Kixeye expands to British Columbia, appoints former Zynga director as GM

San Francisco-based social game developer Kixeye opened a studio in Victoria, British Columbia this week, appointing former Zynga Director of Development Clayton Stark as general manager.

Prior to joining Kixeye, Stark had worked on developing and restarting the 8.0 browser for Netscape and was the CTO and VP of Engineering at Flock, a company that developed a social game browser that was later acquired by Zynga. After the acquisition, Stark became the social game giant's director of development.

"I certainly wouldn't say that Zynga isn't creative, though — they basically created the social games industry."

Speaking to Polygon, Stark says that the transition from Zynga to Kixeye has been relatively smooth and, despite the two companies being publicly critical of each other, he holds some diplomatic views on where both companies stand.

"Zynga gets a lot of criticism from many different sources — Kixeye doesn't hold some sort of patent on calling them out," Stark says. "They serve a mass market and the games are more of a commodity than many other gaming company's products.

"I certainly wouldn't say that Zynga isn't creative, though — they basically created the social games industry, or at least made it the mass-market phenomenon it became. But I also get the specific criticism. The break out hit Words With Friends is basically Scrabble, isn't it? And it was published as a result of an acquisition. FarmVille came after FarmTown. We all know the story and I hardly think it was first brought to light by Kixeye."

Under Stark's management, Kixeye's Canadian studio will focus on developing a platform for games, drawing on his experience developing for Netscape and Flock. He tells Polygon that the expansion to Victoria gives Kixeye access to more talent and allows the studio to take advantage of the growing technology hub and talented developers in the region.

"Plus we're a bunch of overly-polite Canadians, so that helps to create a supportive team environment."

Stark will also have the job of managing the new studio's culture. After Kixeye's San Francisco studio faced accusations of a culture of harassment and racism earlier this year, Stark tells Polygon that the team he is assembling will be a cohesive one, which will hopefully avoid some of the problems the San Francisco studio faced.

"The culture is about execution — [it's about] talented people innovating and shipping great products. That's what the people we're assembling call fun," he says. "We're in a fortunate spot, as many of the people on the team have worked together before, some in as many as three companies before Kixeye. These deep relationships give us a head start on building a cohesive team.

"Plus we're a bunch of overly-polite Canadians, so that helps to create a supportive team environment."

Kixeye Canada is the company's second expansion outside of the U.S. Kixeye Australia was formed earlier this year in Brisbane.

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