At Kixeye, serious games made by serious gamers (pictures)
The browser, and now mobile-based, game developer is a fast-growing force in the industry, infusing a traditionally low-brow model with the passion and craft of serious gamers.
The waiting room at Kixeye's headquarters on Bush Street in downtown San Francisco.
Just two years ago, the company had just rebranded, changing its name from Casual Collective. Now it has more than 500 employees, a slew of international offices, and last year it posted its first nine-figure revenue.
The company now commands five floors of the building, filling every corner not taken up by a computer with memorabilia and old-school arcade machines.
Kixeye fashioned its company site, including the bios and photos of each top executive, after a supervillain's underground lair. It went one step further when designing its new headquarters in downtown San Francisco by turning the elevator waiting room into an ominous hallway filled with glowing red lights that employees call the Kixeye Death Star.
Not only does the room resemble something out of an amusement park ride's themed interior, but it blasts military-oriented sound bites through large speakers overhead, making getting off the elevator with unsuspecting riders a comical activity.
At its previous office, Kixeye would get visits from what were described as "super passionate players." Because the elevators opened directly onto the main office floor and visitors were eager to talk to CEO Will Harbin and various Kixeye producers, the company deemed the situation a security risk.
That's why a fully armed guard now mans the elevators and checks in and out everyone who comes through Kixeye's space.
"Mobile is not the end all of be all to gaming platforms, which is why we're still doing browser and PC download," CEO Will Harbin admits, "because there are certain genres that will not work and there are certain genres that we simply want to make because we want to play them."
Backyard Monsters, originally released in 2009 as a tower defense Facebook game, became a massive hit and established Kixeye, then called Casual Collective, as a gaming startup with massive potential.
Two years later -- after a rebranding of the company to Kixeye -- and Backyard Monsters is still a hit, with millions of monthly active users. It's become the company's flagship title, and its first mobile game for iOS. It's also the subject of many of the company's in-house toys and trophies.