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Mobile Gamers on the Move

Mobile game developer Hidden Variable recently moved to Glendale to take space in a renovated historical building that had once been a furniture warehouse. The company relocated last month to the Seeley building at Brand Boulevard and San Fernando Road as it outgrows its start-up phase and aims to expand its repertoire. Its first game, “Bag It,” is being downloaded by millions of players. Hidden Variable relocated from North Hollywood, where it had been for about 21 months and had grown from three employees to the nine it has today, according to Amos Marvel, chief operating officer and a co-founder of the company. In seeking a new office, the company wanted to be close to where employees live and to public transportation, Marvel said. The look and feel of the Seeley building also was a factor in the decision to take space there. “It has architectural features like exposed beams and brick walls that makes for a cool space to be in and fits in with the creative vibe of a video game company,” Marvel said. The Seeley building was built in 1925 and was modified in the 1940s when the Seeley family operated a furniture company there. The building had been vacant since the mid-1990s after the furniture company went out of business, although it had been used from time to time for filming. Hidden Variable is the first permanent tenant in the building. In addition to office suites, there are three work-live units and space on the ground floor for displaying artwork. New space The building falls within Glendale’s entertainment corridor, a 750-acre sector in and around San Fernando Road that includes within its borders Walt Disney Imagineering, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., KABC, Creative Capers Entertainment, and Hyperion Entertainment, Inc. Hidden Variable is a perfect match to be in the entertainment corridor and in the Seeley’s building in particular, said Sharon Garrett, a senior economic development coordinator. “The corridor is important not just in terms of job creation but in attracting companies that add a lot to the community,” Garrett said. Garrett met Marvel and the other principals from Hidden Variable in 2011 when she gave a presentation to the Los Angeles chapter of the International Game Developers Association on the benefits of being located in the city. Garrett took the Hidden Variable team around Glendale to scout locations for their move. The Seeley’s location stood out for its close proximity to downtown, a Metrolink station and freeways. Marvel said Hidden Variable is paying a comparable rent for 1,600 square feet in Glendale as it did for 900 square feet in North Hollywood. “For anybody looking to run a business the rates here are reasonable and a good value,” he said. Hidden Variable needed bigger quarters to accommodate three new employees it hired to develop new game titles, and soon, a future senior programmer. The follow up to “Bag It” will be released in March, Marvel said. ‘Bag It’ The video game industry is highly competitive and many startups don’t make it into their second year. An August 2011 report by market intelligence firm ABI Research projected that mobile gaming revenue would reach $16 billion by 2016 from $5 billion in 2011. The report attributed much of that increase to more in-game purchases by players. The report also cautioned that mobile gaming was “a risky hit-and-miss business” that will result in scores of failed attempts to catch the attention of consumers. Hidden Variable has its first game — based on the mundane everyday task of grocery shopping — to thank for its early success. “Bag It” is a combination of Tetris meets Toy Story. Players work through 50 levels to arrange groceries in a bag without crushing any of the items. The game has been downloaded 5.5 million times since its release in November 2011 and received a metacritic score of 93, putting it into the top 25 game titles of all time. The metacritic score aggregates multiple critics’ scores and then averages them out, Marvel said. The game also is one of the top downloads for the iPhone 5, he added. Multiple game play modes and the familiarity of grocery shopping make the game appealing to both adults and children. “You feel like you have prepared your whole life to play,” Marvel said. The game is available in seven foreign languages.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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