PocketGamer.biz top 30 Chinese developers of 2012: 30 to 21
From Red Infinity to NetDragon
Following three successful years of PocketGamer.biz's western-focused top developer round up, we've turned our attention east.
Created in association with Umeng and CocoaChina, this is our inaugural listing of the top Chinese mobile game developers.
They range from globally-known corporations who are aggressively approaching the international mobile gaming market, down to small start ups, who are looking to push the conventions of gameplay mechanics.
30. Red Infinity
Formed in 2010, Red Infinity is a prolific publisher of games and entertainment apps on iOS and Android in China and the west. For example, it's published over a dozen titles in its 'Talking' series (clearly inspired by Outfit7's Talking animals series), such as Talking DoDo Bird and Taking Dinosaur.
Another key franchise are its bear-themed games. Indeed, on iOS it publishes them under the iBear Story brand, with other releases - such as its baby-themed games like Baby Cafe and Baby Aquarium - falling under its Best Retina label. And if that wasn't enough Red Infinity also develops poker games.
Mixing the best of western development experience with Chinese staff, the Beijing-based HappyLatte burst onto the charts with High Noon. Released in 2010, the free-to-play wild west gunslinger game has racked up over 11 million iPhone downloads, as well as sustaining over six months in the US top 10 top grossing charts. The studio's other franchise is rather different in theme, if also aimed at the casual audience. The two Pee Monkey games are puzzlers using water-based physics.
Yet HappyLatte hasn't released any new games since late 2010. Still its current recruitment drive suggests that it will be ramping up activity, making it one to look out for in 2013.
28. Elex Wireless
Set up in 2008 and focused on social network games, Elex has since developed into a successful browser game publisher with 30 million users. Backed by with investment from Tencent, it launched its own platform (337.com) and has expanded into overseas markets such as Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Europe and Latin America.
It's only recently started to release mobile games, with a version of city-building PVP MMOG Empire Conquest released for iOS in late 2011 in the west. Its other iOS games are in the popular Chinese fishing genre. Elex is also working with Tencent over a game cloud platform, Xing Cloud.
27. iFree Studio
3One of the Chinese developers to partner with GREE at the start of 2012, iFree is a Hong Kong-based studio set up by experienced staff from the US PC MMOG space. Hence, it's no surprise that its signature game - Emross War - is a hardcore cross-platform online RPG for iOS and Android with plenty of player vs player activity.
The company has also published plenty of other similar titles such as the sci-fi themed Space Dominions and Avalon Wars, Vampire Wars, and Chinese favourites Tap Three Kingdoms and Three Heroes, targeting both a Chinese and a global audience.
26. Camel Games
With a corporate HQ in the US and its development team in China, Camel Games is an Android-focused developer that was set up by staff from Microsoft, Baidu and Gameloft, amongst others.
It's released around a dozen Android games - many in typical arcade genres such as trajectory physics, line drawing, doodle jumping, and skee-ball. This all changed, however, with the release of Little Empire. This free-to-play location-based game is Camel's signature hit; mixing up 3D graphics with castle-building and PVP gameplay. In October 2012, it was finally released for iOS devices too.
Set up in 2007, the 200-strong CalviGames came to notice in the west in late 2011 with the announcement of the graphically-impressive Infinity of God, an Unreal Engine 3-powered title inspired by Sony's God of War. Released in China in April at a surprising $40 price point (since reduced to $8), Chillingo has signed up rights to publish in the west.
CalviGames had previously released a number of other games, including humorous iOS music game Rhythm Master. It also completed its first multi-million funding round in May 2012; something it hopes will enable it to become an "Asian Blizzard".
Founded in 1999, Hong Kong-headquartered developer Lakoo has been running its mobile MMORPG Empire Online since 2005. Downloaded over 12 million times in China, the turn-based game was released internationally for iOS in 2011.
Since then, the company - which also has offices in mainland China and the US - has experimented with different genres: as well as RPGs such as Dawn of Magic and DemonSouls, it's released strategy games for the core audience like Revolution 2050. It shows its lighter side with casual titles such as Banker and AlexPanda.
23. Boyaa Interactive
Part of global public relations and communications firm outfit Burson-Marsteller, Boyaa Interactive is a 450-strong specialist in web-based games and mobile apps based on traditional Chinese card and board games.
Starting out in 2005 with its Texas Hold'em web games, it released its first iOS game five years later. Title such as Boyaa Texas Poker remain popular, and it's branched out with dice, Mahjong and billiards games, as well as the traditional card game Dou Di Zhu (or Fight the Landlord). These are available on iOS and Android, with several localised into English for the international market.
22. One Click Games
Shanghai-based developer One Click Games isn't one of the biggest name in Chinese development - yet - but it's certainly building its reputation quickly. Most recently, hybrid free-to-play RPG match-3 game Angel Salvation gained some strong reviews in the US, if not widespread chart success.
Its other key game is Reversal of the Three Kingdoms, which again combines puzzle matching gameplay with tactical elements. It was a top grossing iPhone game in China, and has remained in the top 10 since its July release. A Korean language version also entered the top 10 top grossing charts in that country during September.
21. NetDragon Websoft
Floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2008, NetDragon Websoft (HKG:0777) is one of China's most experience online publishers. Offering a range of online services under its 91 brand, it's also worked with western companies such as EA and Disney to launch their online games in China.
It's come to smartphone gaming fairly recently, though, generating its first revenue in late 2010. Offering a number of content distribution channels, it taking some of its larger PVP MMORPGs to mobile devices, with Conquer Online's iPad release in late 2011 a notable title. It also has a joint venture with DeNA to localise its games for China.
You can see the Top 30 Chinese Developers list as it's revealed here.
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