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The newest addictive game was made in Cedar Falls -- and there's more to come

The newest addictive game was made in Cedar Falls -- and there's more to come


Sarah and Danny Stokes stand for a portrait in front of the Sto Co. sign at their business in Cedar Falls on Monday afternoon.

CEDAR FALLS — As part of the research into this article, I downloaded and began playing the first and so far only game developed by new Cedar Falls technology company Sto Co. And I could barely put it down.

Called “Solitaire Time Warp,” the game starts you off with a fairly easy form of solitaire known as Tri Peaks. As you pass through the first Egyptian-themed levels, you gain coins, which you can then use to buy more cards when the game gets more challenging, buy your way into harder levels, and even buy other games, such as Klondike, Yukon, Golf and Spider, which keeps the game interesting.

By about level 25 — when I was using each TV commercial break to sneak in a quick level on my phone — I realized it was way too easy to spend a lot of time playing Solitaire Time Warp.

And that’s by design, say Danny and Sarah Stokes, who run Sto Co. in downtown Cedar Falls.

“The response has been really positive,” Danny Stokes said. “A lot of our friends are playing it.”

“Now, we’re in the phase of trying to get the word out about it,” Sarah Stokes said.

Danny Stokes started Phantom EFX with three others in 1998, making mobile-based casino-style games. But after the company was acquired a couple of times, most recently by New York-based Scientific Games in 2013, Stokes left, and about two years ago launched his own company with his wife.

Gaming growth: Phantom gets set to move into expanded space

Now, they and a few on-site full-time employees, share the space next to Escape Cedar Valley on East Fourth Street. A couple of remote employees fill out the six-person team.

“We were looking for a casual game, similar to slot machines, with a market we understand,” Sarah Stokes said. “Solitaire fits the criteria.”

“Solitaire Time Warp,” which launched on mobile platforms in 2018 as a free download, offers in-game purchases and sells advertising, which allows the company to make revenue.

“We’re trying to grow the game where it generates revenue and supports itself,” Danny Stokes said.

Once that happens, they’ll start working on new games — particularly mobile slot machine games, which Danny Stokes found while working at Phantom EFX was a big market.

“Originally, we were going to make a (simulated) casino game,” he said of Phantom EFX. “The slot games took off, and we never got to the sim game.”

Those interested in downloading the game can get it for their iPhone, Android or Kindle device. The game can also be played on Facebook using a web browser here: Those who use the promo code “CedarFalls” can get 5,000 bonus coins in the game.

“In the old games, you could burn it on a CD and be done,” Danny Stokes said. “These games are never done; they’re always being worked on based on feedback from players, analytics and everything else.”

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Staff Writer

Courier staff writer (currently politics) from 2007-2012 and from 2015-present. Graduate of UNI 2006. Three-time Iowa Associated Press Media Editors award winner (investigative reporting 2008, lifestyle feature 2016, business feature 2018).

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