By Himank Sharma
BANGALORE (Reuters) - Zynga, the online game company behind the titles "FarmVille" and "Mafia Wars," and one of the hottest U.S. Web start-ups, said it is starting a game development studio in India and plans to double its staff there this year.
Zynga Studio I, to be based in the company's office in Bangalore, will be the firm's largest office outside the United States. The company plans to hire 100 workers this year, adding to the 100 who work there now.
Zynga has 1,500 employees around the world.
About half the new employees would be game developers, the people who do the actual "coding" of the games, said Colleen McCreary, the company's human resources chief.
Privately-held Zynga has attracted interest from investors eager to get a piece of a company they consider nearly as hot as online social networks Twitter and Facebook.
Many investors have been hoping these companies go public, though, so far, they have limited their investor base.
Zynga started its India office last year with developers who worked on the company's database that defines how users interact with the games they play online.
About 100 developers here work on Membase -- an open-source database application that Zynga uses -- to connect its 25 million users worldwide.
Thursday's announcement, made at a news conference in Bangalore, would make the fast-growing information technology hub a key part of game development.
Zynga saw creative talent in India, but found it to be more of a "niche sector" in the country, said Shan Kadavil, Zynga's India manager. Instead, he said, "we expect to tap creative development people from the Bollywood industry."
Among that talent is Dhimant Vyas, an animator who designed the title sequence for the hit Bollywood film "Taare Zameen Par" ("Stars on Earth") by director, producer and actor Aamir Khan.
Zynga's games have become popular on Facebook and other platforms, but the company is inching toward platform-independent games that people can play on mobile devices.
It also has been rolling out mobile versions of its games, hoping to keep users playing them longer.
(Reporting by Himank Sharma. Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)