A few years ago casual online gaming exploded with Zynga’s Farmville and similar social network games, but within the last two years America has become fixated on their mobile devices and the games on them.
During that same time, San Francisco’s social gaming industry has been morphing to accommodate the new portable pastimes.
Many factors played a part in this, one being the bar has become so high for social network games to have better interactions and graphics that development cycles which usually lasted three or four months and cost $100,000 increased to over a year and a million dollars to create newer games.
“[Facebook] is still a hit industry,” Jenn Garcia, CEO of Metamoki, said. “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.”
Metamoki established in San Francisco two years ago developing Facebook games before gaining notoriety with their iOS and Android release Mob Wars. Since January of this year they are only pursuing mobile game development on iOS, expanding the company, and are releasing three iOS titles within as many months.
Many other mobile game development companies are popping up all over The City and in the app stores every day.
Jason S. Burch, Vice President of Cassidy Turley BT Commercial, a commercial real estate firm, said he has personally represented over 100,000 rentable square feet of deals in San Francisco for gaming companies in the last 12 months.
“It’s only a small fraction of this industries growth,” Burch said. “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 its roots in the tech, marketing and the PC gaming industry it’s no surprise mobile gaming is finding a comfortable fit here.
“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,” Mayor Ed Lee said. “I am extremely supportive of the growing representation of the gaming industry locally.”
Game Insight, whose offices are based in Moscow, Russia, recently opened a satellite office on Market Street. Although their business is in mobile games, it wasn’t tech that brought them across the Atlantic.
“It’s easy to find talented engineers and designers in Moscow and in Russia,” Darya Trushkina, Vice President of Business Development for Russian developer Game Insight said. “But to find actually business development people, PR people, marketing people in Russia is very difficult.”
Game Insight, who is an Android rated top developer, 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.” Trushkina said. “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.”