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The Gamasutra 20: 2008's Breakthrough Developers

August 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 21 Next

Gamasutra 20 'Breakthrough' Honoree:


Studio overview

Based in Manhattan since it was founded in 2005, developer area/code works with a variety of clients to build games - often PC and web-based - that interact with the real world and operate on a large scale.

The company has also worked on a manifesto for what it calls 'Big Games', with projects it's aided on including real-life arcade recreation PacManhattan.

Key staff

Frank Lantz is the company's creative director and one of its cofounders; he previously worked at developer Gamelab, the creators of Diner Dash and other notable casual titles. Lantz teaches courses in game design at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, the School of Visual Arts, and the New School.

Resume highlights

While area/code's business model of making games to promote products for its clients brings criticism from those who consider it too commercial, the studio brings games to a population that doesn't necessarily consider itself gamers.

Its titles break down the boundaries of what is considered the game space by making games that respond to and interact with the real world.

Parking Wars, a Facebook game that the studio developed to promote a new show by client A&E, proved wildly popular, with 400,000 people signing up in two months. Another title, Sharkrunners, promoted Discovery Channel's 20th Anniversary of Shark Week by having a game where the shark movements in game were determined by the actions of real sharks out in the ocean.

The company also created an addictive puzzle game to tie in with a Numb3rs TV show episode that featured an evil game designer, among other notable titles.

What's next

The team's most recent project, a cell phone game developed for client Puma based around the Euro 2008 Championship, has just wrapped up in Europe.

Our take

"Area/code is forging its way through a segment of the industry challenged by blurry boundaries -- are they "games?" "Experiences?" Social activities, advertisements? Put simply, Parking Wars enervated a nation of non-gamers to "play online," but it remains to be seen where area/code will land when this tectonic shift among games and "new media" settle out.

As "the space" -- whichever space it is -- swells with new venture-funded start-ups trying to catch the wave of viral fever, the novelty of innovations such as area/code's may soon wear off on its audience of everyday consumers.

But it's a safe bet that the ability to adapt, innovate and stay ahead of the curve that Area/code has demonstrated to date will continue to help it maintain relevance and energize audiences even when the me-too bubble eventually bursts."
- Leigh Alexander

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 21 Next

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