Kuju's social games studio Zoe Mode is to open a new US office in San Francisco next month, with the hiring of Sarah Stocker and Mark Danks, both veterans from Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Intending to grow to a full team of 20 by the end of the year, Zoe Mode US will act as a point of contact for North American partners as well as becoming a full-time development studio concentrating on new projects.
"In addition to the increasingly crowded singing and dancing, peripheral-based music games, we are interested in exploring some new territory," revealed Ed Daly, worldwide general manager for Zoe Mode, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz.
"We have various IPs in development, new IPs that we're working on at the studio which we're talking to publishers about and getting into production. They're still games aimed at a mainstream audience or new type of gamer, but they're not the in-the-room party games which are becoming more commonplace," he added.
"We have a great ability to join up with the Zoe studios in Brighton and London for co-development, to bring in all the processes that have worked so well for them to bring them into the new studio infrastructure," offered Stocker, who was responsible for launching the SingStar brand for Sony in the US.
"And having been in the games industry for so long we have a really good network of people that we've always wanted to bring in and work together with."
"It's going to be a full-on development studio with its own development staff but one of the things that will work is that we'll be able to have a real presence for Zoe Mode in San Francisco and on the West Coast to meet with publishing partners as well."
Danks also joins the studio from Sony, and has held senior positions at Electronic Arts and Stormfront Studios.
"Right now we're putting together a core team of about ten people and then we're planing to grow out by 20 by the end of the year. But we're focusing on quality, not quantity," he detailed. "We want to have the right people and grow at a pace that allows us to have a focus on the games."
Kuju Entertainment, parent of the Zoe Mode studio, has recently reduced head count across its development teams, but the new outfit is confident there are now more opportunities in the market despite economic pressures.
"It's a challenging time, but with that comes great opportunity," commented Stocker. "To be able to to open a studio and bring in talent when others are doing the opposite really allows us to move forward into spaces with teams that otherwise we may not be able to."
Danks added: "I think it's an indicator of the strength of Zoe Mode and Kuju that we're able to do this. It's definitely a difficult time for a lot of the publishers and developers, but we're very excited that we're able to expand and grow right now."