Toronto gaming studio relishing Ottawa’s talent pool with expansion to Canada’s capital

After getting a small taste of Ottawa developer talent, Toronto-based Relish Interactive has opened an office in the city.

Co-founder and CEO Paul Pattison is an Ottawa native, but launched the digital production company 10 years ago in Toronto. There, the firm has worked with an array of clients, building apps and websites for the likes of broadcasters such as Corus Entertainment and Nickelodeon, as well as big name brands such as the CFL, NASCAR and Adobe.

For the past few years, Relish has worked with a few Ottawa developers remotely. The company incrementally added to its Ottawa headcount almost by accident, as Pattison said he kept bumping into local developers who he ultimately hired.

“It became very apparent that we should really capitalize on the talent pool here and set up a shop,” he says.

Relish currently has six people in its Ottawa office, located near the intersection of Wellington Street West and Island Park Drive. Pattison says he wouldn’t be surprised if that number is doubled by the end of the year.

While most of Relish’s revenue comes from its client services stream, the company also has brands called All Play No Work, where it publishes its own apps, and WellCrafted, where it produces a portfolio of white-label products.

One of the most exciting projects from All Play No Work is an interactive storybook called Weirdwood Manor. The iPad app has won a series of industry awards, including making it into the App Store’s Best of 2015 and a nomination for the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards.

Relish is partnering with a publisher and film studio to make Weirdwood Manor into a print book and an accompanying feature film. The interactive book may be the beginning of a new storytelling format that Pattison and his team are eager to explore with clients as well as with their own IP.

“All of the properties that we’re developing, Weirdwood is just the first, all of them will be story-first, and have very rich universes, and so many different story arcs that we can tell the stories in different mediums,” he says.

Pattison says Weirdwood’s interactive elements are ideal for young children between eight and 12 years old who are entering the “reluctant reader” phase - that age when kids start to shift towards video games and away from books. Relish is working with a professor who specializes in that phase of development at the University of Toronto, and he is impressed by the potential impact of Weirdwood Manor.

“I say that we like to trick kids into reading. They think they’re playing a game, but really they’re reading a full-length novel,” Pattison says.

The Relish co-founder says he’s received emails from parents who have thanked him and his team for bringing their kids back to reading. That, Pattison says, has been the most gratifying part of the job.

Side note: In case, like us, you were wondering, they’re called Relish because Mustard was taken.