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May 3, 2018

21-year-old project manager heads Google’s new social gaming startup

by John_A

Google is looking to expand further into video game development with the launch of a new internal startup company dubbed “Arcade.” Founded and co-owned by 21-year-old Google project manager Michael Sayman, the company’s efforts will be focused on social gaming for mobile devices.

Arcade is part of the startup-focused Area 120 division within Google, and its first game is schedule to arrive this summer with “some elements of a trivia game,” according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg was told by a Google spokesperson that Arcade is still in its infancy, and with a summer release window for its first title, it points to something relatively small.

Google’s experience with game development is extremely limited, with the company’s chief game designer resigning from his position after growing frustrated with his superiors’ disinterest in actually creating a video game. Pokémon Go studio Niantic Labs originally under Google’s umbrella, as well, releasing the location based game Ingress before becoming independent and using the technology to produce its smash-hit AR game, Pokémon Go. Niantic is currently working on a similar game based on the Harry Potter franchise, as well.

With Sayman leading Arcade, however, Google has a capable game creator in charge. While still in high school, Sayman released the photo-based game 4 Snaps, which tasked players with guessing a word based on pictures their friends sent them. The game ended up landing him an internship at Facebook, where he worked before jumping ship and heading to Google.

Google would be wise to avoid the mistakes made by Amazon in game development. The latter company acquired the studio Double Helix, hired a wealth of creative talent from across the industry, and began developing the multiplayer brawling game Breakaway, but the project was canceled after it received a mixed reception in early testing. Two games are still in development at Amazon Game Studios — the third-person multiplayer shooter Crucible and the open-world MMO New World, but big-name designers like Kim Swift and Clint Hocking have since left Amazon and gone back to more established development teams.

It remains to be seen if Arcade will share this fate, but setting its sights on a small-scale project to begin with is likely a smart decision.

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