When creating their first mobile cannabis-related game, Nanaimo-based company LDRLY Games started with a simple question: what if you had a game like Farmville, but instead of growing strawberries you grew weed?
Now, with tens of millions of downloads and a whole suite of cannabis-related games available on multiple platforms, it’s safe to say what you’d have is a winning concept.
It was less than two years ago that LDRLY decided to split off from parent company East Side Games in Vancouver and make the move to Vancouver Island. Since then, their sunny harbor-front office has grown to house a staff of 10.
The move for LDRLY’s live-ops lead Jean-Guy Niquet and his family from Toronto to the West Coast seemed to be a natural fit for someone in the cannabis industry, where the perception of cannabis in general is much more relaxed. And it makes sense, says Niquet, because for a company like East Side to be so far out ahead of things that they were making cannabis-based games nine years ago, it had to be part of the culture in general.
Now, it’s safe to say that it’s still “old potheads at LDRLY that are coming up with (many of) the ideas,” says Niquet, though not everyone at the company imbibes. “A lot of this stuff is expanding on the existing Bud Farm/Pot Farm universe that we have already, so those stories are out there and those characters are out there, and we’re just continuing to build on that.”
In addition to the original Pot Farm game, they now also offer games like Bud Farm: 420, Bud Farm: Grass Roots, Bud Farm: Quest for Buds, Don’t Touch Ranger Dick, and Bud Farm: Idol Tycoon.
“Originally, we had this guy who was Ranger Dick, who is kind of like the Sgt. Stadanko from Cheech and Chong, who came in and was trying to bust up your operation. It plays in a little bit more to our more recent game, Bud Farm: Idol Tycoon which is an Idol-based game,” explains Niquet.
Grass Roots has a more hipster-style theme that includes characters with cannabis-themed sleeve tattoos who ride fixed-speed bicycles and eat avocado toast.
Read also: Weed Traveler: The 420 Games in La La Land
Attention to detail is an important thing for their team, says Niquet. Their game style in general can best be described as laid back.
“Our games are more indica than sativa,” he adds. “They’re not intense (games); they’re a really relaxed (games). They are ones that you can play for a little bit and then come back to in a couple of hours and check in on things. We have events in our games, but they’re silly and lighthearted. And I think that fits with our core values of just not taking ourselves too seriously.”
With constant updates, events and contents, LDRLY’s full-time community team manager Evan Barker engages with players via livestream, social media, and email to announce their monthly content and troubleshoot any bugs or problems.
“I’m new to the game industry because the game industry didn’t exist here,” says Barker. “This is pretty much the first and foremost actual game studio that has set up in Nanaimo. My background is in tech support — customer service, online support —
but this is my first real opportunity in the game industry, because of this studio.”
One feature of Nanaimo in particular that Niquet says he finds “inspirational” is the proximity of cannabis company Tilray. Though LDRLY would love to see the cannabis industry expand in general, they especially want to see more gaming companies attracted to the island, because the more game studios that exist in the area, the better the opportunities are for everyone.
“At least in the game industry, if there were three other game studios in Nanaimo, then if I’m trying to convince somebody to move over from Vancouver to Nanaimo then they know, ‘Hey, if it didn’t work out with LDRLY, then I can go work at ‘Yay Nanaimo’ or whatever,” says Niquet. “It’s better for all of us if that happens. It’s just that somebody has to be first, and we’re used to being first at things, so we were willing to take on the challenge with it.”
With 100,000 people playing per day, 25 million downloads, and more than 3.5 billion game plays, the company is still going strong and plans to unveil a new game in the new year. Niquet is tight-lipped about what the game will entail, only saying that it is a “big project” that gamers and fans should keep an eye out for.