Mobile game industry sizzles in The City


When Farmville’s pink ponies and parched crops splashed onto Facebook in 2009, the era of social gaming exploded on laptop screens everywhere.

Since then, America has fixated on mobile devices, and naturally, has become obsessed with games they play on their new favorite toys.

San Francisco’s social gaming industry has reshaped itself to accommodate the new portable pastimes, with mobile game development shops popping up all over The City and in app stores every day.

San Francisco’s Financial and SoMa districts are home to many mobile gaming companies. Jason Burch, vice president of Cassidy Turley BT Commercial, has personally brokered over 100,000 square feet of space for gaming companies in the last 12 months:

“It’s only a small fraction of this industries growth. Growth is so rapid, we are seeing a lack of inventory in SoMa to accommodate the needs of many companies, whereby we are seeing creative companies like Kixeye move into Class A traditional towers like 333 Bush.”

With roots in technology, marketing and gaming industries already established in the Bay Area, it’s no surprise mobile gaming is a comfortable fit here.

Metamoki established themselves in San Francisco two years ago developing Facebook games before striking gold with iOS and Android hit game Mob Wars.

Since January, Metamoki has dumped Facebook and Android, focusing exclusively on Apple’s iOS platform. They are expanding the company and plan to release three iOS titles in as many months.

Metamoki CEO Jenn Garcia explained the economics of mobile gaming vs. social network games:

“[Facebook] is still a hit industry. So you can make a game and invest a million dollars and it can be a total flop. And that happens, even in mobile, but in mobile it’s cheaper, it’s $80k or so.”

Due to ever-increasing customer demands of interaction and jaw-dropping graphics on social network games, development cycles — which usually lasted three or four months, and cost around $100,000 — jumped to more than a year and a million dollars for newer games.

Top-rated Android developer Game Insight, based in Moscow, recently opened a satellite office on Market Street. Though their business is mobile games, Vice President Darya Trushkina said talent, not technology, led them to San Francisco:

“It’s easy to find talented engineers and designers in Moscow and in Russia. But to find actually business development people, PR people, marketing people in Russia is very difficult.”

Game Insight will keep their development team in Russia because of cheaper costs on that end. However, Trushkina travels to San Francisco from Moscow monthly to oversee the new office and attend crucial mobile gaming industry events:

“San Francisco is a mecca for [mobile game] companies like ours. Everything is in San Francisco. The biggest events are in San Francisco, the biggest mixers, the expertise and professionals we need to hire, they are San Francisco. So it’s simple that we need to come to San Francisco.”

Even Mayor Ed Lee has jumped into the mobile gaming fray:

“San Francisco is the perfect place for the creative and innovative industry of mobile gaming with both the technological talent and the artistic talent of our local residents. I am extremely supportive of the growing representation of the gaming industry locally.”

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