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San Diego studios are leading the way in the new gaming age



The latest projections from PwC indicate that the gaming industry could be worth in excess of $320 billion by the year 2026. That’s more than double the sum the movie and music industries generate put together! Today, gaming is a mass market activity, and to describe the average gamer is as impossible – or as easy – a task as describing the average TV viewer. That is to say, you might equally look in the mirror or at a passer-by in the street.

The comparison with TV viewing is not an idle one. With gaming now having such a wide audience, the nature of games is as varied as the different TV shows you can see playing across the various networks.

The continuing growth of the industry is driving game studios to keep pushing the envelope harder and harder. This is an industry in which the small indie studios can still have just as much of an impact with a title that hits the big time as the big global names. There is a great mixture of both big and small game developers right here in San Diego. Here are some of the local companies that are playing a crucial role in developing the games that enthusiasts crave and also designing the innovative features that will drive the industry forward over the coming months.

High Moon Studio – FPS pioneers

Originally launched more than 20 years ago as a subsidiary of the Japanese game company Sammy Studios, High Moon was born as a result of a management buy out when Sammy was acquired by SEGA, who looked to divest its US operations. The company switched seamlessly from reworking Japanese games for the US market to developing its own titles, the first of which was Darkwatch, a classic first person shooter.

Based in beautiful Carlsbad, a short drive north of San Diego, the developer went on to contribute towards the creation of other seminal titles like Call of Duty and Transformers.

Namazu Studio – the casino and interactive experts

No gaming niche develops and evolves as quickly as the real money online casino sector. Whether they are playing slots, traditional table games or the latest live casino offerings, all US casino players want the fastest payout online casinos so that when they get lucky they can get hold of their winnings without delay. Namazu is one of the leading developers in the online casino arena, and is at the forefront of developing new AR and VR experiences.

Based in Mission Valley East, Namazu’s small but dedicated team has also worked with some blue chip clients like Verizon and IKIN Inc to develop novel gamification applications.

San Diego Studio – delivering American sporting classics

This sports game developer was formed in 2001, the result of a merger between 989 Sports and Red Zone Interactive. As the primary US studio for Sony Interactive, this is where some of America’s most popular and enduring sports games were born, including the NBA series of games from NBA 2005 to NBA 09 plus the massively popular MLB: The Show.

Other successful titles from this Sorrento Valley studio that you might have played include High Velocity Bowling, the Sports Champions series and LittleBigPlanet Karting.

Empty Clip – the birthplace of indie classics

We mentioned earlier that there is room in the market for all sizes of game studio. Here’s one that doesn’t have any affiliation with the gaming giants but still turns out some memorable and unique games. Empty Clip is based in downtown San Diego and was the brainchild of local tech entrepreneurs Francois Bertrand and Matt Shores.

The studio was one of the first to see the gaming potential of smartphones and developed some of the first iPhone games, including Groovin’ Blocks and Glow. But perhaps their best-known game is the classic Windows shoot-em-up, Symphony.

Fastest Digital – the new arrival is a multiple award winner

San Diego has a great tradition of nurturing game developers, one that goes back to the early years of video gaming. But it is a story that continues to evolve. Fastest Digital didn’t even exist two years ago, but since its launch in late 2021, the company’s animators and designers have already won several industry awards.

The studio is firmly focused on developing games for iOS and Android platforms using a blend of hybrid and native software. It’s a logical focus given that the mobile sector now represents more than 50 percent of the entire market.

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