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Arkadium hires new game design chief as it graduates from Mahjong to bigger games (exclusive)

Arkadium has survived for the past decade by making casual games for the web and Facebook. But with the arms race going in games, that approach may not cut it anymore. So the New York game publisher is announcing today that it has hired industry veteran Stephen Jarrett as its vice president of game design.

Jarrett will help lead the company’s game teams in New York, Toronto, and the Ukraine. He will guide them to develop titles that have more heft than Mahjongg Dimensions, Arkadium’s top hit (pictured above). The new hire goes with the strategy of moving up in games and making big investments in game platforms such as the upcoming Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft.

“We spent the first decade building a business and being profitable each month,” said Kenny Rosenblatt, chief executive of the company, in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat. “Our goal is to continue to be profitable but to do so by making hit games. We are committed to putting out the greatest games that we can.”

Arkadium hasn’t done such a bad job so far. It has more than 10 million gamers playing its titles each month on the web, Facebook, iPhone, and the iPad. It serves as the games partner of Microsoft Network (MSN), Hearst Magazines Digital Media, and television stations ESPN, ABC, Lifetime, and Discovery. But Rosenblatt said he wants Arkadium to be known for big hits such as Pac-Man.

Jarrett, who previously worked as director of game design at Nickelodeon, has 15 years of game experience working at companies such as Pixar, Sony, THQ, Namco, and Disney. He will oversee game design on all of Arkadium’s platforms. The company recently added eight new employees, and it has nearly 140 people on staff now. One of the company’s big strategic pushes is to make games for Windows 8 tablets, smartphones, and PCs.

Jessica Rovello, president and co-founder of Arkadium, said in an interview that the company searched far and wide for someone who had the skills to manage games across a bunch of platforms. Jarrett says he has a passion for character creation, storytelling, gameplay, and creative direction. He wants to apply those skills at Arkadium towards leveling up its games.

“Every great game studio needs a bold creative visionary.  With Stephen we’ve found something more: He is an individual who is driven by dramatic creativity but also brings deep industry knowledge and pragmatism,” said Jessica Rovello, Arkadium’s President and Co-Founder. “Stephen’s hiring continues the great momentum we’ve demonstrated all year.  From our partnership with Microsoft to the opening of our mobile games studio in Toronto, we’re one step closer to meeting our goal of being the most successful game developer in the world.”

Rovello and Rosenblatt, a wife and husband team, co-founder Arkadium in 2001. They have never raised venture capital funding and have been profitable from the start.

“We want to become known as a studio,” Rosenblatt said. “We are saying internally that 2012 is the year of the studio for Arkadium. We want to make games that everyone plays.”


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