Jam City EVP of Corporate Development & GC Rob Zakari visited Casual Connect Berlin earlier this month where he spoke about the distinct advantages of licensed and original IP with European-based mobile gaming executives.
Zakari (center) speaking at Casual Connect Berlin with Wooga’s Sebastian Kriese (at left) and moderator Caglar Eger of Goodgame Studios.
This Valentine’s Day, the good folks at Jam City celebrated with a flower-making workshop with Bloom 2 Bloom! Each bouquet made/purchased gives back to non-profit organizations such as Girls, Inc., Trees 4 Trees, Wish Upon A Teen, and Downtown’s Women’s Center.
This past Wednesday, Jam City San Diego participated in the annual Hour of Code event at the Casita Center for Science and Technology.
Joseph Young and Chris Andelin taught the 4th grade class, covering Minecraft and CodeMonkey. They talked about their education path through college and the game jobs they’ve had as well as answer questions. The class was then lead through the first couple of problems on the hour of code lessons.
On day two, Joseph Young, Trevor Miller, and Jason Justice got to spend time with the 5th grade class. The courses covered were Minecraft, Star Wars, and Code Combat.
It was an amazing experience for everyone involved: “I was blown away by how much these kids already knew; they’ve been doing block coding with their Chromebooks before and were disappointed at the end of the period when they had to stop working on a problem.” – Jason Justice
Casita created a TED talk covering the event – check it out here!
Last weekend was the start of our charity partnering with Extra Life! We met up with our coworkers at our offices, streamed games, and raised money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, who give life-saving care to children, even if their families can’t pay. We played some amazing Mario Maker levels, had some exciting matches of League and Smash, and we had fun doing it. Most importantly of all, we blew past our goal of $1,000, raising $1241 for the kids
Extra Life isn’t over yet, though.This weekend, come and check out the stream, or even play with us!
Please spread the links to your friends and family. Let’s see if we can beat $2000 this weekend! The donation links can be found on the stream pages, but you can also head over to our Extra Life team page and join us.
Let’s work together for the kids!
This past week, Jam City’s President, Josh Yguado, along with Jon Goldman (Harvard AB ’87 - Skybound Entertainment, Greycroft Partners), Larry Kasanoff (Cornell AB ‘81 - Threshold Entertainment), and Rick Phillips (Harvard AB ’85 – 20th Century Fox) had a great discussion on #gamertainment. Hosted by Cornell in Hollywood and Harvardwood, the conversation was moderated by Alex Krivicich (Cornell AB ‘08 - Super Bit Machine).
The future of gaming isn’t gaming, and the future of entertainment isn’t entertainment. The clear borders that once defined these distinct industries and structured the way we’ve thought about them are blurring by the day. Games are becoming motion pictures and movies, TV shows and TV personalities are becoming games like never before. There’s a new paradigm — Gamertainment. Studios now have gaming arms and gaming studios are getting into movie making.
Naughty Monster Story Launch
Panda Pop Scooby-Doo Event
Other Notable Features
What’s in a name?
That’s a question I started thinking a lot about last year.
In an airport lounge waiting for a flight back to Los Angeles last fall, some members of the executive team and I began discussing, over potato skins and a sad salad, whether our company’s name was still the right fit for the company we had built.
Well, a few creative agency meetings, 13 months, 20 brainstorm sessions and about 500 names later, we had our answer. Our old name wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
Good bye, SGN Games. Hello, Jam City.
Starting today, we’re now Jam City. Oh yeah, we’ve got the themed water bottles, hoodies and scratch-and-sniff stickers to prove it.
OK, but why?
Our old name got us far, like 800 million downloads far, and we’re grateful for that. Our games have been played 25 billion times. If you combine all the time people have spent playing them, you get 122,000 years, the equivalent of watching every episode of Friends about 9 million times.
Notably, five of our games are in the Top 100 grossing charts across Google’s and Apple’s U.S. app stores–something only three other game makers can say.
On top of all that, profitable for years, our revenues have grown more than 100 percent every year for five years straight.
But in spite of that success, my co-founders Josh Yguado and Aber Whitcomb as well as other members of the executive team and I grew increasingly convinced that our name was at odds with our identity.
The problem basically boiled down to this: As a company, we’ve thrived by creating colorful, engaging mobile games like Cookie Jam, Juice Jam and Panda Pop. And yet even though we’re in the business of fun, our old name was a humdrum corporate acronym that lacked the spirit of our games.
Put another way, we were a company with memorable products but a forgettable name.
With Jam City, we’re harnessing the success of our games to animate our company’s identity.
Coming up with the right name wasn’t quick or easy. We went through countless ideas but each time kept coming back to the same name–and with good reason.
On the one hand, Jam City is a nod to two of our most beloved, successful games. Cookie Jam and Juice Jam are played about 30 million times per day.
On the other hand, it’s a nod to our company’s creative culture. For musicians, jamming is about informally creating harmony amid improvisation. They might not be part of the band or even be reading the same music, but they’re making something together that’s beautiful and greater than themselves. (If you want to see a lot of jamming, watch Martin Scorsese’s rock doc The Last Waltz).
Our creative and technical teams here work the same way. On any given day in one of our studios, you’ll see designers and engineers huddling together on couches or conference rooms problem-solving in impromptu teams. They even call their sessions Game Jams.
And for us–a company whose mission remains connecting people around the world through games–“City” connotes the diverse, vibrant, virtual space we’re building for our players in every imaginable place in the world.
We already own three games based on Hollywood franchises with Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, Marvel Avengers Academy and the Book of Life: Sugar Smash. As gaming and entertainment continue to collide–something I call Gamertainment–some Hollywood brands with global popularity will grow increasingly lucrative for mobile game makers.
I’m announcing today that we’ve added Peanuts to the list, and we’ll be releasing a mobile game based on the iconic comic strip this year. And while we’re carefully expanding our partnerships with Hollywood, we’ll also continue doing what we do best: building great games that people around the world want to play–and play a lot.
Thanks for letting me share our news with you!
On an average day, you’ll usually find Jam City’s game designers in front of monitors, not behind wheel burrows and circular saws.
But this wasn’t your average day.
The Jam City team joined Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, or Habitat LA, on a recent Friday in August, helping the nonprofit build affordable homes in Inglewood.
So that meant the folks behind Panda Pop and Cookie Jam learned how to paint, sand, caulk and, yes, even use a circular saw.
Thanks for letting us help you, Habitat LA! We were honored to be a part of your important mission.
I’ve got great news.
Jam City is buying TinyCo, a San Francisco studio that’s built a thriving business out of converting Hollywood brands into popular mobile games. They’ve already done it with Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff and Marvel Avengers Academy. More importantly, with other equally iconic titles in hand now, they’re going to do it again soon.
The deal closed today, and we’re pumped about it.
TinyCo’s cofounder and CEO, Suli Ali, and its 125 employees will now be joining Jam City’s kick-ass 275 designers, graphic artists, developers and marketing ninjas. We’re thrilled to begin working together as part of one team.
Last July, we received a $130 million investment from South Korea-based Netmarble Games, and we promised that as the mobile gaming industry consolidated we weren’t going to stand by and watch.
We think we’re making good on that pledge. TinyCo just became our third acquisition since December.
The mobile gaming business is a good place to be these days. This year, revenues are expected to surpass those from the PC and console gaming industries for the first time ever. What’s more, revenues from mobile games are forecast to grow at 10 times the rate of PC and console games this year, according to an April report from Newzoo.
All along, we’ve been building toward becoming a giant in this new, fast-growing space, and we’ve made acquisitions that complement that ambition. TinyCo is a key part of that strategy for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. Here are the obvious ones:
The thing is, I think there’s a less straightforward yet perhaps more important motivation for this acquisition–one that gives insight into my vision for this company and the future of this industry.
Buying TinyCo advances our goal to not only grow but also becoming a mobile gaming entertainment franchise.
Consider its business model. TinyCo converts globally recognizable Hollywood brands into mobile games.
Suli and TinyCo foresaw the importance of mobile before many others in this business. And in a very clear way, the company has been at the forefront of navigating one of the most important trends affecting this industry–that is, gaming and entertainment are colliding at an unprecedented rate.
Let me explain.
The boundaries that once defined the gaming industry and traditional entertainment franchises are growing increasingly porous by the day. By my count, more movies based on games will be in theaters this year than ever before.
What’s more, they’re doing well.
Two movies based on games–Angry Birds The Movie and Warcraft–are currently ranked 10th and 11th at the worldwide box office, both taking in more than $325 million so far. There are at least two more on the way to theaters this year. In 2017, expect even more.
At the same time, the opposite trend is also true. That is, more movies, TV shows and celebrities are providing content for games, particularly mobile ones. In addition to TinyCo’s Family Guy and Avengers games, the Simpsons and Jurassic World franchises have produced top grossing games. And that’s not even getting into the increasing cross-pollination between Hollywood stardom and gaming.
These days, movie studios are getting into the game-making business, and gaming studios are getting into the movie-making business.
For lack of a better word, I call this intersection or collision between these two decreasingly distinct industries Gamertainment.
It’s a trend we like a lot.
From the beginning, I’ve worked with a team deeply rooted in tech and, also, media and entertainment. Jam City’s CTO, Aber Whitcomb, was also the co-founder and CTO of MySpace; and Jam City’s President and COO, Josh Yguado, was an executive at Fox Networks after working at Univision and MTV.
To be sure, we’ve played our role in this Gamertainment trend, launching our first game based on a movie–the Book of Life: Sugar Smash–in 2014. And last year, we used an actor–Dr. Ken–in national ad campaigns for one of our games, Cookie Jam.
TinyCo fits well into this evolving world where entertainment franchises are becoming lucrative games and games are becoming lucrative gaming franchises.
In the most recent year, we saw our fastest rate of revenue growth ever. We’ve grown more than 1000 percent since 2013. We expect to earn more than half a billion dollars within the year, and we think we can even do better in the near future. Embracing a company that gets this trend will help us do it.
Now, it’s time to start making awesome new games.
It’s June and if you’re a lucky member of the interactive gaming industry, that means it’s E3 time! E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo and takes place every June in sunny Los Angeles. It’s a time when game publishers and developers come together to show off what they’re working on and all the cool new things we can all look forward to in the coming months and years. While Jam City didn’t have a booth on the show floor this year, I still took a day to see the sights and check out what E3 had to offer. Here are the top 3 things I took away from E3 2016!
Old Franchises, New Experiences
Much like Hollywood movies, game franchises are big business. Even if you don’t play many games, you’ve probably heard of Activision’s war shooter series Call of Duty, or if casual puzzle games are more your style, King’s Saga games. This year saw the return of several big name franchises, but the trend seemed to be to breath new life into them by giving players something completely different than what they had become accustomed to from previous entries. New entries in the God of War, Call of Duty, Resident Evil, and Legend of Zelda series all veered away from the traditional to give what looked like brand new and exciting experiences.
Virtual Reality (VR) is finally here and it looks like it’s here to stay. From the recent launches of premium VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and Vive to entry level fare like the Google Cardboard, everyone wants to get in on the VR pie. At E3, VR was on the show floor in force. Samsung is not traditionally at E3, but they arrived this year with a sizeable booth, showing off a couple the Gear VR experiences. One virtual roller coaster and one virtual skateboard – both had guests strap the VR headset on and played a video while a peripheral was synced to said video and created a feeling of actually being there. I tried out the skateboarding demo and it really felt like I was flying down a hill on a skateboard. I nearly fell a few times even though in reality, I was barely moving!
360 Degrees of Viewing Freedom
VR wasn’t the only kind of fully immersive technology being shown, though. Fulldome.Pro had an impressive setup that projected video onto a huge dome above the viewer, giving them the feeling of being inside the video. The demos they showed using this were all very impressive and I definitely want one installed on the ceiling of my room now!
Don’t be fooled into thinking these three things were the only things I enjoyed. Far from it! I saw literally hundreds amazing games, technology, and experiences that have me so excited to be part of this wonderful industry and chomping at the bit to experience them when they are released.
This past weekend, Jam City’s CEO Chris DeWolfe had the special opportunity to deliver the commencement address for UW’s Foster School of Business.
Speaking at the Foster School’s Undergraduate Graduation Celebration in the Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Sunday, Chris pledged to veer from commencement address orthodoxy.
“It’s appropriate that we rip up the commencement speaker handbook,” DeWolfe said. “After all, you are a generation of disruptors… And unlike the professional pessimists who are cynical about the Millennial generation, I’m more confident than ever that you will do disruption right.”
Read more here!
Fast Company hosted its second annual Creativity Counter-Conference in Los Angeles, May 24-25, 2016. Over the course of two days, FC/LA gathered some of the most creative minds in business, technology, design, and entertainment for a series of inspiring keynote conversations, hands-on sessions, visits to the workspaces and studios of L.A.’s leading organizations, and opportunities to practice purposeful networking.
Jam City was the last stop on their tour – we hosted 50 people and conducted a Game Jam with Chris, Josh, Aber and Jill judging the winners. Guests broke out into 4 teams and came up with game concepts/designs/monetization/marketing ideas.
Hop in the juice truck to make your way to level 1,000 of Juice Jam! Team Jam City celebrated the occasion with edible fruit baskets and smoothies across all studios…way to go team!
ICYMI: Check out pics from the LA Games Conference VIP dinner hosted by Jam City and Digital Media Wire
On March 14-18, 2016, developers and gamers from across the country took the Bay area by storm for this year’s Game Developers Conference. Some of the most brilliant minds in the gaming industry took to the streets of downtown San Francisco for GDC16.
Famous Youtuber Jesse Wellens from Prank vs. Prank brought this game to life in downtown SF with his motorized magic carpet. For those that spotted our magic genie, they were in for a lucky surprise! Check out the full recap here!
Team Jam City chopped and prepped this past Saturday at The L.A. Kitchen, who believes that neither food nor people should ever go to waste. By reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens, L.A. Kitchen empowers, nourishes, and engages the community.
To find out more about what they do, head to http://www.lakitchen.org!
Last month, the talented ladies of Jam City had a luncheon to talk games, and to celebrate Jill Wilson’s award from the National Diversity Council. Proud of you, Jill! #WhoRunTheWorld?
Monkeys, genies, and a giant mechanical camel…how else would Jam City celebrate the launch of Genies & Gems? Cheers to the LA team!
Who knew Team Jam City could get so zen at the office? From in-office yoga sessions to 30 minute massages, Jam City makes sure our employees are relaxed and ready to take on the day! One of the many perks of working at Jam City!
“Be a warrior, not a worrier.”
Our CEO, Chris DeWolfe guest lectured at USC Marshall School of Business this past month to chat with students about entrepreneurial mindset, success, failure, fears, adversity, and getting out of your comfort zone. #FightOn! #Trojans
Recently, we let Built In LA get a sneak peek behind SGN doors to see where the magic happens. Read what Josh Yguado has to say about our new Culver City space here!
This past February, SGN took the opportunity to get involved in their local community and volunteered an afternoon to help clean up Ballona Creek.
More than 20 SGN-ers, including Chris DeWolfe and Joshua Yguado, joined the Ballona Creek Renaissance and the Culver City High School BCR Club to collect trash, recyclables, and hazardous waste that otherwise would have flowed down to the ocean directly, further harming our environment and wildlife. In less than two hours, the team collected over 135 pounds of trash!
For the SGN crew, it was educational to understand the link between the cigarette butt thrown onto the street and the trash that endangers fish, birds, and other aquatic animals. The cleanup is symbolic, representing just a tiny fraction of the trash in the creek, but it raises awareness.
Proud to be pioneering this new format with Snapchat!
Snapchat is getting closer to forking over the data that advertisers want, and the stats will be coming in the form of mobile app-install ads.
Today, a short video ad promoting SGN’s mobile game Cookie Jam is running within iHeartRadio’s Discover channel—the app’s hub of daily content from publishers. The promo is a shorter version of a 30-second commercial Cookie Jam created in September with actor Ken Jeong, who plays a giant cookie. Read the rest here!
Please welcome the newest member of the SGN family, Genies & Gems! It’s time to pump up the GEM for our newest match-3 puzzle game, Genies and Gems! Help Jenni the genie and her fox, Trix as they journey through mystical worlds, recovering lost relics, gold bars, and enchanted keys.
Download it from Google Play, iOS Store, or play on Facebook!
Great having USC Marshall School of Business’s top gaming talent over for a tour of SGN headquarters to learn about what we do (and to enjoy some snow cones)!
Have you ever wished you had better dance moves? Are you tired of being rhythmically-challenged? Well now’s your chance to star in the latest dance craze: The Cookie Crumble!
Check out our Cookie-A-Tizer starring Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum!
Don’t settle for just two-stepping and clapping along…cast yourself and another friend to show off your best techno dance moves in our very own Cookie-A-Tizer!
Cookie-A-Tize yourself here!
SGN shoes! This past month, Team SGN participates in the Shoes for the Homeless drive, a company that is committed to providing shoes to those in need, free of charge, in the Los Angeles communities. For more info on what this organization does, check out www.shoesforthehomeless.net.
During the Hour of Code week (December 7-13, 2015), engineers from SGN San Diego volunteered at Casita Center Elementary School to teach 4th and 5th graders about programming.
The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Their vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.
The engineers talked about their work on Cookie Jam and other games, and then walked through programming exercises on Code.org. They also helped the students work through Hour of Code exercises, teaching them about branching, looping, and other programming concepts.
Because you’re never too young to learn how to code! To learn more about #HourOfCode check out https://code.org/
Congrats to Cookie Jam for being listed as one of iTunes Best of 2015 Top Grossing Apps!
USC may be better known for its football team, but did you know that quite a few of SGN-ers are proud Trojans?
This past Wednesday, SGN was invited to represent at the USC School of Cinematic Arts Demo Day, an exhibition where students in the joint Advanced Games Course have the opportunity to premier their newest and most innovative games from the semester.
The games shown at Demo Day represented an incredible collaborative effort between the students from the Interactive Media & Games program, the Computer Science Games program, the Art and Music Schools, Animation program, and more.
SGN also represented that day at the career fair where we most likely would have taken the prize for most colorful and represented display booth…
We are super excited to welcome SGN Seattle (previously known as Fat Rascal) to the SGN family! The Fat Rascal team is a great cultural fit with SGN, and we couldn’t have asked for a stronger team to establish SGN’s presence in Seattle, a hotbed for gaming talent.
Fat Rascal was founded last year by a group of game-industry veterans, including alumni of development teams at Zynga, Electronic Arts, Microsoft and PopCap.
This past November, SGN partnered with Maker Studios to host a canned food drive for the LA Food Bank. We smashed our goal of collecting 400 pounds of food and ended up with almost 1,000 pounds of food collected!
For more info on LA Food Bank’s initiatives, check out: https://www.lafoodbank.org/
During the month of Movember (the month formerly known as November), SGN is excited to be a part of the Movember foundation, a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives.
So what is Movember? The Movember Foundation is a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising $650 million and funding over 1,000 programs focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity.
Team members from San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Diego, and Culver City banned together to form the SGN Soul Patches. And we’re going beyond just getting scruffy for the month – for the first time, SGN’s Mo Sistas (and our follicle-y challenged Mo Bros) are joining the cause by participating in the MOVE challenge.
SGN is excited for this campaign because it kicks off our Do Good initiative as a team. We have a lot of charities and fundraisers that we are going to be involved in down the pipeline, including:
The homeless conversation changes when it’s about kids – plain and simple.
A while back, I had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur and author Christopher Kai, who created “Mondays at the Mission” over 4 years ago, and on Monday, November 9th, I had the privilege of speaking at Mondays at the Mission for the second time.
Christopher gave us a short tour of the shelter before class started. Mondays at the Mission is the only homeless youth program of its kind at Union Rescue Mission, the largest private shelter in the U.S. The weekly career and life skills classes have helped hundreds of homeless students stay in school, find jobs, and attend college. He works incredibly hard to uplift and instill value in the lives of the countless young people who go in and out of these doors.
I was invited to come back and wanted to do something more creative with the kids this time. At SGN, we get to play games and make them all day – I’m lucky to be able to say that every day at work feels like play. It’s easy to say that in my position but I really believe it. I also believe that school and after school activities gives you a chance to explore what you are passionate about; whether it be football, art, or video games…when it feels like play instead of work, that’s when you become successful.
So enough with the “pep talk…” it was time to play some games! At SGN we do something between each of our studios called Game Jam session. Even the most creative people get a block sometimes and it’s a great opportunity for a diverse set of game developers to come together and prototype experimental ideas into playable games. Why not play a live action “game jam” to show the kids how it’s really done? We split up into three groups with me being the guest judge on best game. The kids were shown items from the mystery table, which included marshmallows, cards, dice, yarn, silly putty, and other random items. They had 15 minutes to come up with a new game to play using only two of the items from the table, then “pitch” me their new game idea. These kids were great – their enthusiasm to play and learn games was overwhelming.
It puts everything into perspective when you work all day in your office, then drive down to Skid Row, ground zero of our homeless epidemic. Kids are kids, wherever you are and we could stand to learn a lot from their resilience and optimism, even when their surroundings tell them otherwise. I have so much respect for everyone at Union Rescue Mission and Mondays at the Mission. Thank you for letting us be a part of such an incredible program with devoted volunteers!
If anyone is interested in volunteering, please visit their Facebook page or email Christopher Kai directly at Chris@christopherkai.com