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Master of Play
Jean-Guy Niquet.

Master of Play

As director of Arkadium, Jean-Guy Niquet is diving into the fast-moving world of mobile games

Jean-Guy Niquet didn’t set out to make games for a living, but he’s not complaining. Last October, Arkadium – the New York–based game development company – opened an office in Toronto and hired Niquet as the director of Arkadium Canada. He is charged with making all of the company’s mobile games.

When Niquet (BSc 2008 WOODS) came to U of T as a mature student, he had already worked as a programmer for several years. He wanted to add to his knowledge base, and loved the specialist program in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. “You took computer science, philosophy, psychology, linguistics – having a multidisciplinary approach is so ingrained [in the program]. You learn how to learn,” he says.

At Arkadium, Niquet and the company are interested in creating social games. “They’re referred to as a service,” he says. “Build a game like Angry Birds and you don’t need to provide content after. You move on. For social games you have to keep it fresh, adding more content.”

Arkadium isn’t the only game maker attracted to Toronto – home to at least 60 other game companies. Niquet works with a team of six in Toronto, and expects his office will expand to 12 to 15 employees by year’s end. Arkadium Canada will initially work on a “freemium” model. The games will be free, but players can make in-game purchases. “Everybody knows about the success of Angry Birds, but it’s been a long time since it was the top seller in the app store. What you’ll see with the top-grossing games is that a lot of them are free,” Niquet says. He plans to leverage Arkadium’s user base from Facebook games: the first Toronto release will be an adaptation of an existing game.

Niquet will oversee every aspect of game development at Arkadium’s Toronto office. “I need to know everything about everything. The design, the programming, the art and music. But I love wearing all the different hats,” he says, adding that he loves a good challenge. “Every project is different. It feels fresh and exciting, and you get those victories when you solve the problem. That makes it fun.”

Arkadium already has a stable of puzzle games, including the well-known Mahjongg Dimensions. Niquet says the company is also getting into city-building, role-playing games. No first-person shooter games, though. “I want a game that I can play for a minute and not be destroyed when the bus comes,” he says.

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