Headquartered in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, mobile games developer, publisher and distributor Miniclip was founded in 2001 under some rather absurd circumstances. Its first game, called Dancing Bush—which featured a version of then-President George W. Bush doing precisely what the title said he would—was an instant viral success, pulling in millions of players overnight.
The company has since transitioned into mobile gaming: today, Miniclip develops, publishes and distributes games to an audience of over 70 million monthly active users, across mobile, social and online platforms. Miniclip.com is the world’s second largest privately owned online gaming website.
Across its offices in Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and the United Kingdom, Miniclip has around 80 people on its dev team—primarily developers, graphic artists, game designers and producers. This team has been growing rapidly, particularly in its Lisbon office, where the company is actively hiring for a number of new roles right now.
To help grow its business, Miniclip offers game developers a number of API services that allow them to integrate Miniclip-branded features into their games, such as high-scores that factor into-site wide rankings. Likewise, Miniclip Webmasters is a site the company developed where players can add their games other sites for free using HTML code. Recently, the company launched a brand new subsite featuring its most-played MMO and multiplayer games, making it easier than ever to find top games in that category.
Miniclip’s biggest games include 8 Ball Pool and Soccer Stars, both of which are built with Cocos2D, and are played by millions around the world. “Cocos2D was the obvious decision for 8 Ball Pool at the time,” says Sergio Varanda, head of mobile at Miniclip. “We had a lot of past experience with it, and there were no alternatives with the same quality. Our pipeline already allowed for facilitated porting of Cocos2D projects into Android so, even if there were alternatives, we had the perfect toolset and the perfect expertise to start and finish the job.”
The initial gameplay prototype for 8 Ball Pool took just a few weeks to come together, as the team was prototyping its physics engine and custom 3D ball rendering mechanism. A move to incorporate Spritebuilder has changed the workflow dramatically: “We recently started using Spritebuilder, and cannot remember how we did things before when we weren’t using it!” says Varanda. “CCActions are awesome, and Zwoptex and TexturePacker are great options if you want to create your own atlases.”
Development always has its unforeseen challenges, technical and otherwise, and Varanda recalls one that cropped up around the game’s launch. “Since 8 Ball Pool is a multiplayer game, we faced one tiny problem when the game first launched on mobile—there were no live players online for the very first users to play,” he chuckles. The team stayed late at the office on launch day, specifically to take on other players and make sure they had someone to play against. “If you were one of the earliest players of 8 Ball Pool, chances are you were playing against some of the people who actually made the game.”
Indeed, achieving high quality games with a relatively small team and limited resources hasn’t always been easy. To surpass these limitations, the key takeaway has been to learn the importance of prioritizing. “As much as we want to include all the user-requested features, we occasionally need to postpone things that we would like to have in the game right now in order to be able to meet our release schedule,” says Varanda.
While success has been good to Miniclip, the company has had to keep up with its rapid expansion. “We’re proud and humbled at the same time by the fact that our games are being played by more than 10 million people every single day,” says Varanda of the company’s widespread popularity. “That comes with its own challenges, of course, like making sure the games are running 24/7 without any interruptions, and supporting 500,000 concurrent users from all around the world.”