SGN Announces Six Gaming Veteran Hires, The Great Industry Migration Continues

Social Gaming NetworkWhile Facebook and other parts of its developer ecosystem are busy hiring people from companies like Google and Yahoo, leading social gaming companies are now depleting the ranks of established gaming companies. SGN is the latest to announce some big hires, including EA and LucasArts vet Randy Breen as its chief operating officer. He’s charged with bringing the company’s iPhone-heavy product lineup across key social gaming platforms like Facebook and MySpace.

Overall, SGN’s headcount has reached nearly 100 people between its Palo Alto headquarters and other offices. One in three iPhones has a game installed on it; 24 percent of all iPhones and iPod touches have iBowl alone. The company isn’t disclosing revenue numbers, but here’s one example of how it is doing: Its jet fighter game, F.A.S.T., has sold, more than 400,000 copies.

Breen joined EA in 1986 and spent producing seminal franchises like Road Rash (I certainly played that game growing up), Indie 500, and the Bond series (ditto). He spent the last five years as EA’s Executive Producer and Creative Director before he moved to LucasArts Entertainment in 2000. As its Vice President of Product Development, he produced 25 titles including Indiana Jones, and the Star Wars line. From 2005 until earlier this year, he was the Chief Product Officer at Emotiv, a company that makes a headset capable of reading electrical signals in your brain and interpreting them into actions in a video game.

At SGN, he’ll have a wide array of responsibilities, including game production as well as business development and finance. I interviewed him about his job yesterday at the company headquarters, a three-story office on El Camino road in Palo Alto, close to Facebook’s own offices — an area that has seen a surge of social game developers in the last couple of years. Breen feels the same way as a lot of other veterans about social gaming. He said he could see structural problems in the traditional gaming industry as far back as when he left LucasArts in 2004. Like music labels or Hollywood, the industry had grown focused on making big hits instead of experimenting more with smaller titles. Costs have continued to increase as each new cycle of games and gaming platforms became more complicated, with some games costing more than $60 million to make. These games have to sell millions of copies to even pay the bills.

Social gaming, of course, is far cheaper, with plenty of one or two-man outfits building games that can get hundreds of thousands of users, introduce significant virtual goods payment systems, and start making money. Sometimes people can pull this off in a matter of weeks or a month or two.

Breen, and the other vets packed into SGN’s bustling offices, are hoping to take social gaming to the next level. SGN has already been looking at introducing cross-platform games, and already has (fluff)friends on not just Facebook and the iPhone, but MySpace. But the plan is more complex than porting games from one place to another. When I spoke with him and chief executive Shervin Pishevar yesterday, they mapped out a vision for a game like F.A.S.T., for example, where you could play the action part of the game on your iPhone, and play an interconnected strategic jet-fighting game on Facebook — same gaming world, same user identity, score, etc. — but different parts of the game in different places. Monetization comes from selling virtual goods and other feature, as well as selling games on the iPhone.

Other recent gaming hires include:

Randy Angle, Director of Game Design. He’s helped build and often led design and creative work for more than 60 titles, including: Star Trek, LEGO, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, Spiderman, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants.