Spotlight on East Side Games

Pictured above: East Side Games team on Orange Shirt Day which is designated to educate and build awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system has had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada.

Describe your company and its product.

East Side Games (ESG) is a proudly independent game studio that is focused on making the best narrative idle games in the business, and creating the technology for developers to tell amazing stories. ESG strongly believes in community-driven design, making games built for fans by fans, and having the best culture around. Our games and our team have the same goal; to be inclusive and for everyone.

What year did your company start?


Which city (or cities) are you located?

Vancouver, BC

Describe your company culture in three words.

  • Authentic
  • Compassionate
  • Grit (work ethic)

How do you celebrate company or employee wins?

This is a big part of our culture, we share it with the entire team and give Friday cheers to people that make a difference every day to our amazing players. It’s a small thing but every year you get your anniversary day off on us and an anniversary pin for your year. We try and encourage celebration from the teams themselves.

What is the problem that you are trying to solve?

Our narrative idle games serve a traditionally underserved audience, one that would never self identify as “a gamer”, but can become immersed in the worlds we create. With IdleKit, we are creating the technology for developers to tell amazing stories.

What is your biggest milestone to date?

The official worldwide launch of our primary mobile title (Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money) in 2017 represents the biggest turning point for the studio. We transitioned to working almost exclusively with Unity, a technology that has supported every project we have made since. Upon launch, Greasy Money was in the top 100 in 100 countries on the iOS App Store and was the top app in Canada! This title allowed us to pioneer the genre of narrative idle games, currently one of the fastest and most profitable genres. We have redefined what quality storytelling looks like.

What is your biggest challenge?

Changing the way we make games. We want to make it with everyone on the team and are working hard at getting as many different voices involved to tell our stories to fans. The challenge with this is most people don’t learn how to make games this way, more like a start-up and less like a game studio so we have to find the right people. A product of this though is people work with us, then go out and open their own studio, which is AMAZING.

What is your motto?

By fans, for fans.

Built in BC.

Our games and our team have the same goal; to be inclusive and for everyone.

How are you making an impact?

Our work with Indie Power, bringing the gaming and tech communities together with the mission to share openly has created a culture of sharing and transparency within our industry.

As far as our physical community, we have an extensive donation and sponsorship program, where we give back to others if they fall within these four parameters:

  • Support of Indie games, studios, and education by way of meetup sponsorship, event support and initiatives that encourage diversity, inclusiveness, and acceptance of all;
  • Initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for those in the DTES;
  • Charities initiated by employees due to their commitment to a particular cause;
  • Earth-friendly causes.

What is your hope for the future of tech in BC?

We are training the next wave of Vancouver entrepreneurs. We are training our team in the business of games, in starting their own studios and businesses, and in spreading this culture locally and beyond. This culture is that of a self-driven, dedicated team member, who operates with the start-up mentality of empowerment and hustle. Anyone can make the decision to get shit done. We call this the legendary BC work ethic.

Lightning Round with Josh Nilson, Co-Founder and CEO East Side Games

What excites you about your job?

Being able to help out others in the game community. I feel like we can make a difference each day for our customers by providing them with great games and content that gets them through the day. We are working in an exciting time, where everyone is a gamer.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

I’m a self-taught entrepreneur, so I have to ask lots of questions, figure things out and make loads of mistakes the first time I do things. I’m thankful for my Northern BC work ethic which comes with being raised by the hardest working family around. Other than that, hiring up my first crew at East Side Games was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

If you can give advice to your 20-year-old self, what would you say?

Focus on your passion early and don’t listen to the haters, everyone says you can’t do it, but anything is possible. Hard work always pays off, it just takes time and focus.

What are your pet peeves?

“Ramping up”, high fives, people that want to “pick my brain”, bad coffee, long/unnecessary meetings

Words of wisdom to other tech CEOs or founders?

Being a founder or entrepreneur is exceptionally challenging and incredibly lonely. Reach out, ask for help, contact your network. You need the support and they do too. Break down the stigma of needing to be autonomous, and support one another. Schedule everything, including your Slack, messaging and email time.

Favourite city you visited?

NYC – the best city in the world. But as soon as I can, I go to a beach.

What is your formula for success?

(Passion + work ethic + staying true to your roots and pushing boundaries) x (Luck). Most problems can be solved on the walk to get a coffee.

Name one book that everyone should read.

I read one book a month. Read the Andre the Giant or Louis Riel non-fiction comic though, it is amazing – trust me.

How do you decompress?

ESG has a weekly team workout at a local gym, which I always attend. It’s been a great way for everyone including me, to decompress, and has proven to be incredibly valuable by fostering empathy and understanding studio-wide. Personally, I prioritize time with my family and actually unplug on vacation. I trust my team to get shit done.

Favourite movie?

The Warriors or Dawn of the Dead.