Mobile game companies aren’t known for doing deep research into technology, but times are changing. Jam City has hired artificial intelligence expert Rami Sahadi and experimental psychologist Lisa Spano to be the anchors of a new research and development team at the Los Angeles mobile game publisher.
Josh Yguado, president and chief operating officer at Jam City, said in an interview with GamesBeat that it makes a lot of sense to bring aboard such researchers to help the company gain insights into consumers and innovate in mobile gaming, which has become a $40 billion market.
That sounds very odd for a company whose business includes games like Cookie Jam, Genies & Gems, and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. But this isn’t a parody born from a mobile game plot. Rather, it’s a recognition that the company, which has more than 500 employees and 50 million downloads a month, has entered into a new stage of its development. And staying on top of technology is important to its future, Yguado said.
Both new hires have doctorates, and they’re among 35 new employees that Jam City added in the first month of 2017.
“We grow by creating experiences that the 4 billion people around the globe with smartphones right now actually want,” said Chris DeWolfe, CEO of Jam City, in a statement. “But to do that, first you have to hear– and then make sense of– what they’re telling you. Lisa and Rami come from different backgrounds, but their combined work gives deep, nuanced ways our current and future games can be even better.”
Safadi will be Jam City’s senior vice president of artificial intelligence and data science. He has spent decades extending the human-like learning capabilities of software across multiple industries, including finance, chemistry, psychology and defense. Among other positions including founder and CEO of a 1990s-era mobile messaging firm, Safadi was also the decade-long CTO of Sakhr Software USA, the creator of pioneering real-time mobile translation software used by the United States government.
Safadi, an A.I. evangelist who believes that machine learning poses to radically reshape the way the world plays mobile games, will lead a team of engineers that he said will be “focused on leveraging data and maximizing fun for our players.”
Jam City has also named Spano as its vice president of consumer insights. Spano is a research psychologist whose career began in jury consulting before moving into gaming. An avid player of casual and board games, Spano comes to Jam City from Electronic Arts where she led its global research team as the director of mobile consumer insights between 2012 and 2016.
“My piece of the pie is the why behind data,” said Spano. “That means understanding our players’ motivations and creating games that uniquely surprise them.”
Created in 2010 by former MySpace co-founders Chris DeWolfe and Aber Whitcomb as well as former 20th Century Fox executive Josh Yguado, Jam City is the creator of 6 of the top 100 highest-grossing games across Apple’s and Google’s U.S. app stores. Jam City has studios in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Buenos Aires. Its games have been downloaded more than 800 million times.