After years of making games with tiny teams, Supercell’s famous working culture is evolving.
It’s probably about time, too. Clash of Clans is now ten years old, and still has just 32 people working on it. Now, Supercell is planning its biggest-ever team expansion: it is hiring around 10 new staff on Clash of Clans, and game lead Stuart McGaw tells us there could be another batch of new roles going live later this year, too.
It’s a big step for his team, and one in keeping with some of the thoughts Supercell boss Ilkka Paananen expressed in his annual ‘state of Supercell’ blog in February. Debates around team size are happening across Supercell, says McGaw.
“Like always at Supercell, it’s down to individual teams, and lots of teams are having similar kinds of conversations,” he tells us. “For some teams it’s not about growing themselves, it’s about finding the right partners to get support.”
“Even though we’re more open to growth at Supercell I think the focus is more maximising people’s positive impact and finding smarter ways to do stuff, while also being open to growth. So, yeah – different teams are going to find different solutions.”
For Clash of Clans in particular, McGaw says he needs the headcount to speed up progress on a long-standing list of improvements and features.
“I always had this feeling that we’d eventually tick off the features that make sense to do, and there’d be less to work through,” McGaw tells us. “But I’ve been working on the game for over five years now, and the to-do list of the stuff has just never got shorter, because everything that we’ve added into the game has brought more things that would be cool to have on top of that.”
New features like the Clan Capital, launched last year, extended that list further. A reboot of the builder base is coming this spring, and will address some of the longer-term items on the list. McGaw says his team is also looking into tools to help players understand the nuances of the game better too, helping clanmates to teach each other strategies, tips and tricks.
“As the game has got older and more developed, there are more niches in the audience and players play it in different ways,” he says. “We need to make sure we’re able to give each type of player in Clash enough time and attention, and the features they care about.”
As its teams grow, Supercell will now be welcoming more remote workers in certain territories, and those in or near Helsinki aren’t obliged to come into the office every day. It’ll also be adding more junior talent to its ranks, though this round of additions to the Clash team will still be the type of experienced folks Supercell has always hired.
“A lot of the things that are important in the culture, they still work and so I don’t think those fundamentals need to change,” says McGaw. “I think maybe we’re been a bit fearful of having a certain size team and maybe this kind of bottom-up structure won’t work as well. We were a little scared that if you grew, maybe there’d be problems but I think, reflecting on it, it felt like we can be a bit braver and we can make it work.”
“Other companies have figured out ways to make this work and I think we can too, without losing what makes us Supercell.”
This all might seen out of character for a company that has made tight, focused teams so central to its ethos. But McGaw contends that it’s actually perfectly in-keeping with Supercell’s experimental nature.
“Supercell has always been this company about trying things, and trying different ways of doing things,” he adds. “So if one of the investee companies is excited about taking forward an idea like Everdale, or we’re establishing a studio in North America to attract a different talent pool and make different kinds of games, they’re all things that are going to teach us something.”
“It’s about trying things so we can learn, and you know, if it goes badly we’ll toast it with some champagne. We don’t know what’s going to be successful, we’re just trying enough different things so we can learn and get better as a company.”