Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

Playfish is Hiring: Come Swim in Our Pond!

September 15, 2010

At Playfish, our mission is to change how the world plays games by creating more social and connected experiences. From our first game “Who Has the Biggest Brain?” to our most recent hit, “Madden NFL Superstars,” more than 250 million Playfish games have been installed and played by millions of people worldwide. It’s no surprise that the social gaming industry is exploding in growth and is here to stay!

But, success doesn’t happen over night. The major force behind Playfish’s creative, innovative and technical excellence is the outstanding team of artists, developers, engineers, product managers – the list goes on and on – who collectively create games that are consistently amongst the most acclaimed and popular on Facebook. And, we’re looking for more high energy, intelligent and motivated individuals with a “get it done” attitude to join the Playfish team!

If you thrive in positive and creative work environments that encourage ownership and autonomy, visit our job board here for available employment opportunities across all our offices in London, San Francisco, Beijing and Tromso, Norway.

But first, check out this fun video to hear first-hand from Playfishers about what it’s like to work at Playfish, the opportunities they’re given, and all the fun they have swimming amongst all the other Fishes in the pond! Click here to see the video!

Take a VIP Tour of Hotel City with Stian Hansen

April 1, 2010

This week we take another exclusive look at Hotel City. We spent a few minutes with Stian Hansen, the game’s producer, to find out what it was like to bring Playfish’s latest game to life.

Hi Stian. Let’s start with your role in Hotel City.  Is it fair to call you the “proprietor”?
Hi everyone. Yes, I suppose it would be fair to call me that. But my official title at Playfish is producer. I’m responsible for all aspects of Hotel City, from the concept to getting the game launched, and ensuring the game is packed with all the fun and social features our players expect. In my role I work with a wide range of people at Playfish, which is really cool.

How did the idea for Hotel City come about?
Since everyone at Playfish is involved in making our games, the hotel management theme came up quite a few times. After putting the idea down on paper and getting some feedback, it really felt like the beginnings of a fun and very social game. When players see the name of the game I believe they’ll understand right away what this game is about, namely building and running your own hotel. We’ve managed to make it very easy to get in to. In fact, my 4 year old son got to play it during development and he absolutely loves it!

What’s the aim of the game?
Hotel City is about building and decorating your very own hotel. You’ll need employees, so you hire your friends. Your guests want to enjoy their stay at your hotel, so you can build them fun rooms that include a swimming pool, a restaurant, arcade, and many other fun things. It’s entirely up to you! I can’t wait to see what cool hotels are created by our players.

That sounds fun! How about a cool Hotel City tip?
I would suggest not spending all your money on just one thing.  Hotel guests can be pretty demanding, so I recommend listening to them and the watching the speech bubbles that pop up. Those will give you plenty of direction.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of creating Hotel City?
Narrowing down the amount of features in the game, for sure. When people play the game they’re inspired and come up with all these fun things they’d like to see in the game. Filtering out the best ideas and deciding what goes into the first version of the game is tricky and you don’t get a second chance of doing that once the game is live. Of course, we’ll keep adding things, but we wanted to give players some really great features to play with in their first session so that they can start having fun straight away.

What’s been the most fun aspect of creating Hotel City?
Honestly, the whole thing has been one big joyride, even to watch the game develop. The Hotel City team is so full of energy and good spirits and that shows in the game. I keep hearing how Hotel City is the Big Buzz in our other studios right now, and that really is a great inspiration to me and the team.

Will you be adding any new features to Hotel City in the next few weeks and months?
Now that the game is live, we’ll dive right into adding more features. We’ve got small and big features planned – they all go very naturally with the hotel theme of the game. There will be something for those who play the game for the decorating fun and something for those who enjoy the more strategic managing and building aspects. Keep your eyes on the fan page for updates!

What’s your hotel called?
During development I came up with a new name for every time I played the game, but one day my creativity ran out and I got stuck with the name from the day before. It’s simply “Asda Hotel”.

Who have you hired as staff in your hotel?
That’s the fun thing about Hotel City – it’s a small twist on the concept of hiring friends in Restaurant City. You’re not really in control of who gets to work at your hotel. You post up an ad on your wall letting your friends know that you are hiring, and the first of your friends to click the link gets the job! It’s going to be a race to get there first because, as a bonus, your friends will receive coins for working at your hotel and can collect bags of coins from you every time you run a shift. There’s a bonus for you when your friends work at your hotel, too, as temporary staff are more expensive per shift, whereas your friends are far cheaper to employ!

Any final words?

Yes – a big thank you to all of our fans who have already started playing Hotel City! Don’t forget to check out our fan page and the forums for the latest updates from Hotel City. We love hearing your suggestions so please keep them coming in!

Playfish Opens its Doors to the City by the Bay

March 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago Ken Ward provided some insight about what it’s like to work for Playfish and, in particular, our London studio. This week we’re following up with a conversation with Dan Fiden, who joined Playfish as General Manager of the newly opened San Francisco development studio.

For readers attending the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week, Dan will be speaking on panels at the Flash Gaming Summit, Monday, March 8, and VCON on Wednesday, March 10. Stop by and say hello to Dan if you’re there!

Hi Dan, how’re you doing?
I’m good, thanks! I’ve just got back from lunch, actually. Had a really great sandwich from a nice Italian place down the street.

Awesome. So would you let our readers know what do you do at the San Francisco studio?
I’m managing the studio in San Francisco and taking care of all of our staff’s needs as we expand our offices here, but I’m also doing a little bit of everything, really. We’re expanding fast so I’m interviewing lots of candidates for studio roles here – engineers, artists, producers, product managers – all of whom will be creating social games. I’m even doing a bit of games design in the background.

If you’re interested in working for Playfish, check out our job postings.

Talk about variety – sounds like you’re a jack of all trades!
It’s fun.  I look forward to getting into the office every day. The location is super cool down on the waterfront near the San Francisco bay bridge.  It’s one big open loft space – everyone’s always around. We take plenty of breaks to goof around and crank up the music, chill out in between lots of hard work. I’ve been to Playfish’s London studio too, and it’s the same there. Here, of course, at lunch, we get to walk around the bay. One of the nice things about being at Playfish is the positive atmosphere that is so collaborative; there’s a strong feeling of everyone working toward the same goal.  Everyone has a voice in the creation of games too.

What excites you the most about getting into the office each day?
We’re just getting started on building some amazing game teams. We’ve already got an enormous amount to talent here.  There’s lots of brainstorming and ideas coming from all around the studio. That’s one of my favorite aspects and it’s a really fun part of the game creation process and we encourage everyone to pitch in. We just throw ideas on to the whiteboard and imagine how various ideas would work in a game.

You mentioned you’re interviewing people. What kind of person are you looking to hire?
Above all, they’ve gotta be passionate about games, about making games and making really good games. They’ve really got to love games to do that well – it’s the single greatest criteria in my mind. It’s important that the people we hire enjoy the creative and collaborative environment we have here. The creative process is social – just like our games.

What’s your kind of game?
This is going to sound corny, but honestly, social games – the kind of game where the crowd gets involved and people are shouting to their friends about it in the background. Games people want to huddle around and poke their nose in. Those bring about great memories and are so much fun. That’s what Playfish games are like, too.

What final thoughts would you like to leave us with?
Just a great big thanks to our players! Keep talking to us through the forums and on our fan pages. We enjoy your feedback and love integrating your ideas into our games whenever possible.  We hope you continue to enjoy Playfish games!

A letter to our fans.

February 11, 2010
You may have noticed the little drop down banner that appeared on our website a while ago that announced we were hiring. We still are! New faces are always popping up in all the Playfish studios and becoming part of our fish tank. Ken Ward is the “Go-To” guy for all things recruitment at Playfish and here’s what he wanted to say to all of our readers. Enjoy. 🙂

Hi everyone,

When I heard that our company blog was looking for people to write for it, I  couldn’t wait to jump in there and tell you all about how exciting it is that we’re hiring. My name is Ken Ward and I lead the recruiting team at Playfish.  Officially they call what I do ‘Talent Acquisition’ – and that’s not too far from the truth.

We have a great team spread over four studios – London, San Francisco, Norway and Beijing – on three continents, dedicated to hiring the best and brightest talent to join our fishbowl. If you’re wondering how many people we’re hiring, let me put it this way: sometimes I come in on a Monday and think I have walked into the wrong office because there are so many new faces! I know we have found the right people to work for Playfish though when I look around and see everyone huddling together and talking about new ideas and the things they love. What’s even more amazing is that we truly are representative of the United Nations, with staff at all of our offices coming from every corner of the world, all of them working together enthusiastically.

I’ve recruited in many different environments in my career, including banking (it’s on the CV and that’s where it’s staying), and Playfish is a joy to recruit for and by far the most enjoyable. It’s a truly creative and fun environment and, as we expand, it’s super important to maintain that essence as we grow… and it’s a real challenge I enjoy squaring up to.

We focus on giving Playfishers all the tools they need to do their jobs – from providing great equipment and talented colleagues to work with, to an excellent office environment that is inviting to walk into every morning – though I’m still not quite sure where the huge orange space hopper appeared from…!

We’ve got a great variety of positions open at Playfish right now. We’re focused on getting technically gifted Java programmers, super creative game developers, talented artists and excellent product managers, amongst a variety of other positions. It’s really important that people looking to join us have a passion for what we (and ultimately, they) do. At Playfish, we all feel part of the creative process, which is just one of the things that makes it such an awesome place to work. Absolutely everyone in our company is actively encouraged  to make suggestions for new games, new features… and of course everyone has to play our games – a very important part of the gaming development process! 😉

So we’re looking for creative, fun people, dedicated to changing the way people play and enjoy games. Easy, huh? People like that do exist! I should know – I work with them every day. 🙂

I’ve been so impressed with how we connect the offices in such a global environment. The vision is consistent from office to office and it was so cool last year to meet colleagues from all around the world at our annual meeting, Fishbowl 2009, sharing ideas and helping to drive the company forward. Our leadership team (that’s Kristian Segerstrale, Sebastian de Halleux and company to you and me) are instrumental in driving and supporting this connectivity, and our people, regardless of location, really feel at the heart of things. We share videos from each office at our monthly meetings which is a great way of keeping in touch but we also use a whole myriad of communication tools like instant messaging, VOIP calls as well as other more traditional forms such as email and just huddling together over a coffee in our office breakout areas to talk about exciting new possibilities.

Playfish really is a play hard, work hard culture (in that order!), and we’re focused on helping Playfishers achieve their best by maintaining a fun environment for them to create in. It’s evident in the way the office is made as comfortable for staff as possible – simple things like our Monday Brekkies where everyone has breakfast together the first morning back to the office to catch up after the weekend, to those monthly video diaries I mentioned earlier, where we all get together toward the end of every month and enjoy a party with everyone in the office for no reason other than to have fun and enjoy each other’s company! That’s the focus of our day: to create games that our players can enjoy, and to have as much fun as possible doing it! You could say that we hold ‘creativity’ and ‘fun’ as sacred at Playfish. 🙂

I feel very lucky to be here and to be one of the people helping Playfish to grow, not only in size, but in its ability to do what it does – for you, our players – better. And if after reading this you think you can help us to make great social games, too, I’m inviting you to jump right into the tank and let us know!

If you daydream about working at Playfish, check out our careers page or email careers@playfish.com.

We’re combining forces with EA!

November 9, 2009

We at Playfish are proud to announce that we are joining the Electronic Arts family, one of the most successful games companies in the world. Read the full press release in our press section for the official announcement.

playfish and ea

Needless to say we’re very excited about the increased resources and scale that this brings to Playfish and ultimately to our players. We can’t wait to start exploring social versions of some of the well-loved franchises that this combination brings to us. We also look forward to being able to bring our games to more platforms and more players around the world with the help of our new friends! So this is an exciting time for all of us at Playfish.

A huge thanks to all our players for all your support. Please keep your feedback on our games coming and stay tuned for even bigger and more exciting things in the future!

playfish and ea together

Thanks for the support in 2008!

December 17, 2008

bloggers choice award peoples choice award

What a way to end a great year! Thank you all for taking the time to vote for us in the 2nd Annual Mashable Open Web Awards.

It was great to be nominated in the Online Games category, but to go on and win both the Blogger’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award was a huge deal for us, especially against such strong competition.

Thank you again for all your support, not just during the awards but over the whole year. We hope you’ve had as much fun playing our games as we’ve had making them! We can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned next!

What does the 3G iPhone mean for social games?

June 10, 2008

Like thousands of fellow geeks, we were glued to our screens yesterday for Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote, in which he unveiled the 3G iPhone and talked about iPhone games and the related App Store. Naturally, we have some thoughts on what it all means for social games, and us as a company.

The 3G iPhone’s combination of usability, fast network access and its large touchscreen have huge potential for casual gaming. Add to that the emotional component of playing to beat your real-world friends instead of just playing games to kill time, and you wonder if there’s a better handheld game platform around!

There are challenges to getting social games onto the iPhone, but they’re more likely to be commercial than technical. Getting something to run fast enough on the handset won’t be an issue, and Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect should make accessing people’s friend lists straightforward. The challenge will be getting the open internet commercial model to translate into an environment (iPhone/iTunes) where an upfront payment model is more standard.

Both browser-based and downloadable social games will be possible on iPhone, although downloadable games will offer the better user experience. However, whether games are browser based or downloadable isn’t so relevant to the consumer – the more significant point is how consumers will pay for games in the future, and thus what the overall user experience will be.

Mobile has traditionally been a pay-per-download environment for games, and anything aside from that (and some limited subscription models) has struggled to take off. However, online games companies like Sulake (Habbo Hotel), Nexon (Maple Story) and others have shown that web-based models using micro transactions supported by advertising can be compelling for consumers, and profitable for game publishers.

As an open internet device, the iPhone should be capable of both models, so it’ll be interesting to see which takes hold over time.

And as for Playfish? We’re already a registered iPhone developer and we’re constantly watching the space. Having built a mobile games company previously, we still believe that mobile is the future mass market entertainment platform. However, rather than growing through the closed digital retail environments of network operators, we believe mobile will be just another access method to the open internet in the future.

Social games are the most engaging form of casual gaming online, and we believe that will translate to mobile – including iPhone – in the long run. It’s just a matter of time…

Facebook’s stricter app regulations are a good thing!

May 7, 2008

There’s some interesting data over on the 20bits blog, showing how the level of activity in the Facebook developers forum has been declining since the start of this year. There are 27% less active users now than there were in January on the developer forums, spurring fears that developers are abandoning the platform.

Apparently this decline is reflected in activity on the Facebook platform itself – apparently applications launched in early January were on average 1.5 times more successful than apps launched at the end of March.

Both VentureBeat and The Equity Kicker suggest that Facebook’s stricter regulation of applications may be part of the reason, as the site places more restrictions on how applications can interact with users. However, the latter blog points out that “the bull case for Facebook is that their actions have cut out low quality applications and that developer activity will rise again as they start producing better content”.

That’s certainly a view we share. As a games company creating high production-value games for social networks, we see stricter moderation of the platform as a good thing. It will help reduce noise for consumers, and get them to focus on the applications they enjoy using.

Over time, there is clearly an incentive for social networks like Facebook to support the kind of applications which help them achieve their goals – distribution, retention, time spent on the site and monetisation, for example – over applications that ‘game’ the system, and reduce user satisfaction through excessive spam or other questionable features.

We haven’t really seen an impact on our own numbers from Facebook’s recent changes. We just launched a new game, Word Challenge, and reached 100,000 players in less than a week. Meanwhile, our first title, Who Has The Biggest Brain?, is still going strong with more than 2.5 million players.

So, the Facebook platform is maturing, which is a good thing for users and developers should be thinking harder about how to add value to it. Facebook’s approach to building its platform has been very thoughtful to date, and this just seems the next natural step in its evolution.

Besides, if you’ve developed games on traditional platforms, you’ll know that the platform providers are far more restrictive about publishing for their system. By comparison, things are still pretty good on Facebook!

Activision CEO says Facebook is a threat to games – we think it’s an opportunity

April 25, 2008

We were interested to read comments yesterday from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, in which he suggests that “figuring out how to make the game experience more fun than any one of a hundred Facebook applications is going to be a challenge”. Not least because they come hot on the heels of views expressed by EA’s Kathy Vrabeck earlier this month on the impact of social networking – “Many of the games we make in 2020 won’t look like games and maybe won’t even be called games”.

These two separate comments show the dilemma faced by the games industry when it looks at the emerging social games market. Is it a threat to ‘traditional’ gaming, or an opportunity? Social games are certainly providing competition for people’s attention, if not a significant part of their monetary spend yet. But It’s surprising that Kotick sees it as a threat rather than a growth opportunity.

Everyone talks about the successes of the Guitar Hero franchise (14M+ units sold) and the Wii (25M+ units sold) as evidence of successfully broadening the appeal of games. But even these still require a substantial investment in game specific hardware. The games industry has so far only paid lip service to the tens of millions of players who may not buy game specific hardware but who do spend a lot of time hanging out on social networks playing games with friends. And many of the games they play have so far been pretty basic in terms of presentation and design – surely a great opportunity for companies who year in year out produce tens of titles of high production values for other platforms.

Of course, as we have experienced ourselves, getting into social games from traditional games is challenging for lots of reasons. You need to code in Flash, which a lot of game developers frown at. You have to think and operate like an MMO publisher, in the way you’re not just creating games, you’re maintaining and optimizing them over time, too. You have to “design backwards” for social interaction rather than solitary enjoyment. And of course, micro-transactions or advertising driven business models are very different from (and potentially incompatible with) getting people to pay upfront for boxed games.

Still, whether they see it as an opportunity or threat, the ‘traditional’ games industry will react to the social games phenomenon sooner or later. It will be interesting to see what form that reaction will take!

Fake Facebook reviews aren’t such a big problem

April 11, 2008

We love the app review system on Facebook. It’s one of those things that makes the social games space so different from traditional video games. Forget cosying up to review sites and journalists to get the all-important reviews to fuel the distribution of your boxed product: on Facebook, you get this from users posting their scores.

What happens when those user reviews are fake, though? There’s a lot of discussion around this issue at the moment – as shown by this post on the allfacebook blog – while Facebook has reiterated that “application developers cannot trade positive reviews or collude with others to post, incentivize, or otherwise ‘game’ the posting of negative or positive reviews”.

There’s also discussion around spam, where a proportion of reviews are actually adverts for external sites. We’ve seen the latter with Who Has The Biggest Brain?, where out of the 100 most recent reviews, around nine are spam, hardly making an impact on its average score (4.5 out of 5 from around 900 user reviews). There are applications out there with high amounts of reviews from mysterious people with only one or two friends on Facebook, but over time those should be easy to detect and root out.

No game review system is perfect – it’s either influenced by relationships, ad-spend or, as in this case, inadequacies in the spam/fraudulent review filters. However, Facebook has been very thoughtful about this area, staying cautious in giving reviews much of a weighting in its system until the feature is more mature. In the meantime, user reviews are giving us great feedback in a quantitative form, complementing the comments we get on the forums.


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