Ottawa-based mobile game developer Magmic is integrating AI technology into some of its games, allowing the firm to not only quickly and efficiently expand the database, but also check content for errors and typos.
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Ottawa-based mobile game developer Magmic is integrating AI technology into some of its games. Established in 2002, the company has developed more than 100 mobile games, including apps such as Hasbro’s Scattergories and Scattergories Blitz, Mattel’s Phase 10, Texas Hold’Em King, Passport Rummy, and the New York Times Crossword app. The company's games have been downloaded 250 million times worldwide. According to Mohammad Agha, Magmic’s CEO and president, the firm is looking to grow its reputation as a leader in mobile gaming innovation. He said the company is committed to furthering its work incorporating Web3 technology into mobile gaming and, more recently, has integrated OpenAI’s ChatGPT into its popular trivia game, Hasbro’s Scattergories. With over four million installs since launch, Agha said the biggest challenge has been keeping the app’s answer database up to date. “The content creation process for the game was quite time-consuming and became quite expensive,” said Agha in an interview with OBJ. “Additionally, it also forced us to focus on one area: North America. Using ChatGPT allowed us to not only decrease the cost of creating new content, but also rapidly release a lot more really localized content.” The technology allows the firm to not only quickly and efficiently expand the database, but also check content for errors and typos. While ChatGPT is relatively new technology, released to the public in November 2022, Agha said it was fairly easy to seamlessly integrate it into Magmic’s production process. “It was almost a no-brainer,” he said. “We’re able to basically generate four times the amount of content per month.” While ChatGPT is only useful for word games, Agha said machine-learning technologies present opportunities for innovation in the mobile gaming industry. He said the technology can shorten timelines for 3D models and rendering, thereby cutting costs and increasing efficiency. “There are a lot of applications coming out right now that shortcut a lot of the production pipeline,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at. Short term, I think we’re going to see a lot of machine learning integrated into production.” Despite uncertainty around AI’s potential impacts on some jobs, Magmic’s newfound automated efficiency hasn’t stunted its headcount. In fact, the company is looking to double its workforce by 2024. According to Agha, Magmic currently has 21 employees, up from 12 in 2021. Now, it’s increasing hiring efforts to bring the workforce up to 40 by 2024. Those new hires will include production site developers, 3D artists and UI/UX designers, as well as other production elements. While other tech companies have recently cut back on costs by laying off employees, Agha believes his firm’s slow growth strategy during the pandemic has paid off. “We’re very fortunate,” he said. “I think we took our time and were able to secure funding for this new project. Around late 2021, we were able to lock in our funding and our plans then, so we’ve been growing off of that project for about two years. We were able to skip that downturn.” The new project he refers to is a licensed baseball game using blockchain technology, which is the result of a multimillion-dollar, five-year deal signed last December with Major League Baseball (MLB) and its players’ association. Magmic’s hiring boost is in part thanks to that project. “A lot of gaming companies in Canada and Ottawa are work-for-hire shops. They don’t build a lot of their own original content or the original (intellectual property). So this is, I feel, a big deal because it’s one of the largest brands in the world and we’re building, we’re licensing. So, we own the game,” Agha told OBJ earlier this year. The tycoon-style management game will use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain technology to add scarcity trading and a collectible system like trading cards. Players will use NFTs during gameplay. “We did start developing blockchain-based games around 2018. So, five years ago, before all the hype,” Agha said at the time. “It’s kind of positioned us in a way to be able to secure quite a bit of funding to secure this license and then get MLB on board for us to make this game right. In addition to the new hires to support game development, Magmic will seek to raise $20 million in additional investment, Agha told OBJ in March. The MLB deal places Magmic among major blockchain players such as Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, Paris-based Sorare, and California-based Mythical Games; companies that count staff in the hundreds and valuations in the billions. Magmic was the biggest BlackBerry developer in the world before pivoting to successful Android and iPhone games. It was founded by Ottawa serial entrepreneur John Criswick and chief technology officer Joshua Ostrowalker. Agha joined Magmic in 2007 and became president in 2016 and CEO in 2018.