years ago when founder Ryan Canuel, just about to make his way out of college, was approached by a teacher who planted the idea of starting his own business in his head. Although Canuel grew up in the woods catching frogs and other fun “disgusting” stuff, as he got older, he started playing video games. That hobby bloomed into a passion for design, and eventually his first business plan.

In fact, it was those big RPGs from BioWare and Bethesda that inspired Canuel and led him towards the video game industry. He felt that they were huge worlds with great stories, and he was amazed by the amount of work that goes into creating a video game. Not only that, but as a storytelling medium, they were among the most interesting; after all, isn’t it so cool to be able to leave your own mark and influence the way the story is told?

Upon going to college, Canuel set his sights on being a designer so that he could help craft the stories for these games. However, he soon realized, as most college students do, that it’s a lot harder than you think to just get a job. He also felt that his natural skills didn’t quite align with design. But even if he didn’t have the artistic chops needed to be a designer, Canuel found that he had a knack for assembling and supporting talent. This led him into the project management side of games, where he helps his creative people get the resources they need to build their vision.

Right now, Canuel and his team have three published mobile games for both Android and iOS, and they’ve completed over 30 client projects. Much of this hired work actually appears in museums, such as the Trap and Trade game at the Oshkosh Public Museum in Wisconsin, which you can download from the iPad App Store or play on your web browser. This past year, Canuel won Boston’s Rising Pixel Award at the BitAwards in New York City, which is a category “recognizing developers on the rise for their talent and a commitment to growing and fostering their local community.” One of their games, Battery Boy, was also nominated for Best Mobile Game of the Year.

Battery Boy Screenshot

A screenshot from Battery Boy, the game that gets harder as your phone dies.

Bolstered by these successes, Petricore is discussing ways to take things in a different direction than the traditional mobile game industry. While mobile development has been a great way to get their feet wet in game development, with around 600 new games being released every day, it’s a very difficult space to compete in. So as Petricore talks amongst themselves regarding what they’d like to do with their next game, they are starting to look at newer platforms like the Nintendo Switch. Many Indie gaming companies are flocking to the Switch, according to Canuel, due to its status as the fun new gaming system. Besides which, it’s a great way to get some more impactful press exposure.

The Petricore Team

The Petricore Team is a local favorite at area gaming conventions.

In addition to their next big project, Petricore Games has also been discussing just how large they would like to grow as a company. Canuel’s personal, conservative hope is that in the next five years, they can expand to a team of 20. “You don’t want to grow too quickly,” Canuel says, “but I think that’s within our reasonable goals.” Their current hope is to add a few team members in the next few years and use the success of future projects to help continue the growth pattern.

As they grow, Canuel plans to use the examples of the companies that first inspired him to foster a creative community. He wants Petricore to be a place where teams can be proud of all their games, even the ones that don’t end up seeing production. Mistakes and canned projects, he feels, are still experiences that everyone can enjoy and learn from.

Ryan Canuel, this year's Boston Rising Pixel at the BitAwards.

Ryan Canuel, this year’s Boston Rising Pixel at the BitAwards.

This philosophy of constantly learning and being immersed in creative passions is something that Canuel also takes outside of Petricore. As an adjunct professor at Becker (his alma mater) and organizer of the Worcester Game Pile, he believes strongly in fostering a generation of designers and developers who will continue pushing the limits of interactive media. He loves his community outreach because he thinks that Worcester is a fantastic breeding ground for this kind of innovation. Thanks to the city’s many colleges and its position as a more affordable alternative to Boston, there are few better places to attract brilliant technical and creative minds at the very start of their careers.

Over the next few years, keep an eye out for new games and interactive installations that combine masterful stories, real world implications, and stunning visuals. You may just be playing something from Petricore. And if you like it, tell the world! Canuel says that one of his greatest measures of success is being able to look up videos and reviews of people playing their games who would otherwise never have met. “That is the type of impact that is really important,” he feels. “With anything we work on, we want people to enjoy the game to the point that they want to share it with the world.”

About the Author:

Rhiannon is the head of marketing and documentation services at Deep Core Data. A writer and editor for over 10 years, she is also a professional singer and not quite professional gamer. Her favorite blog posts are about tips and tricks to improving software, writing, and general business.

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