Playing to Learn: Wibbu's journey from a frozen flat in the Cotswolds to a thriving edu-games studio

Playing to Learn: Wibbu's journey from a frozen flat in the Cotswolds to a thriving edu-games studio
Marie Dealessandri

By Marie Dealessandri

July 21st 2016 at 11:20AM

Co-founder Liam McGinley tells Develop about what we can expect from the studio's increasing ambitions, which is currently looking to hire

Wibbu’s journey started in 2013 in a “freezing cold flat out in the Cotswold countryside” according to Liam McGinley, the studio’s co-founder and CTO. In just a few years, what began as a mobile apps company has become a fully-fledged educational games studio.

“We develop games that teach languages through immersive, fun, story--driven RPGs,” McGinley says.

The firm’s flagship title is simply entitled Wibbu and specifically designed for Spanish speakers who want to learn English. Since the title launched on iOS and Android, it has seen huge success, reaching No.1 in the Education category rankings in over 20 countries. 

Subsequently, Wibbu doubled the size of its team, which is now composed of staff from eight countries, speaking 15 different languages.

“We have recently completed a round of investment that has enabled us to move into a new office right by the iconic Tower Bridge,” McGinley details.

“The new place is three times the size of the old one, which means we’re growing the team too. We’ve already had a number of people come and join the fun, but we’re still looking for a few more. The main focus of this expansion has been to bring in some core game development experience to complement the current team.”

For example, Wibbu is looking for someone in “gameplay development with a focus on third-person character combat and AI,” McGinley details.

“We’re also looking for someone to join our marketing team to create and manage the launch campaign for our next title. We’re on the lookout for ambitious people who want to empower others to become better.”

"I recently got an interactive CV where I had to defeat a boss level before ‘unlocking’ their previous experience."

Liam McGinley, Wibbu

For those interested in applying to work at Wibbu, here’s a premium tip from the CTO.

“I love it when I receive interactive CV; it stands out after reading 100s of PDFs,” McGinley enthuses. “I recently got one where I had to defeat a boss level before ‘unlocking’ their previous experience.

“I also like to see a title timeline so I can step through their development journey; many candidates only list studios. For those applying for the less -visual roles, I get frustrated with lists of keywords and bullet points. Ensure you highlight what you’ve been working on.”

Working at Wibbu also means having the opportunity to learn new skills and make a real impact on the life of the company.

“As an educational studio, we believe in growing ourselves as individuals too, so we give people opportunities to learn new things,” McGinley reveals. “We take it in turns to run short workshops to educate one another. We’ve recently held ones on Arabic writing and RegEx, and have an upcoming one on Pogs. As a young studio we also offer share options to all of our employees as we believe that everyone deserves to share in the studio’s success.”

Wibbu is now working on its next game, under the working title Heromancer.

“We’re currently in pre-production on a brand new 3D RPG for mobile, tablet and PC,” McGinley details. 

“We’ll be teaching both English and Spanish, and there will be more languages to follow soon. This game will be aimed towards teaching a slightly older age group than our existing title, so it’s an exciting time for us.

“In the long run, we’ll continue to teach more languages and look to develop other games for different age groups, and potentially explore opportunities with books, TV shows, toys and films. Ultimately, VR is the Holy Grail for the world of language learning.”

McGinley expands on VR’s prospects for learning languages.

“2016 is geared up to be the year of VR and from a language-learning perspective it’s an area that we are very excited about,” he explains. “Immersion is integral to language learning and the next best thing to going to a country where people natively speak the language you are trying to learn is for that country to come to you. VR can provide that – it could be the ultimate educational environment.”

VR is not the only area Wibbu would like to further explore, as the company is also looking to increase the overall quality of its games to meet people’s increasing expectations of mobile gaming. 

“We put a focus on trying to push mobile hardware as much as possible to provide a beautiful and enjoyable environment for people to learn in,” McGinley says.

“Knowing another person’s language is the key to accessing their way of thinking. We are here to inspire people to use the power of language in their everyday lives and to communicate with the rest of the world.”