kabam hobbit

Warner Bros. is diving deeper into digital games today as it announced the formation of WB Games San Francisco. The new studio will specialize in developing and publishing high-quality, free-to-play, mobile, social, and browser-based games.

This is another example of The Battle Royal (our theme for GamesBeat 2013), where all the walls come down between industries competing in entertainment. In this case, a big movie studio with a sizable console game division is now expanding into games that are distributed in a digital fashion. As it does so, it will compete with some of its own allies, such as Kabam, the San Francisco-based maker of Warner Bros.’ Hobbit games.

“We are extremely pleased to add WB Games San Francisco to our global portfolio of studios and publishing capabilities,” said Martin Tremblay, the president of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, in a statement. “As our company has grown over the years, it has been a high priority to attract and cultivate creativity and innovation in top markets for game development around the world.”

Greg Ballard, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s senior vice president of Digital Games, will lead the studio.

“The Bay Area is the home of social and mobile gaming, and WB Games San Francisco is Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s opportunity to expand our game development capabilities into the epicenter of the digital world,” said Ballard in a statement. “San Francisco is a hotbed of local talent and convenient access to major partners, and this will help us achieve our goal to bring our top entertainment and gaming brands, as well as original IP, to multiple mobile, social and emerging platforms.”

WB Games San Francisco will oversee publishing of all other mobile games developed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and it will share offices with Flixster. Warner will have to manage the projects that it undertakes in-house with those that it farms out to specialists such as Kabam, which makes mobile and social games. The tension on that front is similar to Warner’s relationship in past years with Electronic Arts, which made the Harry Potter games for Warner.

The company is making the announcement just in time to hire folks at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week.