List

Top 50 Developer 2011

Top 50 Developer 2011

Considering the thousands of publishers and developers who have released mobile games during 2010, the task of picking out the relatively small number of 50 as being 'top' may seem to be a Sisyphean exercise.

Yet, that process provides a wealth of useful information, while the rigor of directly comparing companies forces us to think about what we mean by the term 'top developers'.

In terms of the this ranking, we used metrics such as sales performance, critical acclaim of releases, innovation in terms of business approach, and the number and range of titles released during 2010.

There are thousands of game developers for mobile and portable devices, and that number is growing fast as the console crowd joins in the fun.

However, it goes without saying, there can be only 50 companies in the PocketGamer.biz top 50 developers of the year list, and they are the best in the industry.

So now into its second year, check out the teams who you should be working with, thinking of acquiring, or aspiring to match.

PocketGamer.biz's top 50 developers is produced in conjunction with Scoreloop, the leading cross platform SDK and infrastructure to drive game discovery, engage users and build new revenue streams.

Click here to view the list »
  • 50 Snappy Touch

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    NEW ENTRY

    Nothing if not a labour of love, developer Noel Llopis (aka Snappy Touch) has been working on his flower planting game Flower Garden for well over two years. Like many successes, the initial idea was simple enough - plant different types of seeds and watch them grow - but the implementation proved more complex.

    It wasn't until the game became a freemium product in 2010 with in-app purchases of seeds, pots and fertiliser, a process Llopis detailed on his excellent blog, that the concept really bloomed. And, five million bouquets sent by players to their friends demonstrates Flower Garden's wider social impact.


  • 49 Kairosoft

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    In retrospect, developing a game that lets players take the role of being a successful game developer is exactly the sort of thing to guarantee a successful game. Yet Japanese studio Kairosoft actually pulled off the concept in Game Dev Story thanks to cute graphics, well defined gameplay, and the fact plenty of people want to play a game in which they attempt to be a successful game developer.

    First developed for iPhone and iPad and since ported to Android, Game Dev Story feels a bit like an accidental franchise, but one we'll likely enjoy again when the sequel is released.


  • 48 Hexage

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    There weren't many - indeed hardly any - developers who truly focused on Android in 2010. Not only did Czech-based studio Hexage treat Google's slowly evolving platform with respect, the games it released on it, such as Everlands and EVAC, were as impressive as anything on iPhone.

    Of course, Hexage also released them on Apple's hardware, but it was its even-handed approach, combined with attention to detail that saw its Android titles re-released in HD form for tablets, which mark it out as one to watch, especially as it now supports Samsung's bada and webOS devices too.


  • 47 Big Blue Bubble

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    Another in that seemingly endless list of high quality Canadian mobile developers, Big Blue Bubble has certainly been busy.

    Not only did it roll out five conversions of the old role-playing Fighting Fantasy book series in 2010, but it also completed work for hire projects for the likes of Namco, while releasing its own brands on iPhone. Key amongst these was Burn The Rope, which came out late in the year, and stood out from the competition as the #1 puzzle game in 50 countries. It's due on Android, iPad and 3DS in 2011.


  • 46 IUGO Mobile Entertainment

    IUGO Mobile Entertainment logo

    DOWN 3 PLACES

    Like many mid-size mobile developers, Canadian studio IUGO has ridden various waves of the smartphone business since 2008, with its successful own IP, such as the Toy Bot series released on iPhone, replaced with a more cross platform and work for hire approach in 2010. Its headline game was freemium social release Lil' Pirates for Capcom, which contextualised the Facebook Ville-style gameplay within a stronger gamer theme, while IUGO also extended its own brands to new platforms as a launch partner for Windows Phone 7 and iPad.


  • 45 Cave

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    Releasing three highly regarded bullet hell shooters - Espgaluda 2, Mushihimesama Bug Panic, Dodonpachi Resurrection for iOS during 2010, raised Japanese company Cave's standing in the West, and on the Apple App Store. Yet the developer (which is listed on the Japanese stock exchange), isn't a hardcore specialist: it makes online mobile and social games too.

    Indeed, its most successful game in 2010 was Shirotsuku. Released in Japan on the GREE and Mobage platforms, it gained 2.6 million users. The company has also recently signed a co-development deal with EA for another social mobile game, based on an undisclosed EA brand, and to be published on GREE.


  • 44 DistinctDev

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    Are you a complete idiot? That's the conceit of The Moron Test, which was released on iPhone back in 2009, and has since proved to be a best seller. DistinctDev's position on this list however relates to its smart and early move to port the game to Android. Promoted with OpenFeint, it quickly sold over 65,000 units, while the free companion app has been downloaded more than 700,000 times.

    The upsell rate was somewhere between 4 to 7 percent, and it's the eighth most downloaded Android game. With a historical download total of over 11 million, 2011 will see The Moron Test come to Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry and Mac.


  • 43 Miniclip

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    NEW ENTRY

    Known primarily for its free Flash games portal, Miniclip has moved aggressively into the mobile space. Its debut conversion was physics game Fragger, which racked up 1.25 million paid downloads, but Miniclip's had 2.5 million paid downloads while total downloads are now over 25 million, thanks in part to the free version of Fragger and other releases such as Gravity Guy. It also co-owns the Monster Trucks Nitro franchise with Finnish developer Red Lynx.

    Throw into the mix expansion onto Android, not to mention its web brands and their 65 million monthly players, and Miniclip looks sure to impress in 2011.


  • 42 TeamLava

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    Set up by a group of ex-Facebook engineers with ex-Chillingo head of publishing Johnny Coghlan joining late in 2010, US developer TeamLava's approach to mobile social games is clear: release often, cross promote and have a strong brand that consumers immediately understand - in this case its Story series of Ville-style casual freemium games such as Restaurant Story, Farm Story, Bakery Story and Empire Story.

    Released on iOS and Android, its to-date five games have accumulated millions of downloads and are constantly sat in the US top grossing charts, building up a strong portfolio. Expect further expansion or acquisition in 2011.


  • 41 Bight Games

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    One of those mobile studios often hidden behind the work-for-hire label (in Bight's case, it's a specialist wrestling developer), Canadian outfit Bight Games' big release of the year was online social freemium game Trade Nations. Published by community technology platform Z2Live, it's been successful with over a million downloads within two months of release, and a firm presence on the US iPhone top grossing chart. After all, the IAP options for the purchase of Magic Beans range all the way from 99c to $99.99. And as if that wasn't enough, Bight ported Pocket God to Brew too.


  • 40 Godzilab

    Godzilab logo

    DOWN 9 PLACES

    French start up Godzilab charmed the App Store with its arty puzzling debut iBlast Moki in 2009, but while that game gained plenty of fans, it was less successful commercially. The developer's second game, StarDunk, seemed likely to follow a similar trajectory. Yet once the online multiplayer basketball-in-space title went freemium, with players spending cash to get special balls or remove the ads, downloads shot past the two million mark. And demonstrating it could do more than just iOS, the studio ported iBlast Moki to Windows Phone 7, while iPad fans got the opportunity of an HD version too.


  • 39 NaturalMotion Games

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    Originally something of a side project from its eponymous parent company, which makes character animation middleware, NaturalMotion Games kickstarted its operations with the 2009 release of the Ideaworks-developed Backbreaker for iPhone.

    The game has since gone on to sell over three million units: something that proved to be fundamental to the company's formation.

    Ideaworks also worked on the 2010 Backbreaker sequel, while the Oxford-based studio experienced its own App Store debut with intensive physics release Jenga. The establishment of a new London studio promises substantial expansion in 2011, while ice hockey game Icebreaker is due soon.


  • 38 HandyGames

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    German publisher HandyGames built its reputation as a funnel for quality Java games, especially its Townsmen series, but during 2010, it became a proper smartphone developer, mixing up genre titles with quality releases, and gaining an enthusiasm for freemium in the process.

    Indeed, it really took to the free ad-funded model with its Mexican-themed tower defence game Guns'n'Glory gaining two million downloads across iOS, Android and Ovi, while the company did over five million downloads on the reinvigorated Ovi Store.

    In 2011, its target is an ambitious 100 million downloads of its catalog over all mobile platforms.


  • 37 Bolt Creative

    Bolt Creative logo

    DOWN 34 PLACES

    There's no doubt Pocket God was one of 2009's key games, and while two-man developer Bolt Creative continued to constantly update it during 2010, gaining more sales and a listing on Apple's top selling iPhone game chart, the stresses of building out a wider business were evident too.

    Yet it's to the company's credit it overcame, releasing the all-new iPad version of the game Pocket God: Journey To Uranus in December, rolled Pocket God onto Facebook, as well as working with ngmoco on the Android release, which was released during the year. Comic books were just another media outlet.


  • 36 Neon Play

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    It's now part of legend that UK studio Neon Play was the developer of Paper Glider, which just happened to be the ten billionth app to be downloaded from the Apple App Store. Yet, more significant for the start up were the figures that within seven months of foundation, its games had been downloaded over seven million times, of which four titles had been downloaded over a million times each.

    It was also first to kick off the World Cup meme of football games with Flick Football title, while its work for hire projects extended to official apps for UK comedians Al Murray, Dom Joly and Armstrong & Miller.


  • 35 Matt Rix

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    One-man developers can still make a big impact on the App Store as demonstrated by Canadian developer Matt Rix. His colour puzzle game Trainyard is a beautiful example of clean design and compelling gameplay, but much more than making a game, the ability to solve puzzles multiple ways, combined with the opportunity for gamers to upload their solutions to a central website, has generated a community that's super-charged engagement and sales.

    To-date, the Lite version of Trainyard (which contains its own set of 60 unique puzzles) has been downloaded almost four million times, while over one million user solutions have been uploaded.


  • 34 Gameprom

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    Previously building its reputation with three iPhone pinball games - Wild West Pinball, The Deep Pinball and Jungle Style Pinball - Russian developer Gameprom leapt onto iPad with Pinball HD, bringing together those games in one release. The result was very successful, with Pinball HD one of the few games to be listed in Apple's top grossing iPad chart for 2010.

    Of course, pricing was an issue, with the at-launch $2.99 title spending some time at 99c before stabilising at $1.99. It's remained in the iPad top 100 top grossing games throughout however, underlining the appeal of pinball and the quality of the experience.


  • 33 Spacetime Studios

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    Launched with the iPad, and then rolled out onto iPhone (and eventually Android), Texas developer Spacetime Studios' mobile MMOG Pocket Legends was formed from the team's previous experience at PC online specialist NCsoft.

    Labelled the first 3D persistent online game for iOS, Pocket Legends finished the year with one million iOS downloads and 125,000 on Android, demonstrating the hardcore nature of a certain segment of the mobile audience.

    Aside from the game, Spacetime's other achievement was building the technology that enables the game work over wi-fi, Edge and 3G networks. In that context, its Spacetime Engine equips it for future adventures.


  • 32 Gamerizon

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    Canadian studio Gamerizon might not yet be a well known iOS developer, but its first four Chop Chop games have been downloaded over one million times each, while the series total (free and paid), is now over nine million in less than 10 months.

    In many respects its winning formula is simple: casual one-finger gameplay, consistent and appealing graphics, and a 99c price point for both iPhone and iPad. But it's the ability to maintain momentum while building up a community that marks Gamerizon out.

    Indeed, its ambition is to have 20 games released and 40 million downloads by the end of 2011.


  • 31 Lima Sky

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    DOWN 21 PLACES

    The issue of what you do next when you've developed one of the most popular iPhone games ever is one that an increasing number of developers are having to deal with. Thanks to Doodle Jump, Lima Sky is the originator of that particular issue.

    For most of 2010, the two brother team continued to do what they do best: supporting their fans by updating their game with additional levels, themes and items. For the record, the total update count is now up to 28, and that's one of the reasons it's the all-time top paid iPhone app on the US App Store.


  • 30 GameHouse Studios

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    From an organisational point of view, GameHouse, which is RealNetworks' casual and mobile gaming division, had a tricky 2010. It lost staff, is shutting down its Mr Goodliving studio, and remains part of a bigger declining business, despite the expectation it will be spun out.

    Nevertheless, in terms of mobile games, there were bright spots. Brightest was its licence to port App Store hit Doodle Jump to non-iOS platforms; the 99c game came to Ovi Store, Android Market and Java, priced much higher of course.

    GameHouse also made the most of its access to media brands such as NCIS, and gaming IP like Cake Mania, Sally's Salon and its Playman franchise.


  • 29 Media.Vision

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    Developed by Japanese outfit Media.Vision and published by Square Enix, Chaos Rings was one of the first iOS games to demonstrate how high the quality bar could be pushed. Given similar build up to new Final Fantasy game, Square Enix also pleased the industry with a premium price point; $13 for iPhone and $16 for iPad, which have since been maintained. The reason is there's no comparable experience, something demonstrated by the critical acclaim; it was the year's tenth best reviewed game. Not bad going for Media.Vision, which despite being highly experienced, was working on its first iPhone game.


  • 28 Crescent Moon Games

    Crescent Moon Games logo

    UP 12 PLACES

    A strong performance during 2010 sees tiny US studio Crescent Moon rise up the PocketGamer.biz listings. Set up as a specialist Unity developer in the RPG genre, it's always worked in collaboration with other studios, allowing it to work on many more games than it would be able to on its own. Continuing in the RPG genre, the well regarded Rimelands was produced with Finnish developer Diceworks, while expansive free roamer Aralon was made with US start up Galoobeth Games. And despite being launched into the Christmas rush at $7, it's gone on to sell over 40,000 copies, building a loyal fanbase in the process.


  • 27 Get Set Games

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    One of the class of 2009 iPhone developers who moved from other areas of the games industry, Canadian studio Get Set Games' business only took off when it switched its third release Mega Jump from 99c to freemium.

    Players can now buy Mega Points to unlock new powers and levels quicker than by gameplay alone.

    Following in the trail of Doodle Jump, both in terms of gameplay and constant updates - 12 to-date - it's gone on to clock up 10 million downloads, mainly on iOS but with the Android version creeping out before the end of 2010.


  • 26 Digital Chocolate

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    DOWN 6 PLACES

    One of the original innovators in mobile games, Digital Chocolate's approach to the decline of the carrier market has been marked. While it's released plenty of iPhone ports, and gaining 100 million downloads in the process, in 2010 it moved its focus to Facebook social gaming as App Store prices collapsed. The result is a company that's still active on mobile - releasing for Android, bada and Windows Phone 7 - but brings new IP such as MMA Fighter and Millionaire City to Facebook before rolling it out more widely. Indeed, it now labels itself a virtual goods game company.


  • 25 Ideaworks Game Studio

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    DOWN 21 PLACES

    One of those studios that spends the vast majority of its time working semi-secretly with big publishers on big, complex projects, UK outfit Ideaworks made one of 2010's high profile iOS releases in the shape of the Square Enix-published Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. And continuing its close co-operation with NaturalMotion, it released the sequel to the excellent and multi-million selling Backbreaker tackle box game. We also reckon it worked on the additional maps for Call of Duty: Zombies and the iPad version but, of course, Activision's not confirmed this.


  • 24 Pocket Gems

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    There were plenty of companies quick into social iPhone gaming, but a couple of years on, the vanguard have proved themselves with numbers, and that means millions of downloads.

    With over 18 million downloads of its Tap games, and the recent injection of $5 million in venture funding, San Francisco start up Pocket Gems seems to be well on the way to building out its userbase. Indeed, boosted by the September release of Tap Zoo, a game that's been firmly in the US iPhone top grossing top 10 since launch, it now says it's generating more than $2 million in monthly revenue thanks to the sale of virtual items.


  • 23 Polarbit AB

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    One of those hard working studios with a low profile, because much of the work it carries out is published by others, Swedish outfit Polarbit was likely the most cross platform mobile developer of the past 12 months.

    Thanks to its internal FUSE technology, it released content on iOS, Android, webOS, bada and Ovi, as well as the Zeebo emerging markets console and Intel's AppUp store. Working with the likes of EA, Activision, Konami and Bulkypix, it also collaborated with fellow Swedish developer Pixelbite over highly regarded racers Reckless Racing and Raging Thunder.


  • 22 NimbleBit

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    While many developers could have told you freemium was the future of mobile gaming in 2010, it was studios such as ngmoco and Glu that took the decision to rebase their entire businesses on the model that actually proved it. Another example was small US outfit NimbleBit.

    Having released typical indie fare such as arty iPad co-op game Omium, it staked its future on Pocket Frogs, a freemium title that did something different with the social, collectible and customisation levers such games demand to be deeply integrated in order for success to strike. Four millions downloads proved NimbleBit had pitched it right.


  • 21 id Software

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    DOWN 12 PLACES

    After a year in which id Software successfully mined its back catalog for titles to bring to iPhone, 2010 forced it to look to the future rather than the past. Turn-based series DOOM RPG returned to provide another retro gaming experience, but the big event was Rage, which also went under the sub-title Mutant Bash TV.

    Certainly one of the best looking games on the platform, and one that surprised with its 99c/$1.99 price point depending if you wanted normal or HD graphics, nevertheless its critical and commercial success was qualified by its on-rails controls and repetitive high score gameplay.


  • 20 Rockstar Leeds

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    Rockstar Games' UK-based specialist handheld developer only released one iOS title during 2010, but it was a game that required no introductions, either for the audience or the development team. After all, it had already bought Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars to PSP and DS before working on the iPhone and iPad versions.

    Similarly, despite the $10 price point, both releases have sold steadily. Indeed, the critical acclaim for the fidelity of the experience, despite its less accurate finger-tapped touchscreen and user interface, means even experienced denizens of Liberty City have come back for another shot.


  • 19 Square Enix

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    NEW ENTRY

    Although it's a global operation with offices in the US and Europe, Square Enix's mobile development, like its headquarters, are Japanese focused. As well as the iOS remakes of famous console brands such as Final Fantasy, it's involved in the lucrative domestic social mobile platforms. Yet, 2010 saw the company expand its vision, with the App Store debut of Lara Croft (developed by Ideaworks), as well as the elevation of its UK studio Beautiful Games, which is releasing sport games under the Big Cup brand. And the highlight was the release of Chaos Rings by Japanese studio Media.Vision. All-in-all, a great collaborative effort.


  • 18 Deep Silver Fishlabs

    Deep Silver Fishlabs logo

    UP 20 PLACES

    After years of struggling to squeeze pseudo 3D graphics into Java handsets, the explosion of dual- and quad-core mobile hardware is a dream come true for German outfit Fishlabs. Its games are designed to push the hardware of chip companies such as ARM and Nvidia as much as possible, which is why it's now in such demand to supply embedded content on cutting-edge devices.

    Similarly, in 2010, it demonstrated the market for paid console-style on iOS with the successful launch of the $7 Galaxy on Fire 2, while its advertorial games for the likes of VW and Barclays have been downloaded tens of millions of times.


  • 17 The Playforge

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    A common occurrence two years ago, one-man App Store success stories have since all but dried up. Yet, catching the right wave at the right time can still have surprising results as provided by Vince McDonnell. Setting up The PlayForge in the summer of 2009, he decided to take the best bits from FarmVille and Plants vs. Zombies, getting his freemium game Zombie Farm out before either made it onto iPhone. Over seven million downloads later, Zombie Farm was the only freemium game to be listed on Apple's official top grossing iPhone apps list for 2010.


  • 16 ZeptoLab

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    NEW ENTRY

    Russian developer Zeptolab only released two iPhone games in 2010. Both were excellent examples of simple but engrossing arcade gameplay, but their sales trajectories were very different.

    Parachute Ninja, released in February and published by Freeverse, reviewed well but failed to find an audience. Yet from its development process came the seeds of what would eventually become multi-million seller Cut the Rope.

    Published by Chillingo just before it was acquired by EA, it was quickly labelled the next Angry Birds, the 99c game selling six million units within four months, remaining in the US iPhone top grossing chart top 20 ever since.


  • 15 Zynga With Friends

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    NEW ENTRY

    Formed by brothers Paul and David Bettner when Microsoft shut down Age of Empires developer Ensemble in 2008, Newtoy first came to notice with the release of Chess with Friends, which it followed with Words with Friends. Yet, it was its co-development work on ngmoco's first proper freemium game We Rule, released in early 2010, that underlined its maturity.

    Taking the gameplay of the Ville-style of social Facebook games, Newtoy combined it with deep social interactions, as well as console gaming sensibilities. The result was a iPhone game that appealed to a wide audience, and the eventual purchase of Newtoy, which became Zynga with Friends in December.


  • 14 Com2uS

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    DOWN 1 PLACE

    As with EA and Gameloft, so with Gamevil and Com2uS: the two Korean mobile publishers are constantly vying for top spot. In terms of revenue, Com2uS is ahead just, but while it's in relative decline - mainly due to issues in its domestic market - Gamevil is booming.

    Still, while the foundation of both companies' release schedules remain role-playing and baseball games, in 2010 Com2uS demonstrated a lighter touch with the success of action puzzler Slice it! on the iOS and Android devices, gaining over a million installs on each platforms. And almost two years since it was released, Hormerun Battle 3D continues to build its online fanbase.


  • 13 Glu Mobile

    Glu Mobile logo

    DOWN 7 PLACES

    In business terms, 2010 was a turnaround year for Glu Mobile, which refinanced with a $13.5 million cash injection in the summer to rebuild its reserves. It was also a turnaround year when it came to its games, with the US publisher transitioning from its traditional carrier business into freemium smartphone games.

    Of course, it will still take time for the revenues from the latter to replace the former, but the success of early games such as Gun Bros. and Deer Hunter Challenge suggest Glu is hitting the right buttons. Getting iPhone releases simultaneously across iPad and Android will be its next challenge.


  • 12 Gamevil

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    UP 7 PLACES

    Korean publisher Gamevil had an excellent 2010, with sales during the first nine months up 28 percent to around $18 million. As ever, the main growth drivers were its baseball and role-playing games; series such as Baseball Superstars, Zenonia and Hybrid gaining new releases that chimed with critics and hardcore fans alike. Indeed, Gamevil's impressive 50 percent profit margin exists mainly because of the keenness of that audience to buy virtual items that will improve their characters' in-game performance. The purchase of rhythm action developer RYUminus suggests Gamevil is looking to build out this business into new genres in 2011.


  • 11 Namco Bandai Games

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    NEW ENTRY

    Making the best of both worlds, Namco Bandai splits its iOS and its mobile business, including other smartphone platforms, into separate divisions. The former has been steadily expanding from variations on well-known brands such as Pac-Man and Ace Combat with games in the hidden item and puzzle genres. It was also one of the first publishers to adopt the try-before-you-buy option where players download the full game, but only gain full access via in-app purchase. Meanwhile, Namco was early and aggressive to support Android, and it demonstrated its muscle in the operator market releasing Splatterhouse on 300 Western carriers.


  • 10 EA Mobile

    EA Mobile logo

    DOWN 3 PLACES

    Considering EA Mobile's status as the largest mobile publisher in the West, it might seem surprising to find it bookending PocketGamer.biz's top 10. Indeed, the company has dropped three places compared to last year, and that despite its $17 million (plus $12 million earnout) acquisition of Chillingo (now also included in this listing). The fact is EA Mobile had a relatively weak 2010 compared to many other mobile companies. Indeed, even in terms of its own financials, nine months sales were only up 2 percent (to $160 million); while over the same period rival Gameloft saw its sales rise 63 percent.

    The reasons are myriad, but as one element of a large console publisher, EA Mobile has found it hard to be nimble enough to come with new IP, while the release of Mirror's Edge and Battlefield Bad Company 2 suffered from confusion and delays. Perhaps most significantly on iOS however, has been EA's regular decisions to slashes game prices to 99c, removing the incentive to buy full price games at launch. Still, it's had success too, especially with its Hasbro-branded games, such as Scrabble for iPad, while Tetris continues to top the charts of all platforms it's released on, which for EA is all smartphone platforms.


  • 9 Backflip Studios

    Backflip Studios logo

    UP 3 PLACES

    If you needed one example of how the app store business model has completely changed the mobile games business, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one than US studio Backflip. With its first free iPhone release Paper Toss racking up over 20 million downloads, it's used this reach and number of daily players to build its own self-sustaining ecosystem. Free releases remain at the heart of the business, providing an ever large audience to upsell paid versions, as well as in-game advertising, which is used either in a purely commercial manner, or to cross promote other Backflip games, whether paid or free. In this way, by the end of 2010, the company had done over 70 million downloads on iOS and Android, having 2 million daily active users and over 20 million on a monthly basis.

    Yet, while this is most impressive in terms of providing a virtuous business cycle (bigger audience, more sales, bigger audience), where Backflip scores highly is the quality of its games, with the Ragdoll Blaster series a particular highlight. During 2010, other releases that caught the eye included NinJump, Buganoids and Graffiti Ball.


  • 8 Capcom Mobile

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    NEW ENTRY

    Like many Japanese publishers, Capcom has a long history of mobile games. However, also like many Japanese publishers, it wasn't as proactive as it could have been dealing with the smartphone and social gaming explosion, and that despite founding its US-headquartered and mobile-oriented Capcom Interactive in 2005. 2010 changed this however as Capcom launched some excellent iOS games, as well as successfully launching into the freemium market. In terms of premium App Store releases, both Street Fighter IV and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney impressed critics and hit their sales figures.

    But it was the release of Smurfs' Village for iPhone (also on Facebook), that most surprised commentators, both in terms of the licence itself, and its success. The game has remained in the US top grossing top 20 since its November release, generating millions of downloads and dollars in the process. Another success was Monhan Nikki Mobile Airu Mura, its first release on DeNA's Mobage mobile platform, which gained one million players in Japan. Although the IUGO-developed Lil' Pirates, Capcom's other iOS freemium game, performed less well.

    Certainly, it will be fascinating to see how Capcom builds on such foundations, especially in terms of supporting smartphone platforms such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and Samsung's bada.


  • 7 Halfbrick Studios

    Halfbrick Studios logo

    NEW ENTRY

    Despite building its reputation as a handheld work-for-hire studio on platforms such as GBA, DS and PSP over the past 10 years, Australian developer Halfbrick was late to the App Store. Indeed, its first release in March 2010, Blast Off, was a port of a PSP title. But a month later, Halfbrick demonstrated it truly understood the type of bite-sized game that would chime with the iPhone audience with the release of Fruit Ninja. Driven by classic high score repeatability, and balancing simple fruit-slicing action with clean presentation, updates have added new features such as the Arcade mode and online multiplayer via Game Center. It's since gone on to sell over six million copies.

    This wasn't a one-off success though. Halfbrick released a number of other well received titles such as Age of Zombies and the 500,000-selling Monster Dash, both arcade shooters starring cartoon action hero Barry Steakfries. What was most impressive however, considering the company's lack of mobile experience, was its enthusiasm to bring its titles to other platforms. Fruit Ninja got an HD version for iPad, of course, but also topped the best seller lists on Android and Windows Phone 7.


  • 6 ngmoco

    ngmoco logo

    UP 8 PLACES

    Following its famous pivot, switching from premium paid games to the freemium model the previous year, 2010 was the opportunity for ngmoco to prove it had made the correct decision. The release of first proper free-to-play games We Rule (developed by Newtoy) and GodFinger (Wonderland) certainly demonstrated the company's desire for high quality content remained in place. Both titles significantly extended graphics and gameplay beyond the generic Facebook-style Ville games that still dominate the iOS freemium scene. They also found an enthusiastic audience, but commercial success and the stable deployment only came following months of problems with the company's Plus+ server infrastructure. Indeed, for these (and other reasons), both games were eventually pulled from the App Store, replaced by We Rule Quests and GodFinger All-Stars respectively.

    However with a formula pinned down, ngmoco started to aggressively operate releasing variations on a theme with games such as We City and We Farm, while continuing to support and extend its Touch Pets range.

    And, while it remained tight-lipped about downloads and active user numbers, its $303 million purchase by Japanese social publisher DeNA, a figure potentially lifted to $403 million by future bonuses, underlined the rumours of impressive financial and audience figures.


  • 5 PopCap Games

    PopCap Games logo

    NO CHANGE

    Given its heritage as one of the premium PC casual game publishers, it might seem surprising that PopCap is firmly located as one our of top 5 mobile developers list for the second year in row. But with a third of its revenues now coming from the mobile business - ranging from its smartphone business on various app stores to its long running deals with EA Mobile over Java games on the carrier decks - PopCap is certainly one of the most significant mobile games companies. In 2010, this was underlined by the performance of Plants vs. Zombies, which charmed everyone on iPhone and iPad, being a top grossing game on both iPhone and iPad. It was also one of the best reviewed games of the year. Another top performing iPhone game was Bejeweled 2 + Blitz, while PopCap was a launch partner for Windows Phone 7 releasing an Xbox Live version of Bejeweled.

    Still, it's a mark of a company that doesn't rush development that its mobile division, which is based in Ireland, has yet to release titles for the burgeoning Android segment, nor has it revisited much loved titles such as Peggle in terms of new, and clearly lucrative, opportunities such as iPad, or indeed its marble shooter Zuma, which only remains available for feature phones.


  • 4 Chair Entertainment

    Chair Entertainment logo

    NEW ENTRY

    With Infinity Blade vying with Angry Birds for the title of the most significant iOS game of the year, Epic Games-owned Chair Entertainment had previously demonstrated its ability with a variety of console titles, peaking with its XBLA title Shadow Complex. Yet, as well as being its first portable title, Infinity Blade, was a poster child release demonstrating how Epic's Unreal Engine 3 worked on iOS. The combination made the result even more impressive, as it mixed up high-end graphics and production values with a lightness of touch in terms of control system, and clever reuse of location, assets and gameplay in terms of its looped progression system.

    More than just a calling card for what can be done using Unreal Engine 3 though, Infinity Blade demonstrated the type of game that could be produced when console development sensibilities were bought to bear, raising the bar for the entire industry. And, perhaps more importantly, it legitimised portable gaming to the wider console-focused audience with an exclusive game from one of development's rising stars. Throw in a neatly pitched $5.99 price, as well as promise of a multiplayer update and in-app purchases, and you have a game that touches almost every important buzzword that's shaking up the industry.


  • 3 Firemint

    Firemint logo

    DOWN 2 PLACES

    It may seem a little unfair to say the only way was down for last year's top iOS developer. That Australian super studio Firemint has dropped two places is little to do with the quality of its output though, only the tremendous competition that has flooded onto mobile gaming markets over the past 12 months. In fact, Real Racing 2, its major release of the year, was magnificent, not only selling well with a $9.99 price tag, but pushing the technical barriers of the hardware thanks to its graphics, physics and 8-player online multiplayer, also topping the critics' chart being the best reviewed iOS games of 2010. In the meantime, Firemint released an enhanced iPad version of Flight Control, also porting it to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, as well as various console and portable digital platforms. The original iPhone version has now clocked up 3.8 million sales too.

    And, looking to the future, the purchase of fellow Australian studio Infinite Interactive, creator of the Puzzle Quest series, brings additional development staff and creative juices to a team that has already well demonstrated its prowess and attention to detail. There's no reason Firemint couldn't retake top spot next year.


  • 2 Rovio Entertainment

    Rovio Entertainment logo

    NEW ENTRY

    It's ironic that Angry Birds hit the Apple App Store under the auspices of Chillingo's Clickgamer label on December 10, 2009. It wasn't until February 2010, by which time it had also been released as a free game on Nokia's nascent Ovi Store for the N900 device, that sales took off. Since then, Finnish developer Rovio, which has an eight year history in mobile game development, has ridden the rollercoaster with an imaginative, if pragmatic, attitude. The original Angry Birds has received 13 updates, now providing 210 levels of bird projectile action for 99c, plus the Mighty Eagle level skip as an in-app purchase.

    Of course, Rovio has also made moves to publish its own versions, with Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Free, not to mention the iPad HD versions, released under its own name. More significant perhaps was the move to Android, with an ad-supported version exclusively launched on the third party app store GetJar. It's since been made available for high-end devices on the main Android Market, gaining Rovio advertising revenue of well over $100,000 per month.

    The result has been over 50 million Angry Birds downloads in 2010, and the creation of a true gaming phenomenon since underlined by the popularity of plush toy and deals for movie tie-ins and animated series.


  • 1 Gameloft

    Gameloft logo

    UP 1 PLACE

    Gameloft is the second largest, and fastest growing, mobile games publisher in the West. It has over 4,000 staff, with development offices in over a dozen global locations, and annual sales in 2010 of $193 million. So why is it top of a list entitled PocketGamer.biz's best developers? The fact is, despite the obvious advantages Gameloft has over all other companies making mobile games, in 2010 it nailed the process of making high quality games that gamers loved, deploying them across all viable mobile hardware platforms, as well as charging reasonable amounts of money for them. It was the perfect storm.

    Indeed, digging into Gameloft's figures makes for surprising reading. It's one of the most voluminous game makers, but rarely relies on licences. And for all the joking about its creation of genre title based on console licences - see N.O.V.A. for Halo, Modern Combat for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and Gangstar for GTA - the games themselves are amongst the best available, and that's before you take into account that Gameloft developers are the most promiscuous when it comes to supporting as many platforms as they can, even including long tail support for Java and Brew.


editor-at-large

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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