SGN Games is gone and Jam City is here, as the mobile game company rebrands itself. The 500-person company with games include Cookie Jam, Panda Pop, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff and Marvel Avengers Academy also announced that it has acquired rights to comic strip Peanuts, which will be released as a mobile game later this year.
Explaining his company’s rebrand on the company blog, Jam City co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe said that the new name, combined with its recently licensed Hollywood franchises, will help power his mobile gaming company to its next phase of growth. “It’s time to bring our brand in line with our games,” said DeWolfe. “We’re in the business of fun, and yet our old name was a corporate acronym that lacked the spirit of our products. With Jam City, we’re harnessing the success of our games—particularly, our Jam game franchise—to animate our studio’s identity.”
Co-founder, COO and president of Jam City Josh Yguado spoke exclusively with [a]listdaily about the rebranding, the Peanuts license, and the company’s plans for the future.
Why rebrand the company, and why now?
We’ve been talking about it for years, and we’re finally pulling the trigger and making it happen. We never loved the SGN name. I think we owe our success to the popularity of our games, not the three-letter corporate acronym that represented our company for so long. We’re certainly grateful for how far our name got us until now. We’re trying to harness the popularity of our core, most successful product, particularly the Jam game franchise, to power our corporate identity. Plus, we like to think of ourselves as a fun company. We thrive by bringing fun into people’s day, and we wanted our company name to reflect that and be memorable.
Was it difficult to choose the right name for the company?
It’s actually funny because we went through an informal process of talking about the idea of changing our name, and one of the very first names we came up with was Jam City. It just felt right. But then we thought, in order to be responsible we should go through a full process with consultants, an analysis of the market, and everything else. After about a year of deep diving and analysis we ultimately said forget it, let’s go with our gut and go with what feels authentic and right to us—and for us that was Jam City.
What impact does this rebrand have on your marketing efforts?
Honestly, I don’t think the brand change is going to change much at all. I think the brand itself reflects basically what we’ve already been doing. We’re going to be doubling down on our current strategy, which is carefully developing more games in-house, strategically partnering with entertainment franchises—like Peanuts that we just signed—that resonate worldwide. Really, there’s going to be no change in marketing. For us, it’s all about the games, not the corporate brand.
Will all new games, including ones by TinyCo, come out under the Jam City label, or do you envision having more than one label depending on the type of game?
That’s something we’re still working out. What’s most likely is that TinyCo games will be a combination brand that includes both Jam City and TinyCo. We’re proud of the brand and the reputation TinyCo has, and we don’t want to lose that. We’re also proud of Jam City and what that family of studios represents, so it’s important to us that’s also represented.
There are great data points in the market, like Activision Blizzard, where you can have a subsidiary that still has its own identity but is clearly part of the larger family.
Why did you acquire the Peanuts license? Are your rights limited to the comic strip?
We specifically licensed the comic strip and the music. For us, Peanuts and Snoopy are on a remarkably short list of globally recognized and beloved brand characters. It’s a timeless brand [that] appeals across all ages, [and] anyone from 6-to-60 can whistle the theme. We really think that having a brand that’s so beloved and so accessible, that weaving those characters into the experience will bring a whole new audience to the game.
What sort of games do you plan to build around the Peanuts license?
I think long term, this could be a set of games or a franchise for us. We are going to start with a puzzle style game. We think the accessibility, fun and playfulness of puzzles match well with the IP, but there could also be great builder, storyteller and arcade style games with the license as well.
Do you see Peanuts games bringing in a substantial new audience for Jam City?
Honestly, I think there’s such a huge fan base for Peanuts. I think our existing users will love it, but I think it’s going to introduce our games to a lot of people who maybe hadn’t had the opportunity to pick them up before. Maybe it’s an excuse to get acquainted with what we’re doing. There are so many fans of the Peanuts IP through the generations that this is a huge opportunity for us to expose our mechanics and gameplay to a much broader base of users.
The nice thing about this IP is it’s not the flavor of the month. Your grandmother, your father, your brother, your child and every generation enjoys Peanuts. They’ve done an amazing job building and protecting the IP over the years.
Jam City has had over 100 percent growth every year for the last five years. How long can you keep that up?
(Laughs) Honestly, we feel like it’s still early days for our company, and we’re thinking big. I think we’re a fraction of what we expect to be in the next three or four years. This is a long-term play for us. This is our first foray into big IPs, and you’re going to be hearing about some other great franchises over the next twelve months. This is just the start for Jam City.