The PocketGamer.biz top 50 developers of 2012: 40 to 31
Armor Games to 11 bit studios
Considering the many thousands of publishers and developers who are daily making new mobile games and supporting live titles, 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 - one against another - forces us to think about what we mean by the term 'top developers'.
In terms of our process at PocketGamer.biz, we used metrics such as creativity, critical acclaim, sales performance, innovation especially in terms of business model, and that certain je ne sais quoi that only the best studios exude.
The full list - produced in conjunction with leading mobile application analytics and advertising platform Flurry - will be revealed daily through our Top 50 Developer of 2012 section.
40. Armor Games
Well known for its popular free Flash gaming portal, Armor Games certainly has a large portfolio of titles it could bring to iOS. It's been considered in its choices, however, working closely with developers to make sure the transition between platforms, and especially control methods, are as smooth as possible.
Demonstrating this, during 2011 the Armor published Siege Hero and Kingdom Rush were amongst the highest reviewed releases of the year, although their 99c/$2.99 price point didn't encourage widespread distribution or commercial success.
Looking to the future, Armor is committed to iOS and, eschewing Android or Windows Phone, is looking to the longterm potential of HTML5.
Social mobile outfit Z2Live has taken its time to get up to speed when it comes to freemium gaming on iOS.
Founded in 2009 in Seattle, picking up staff from Microsoft, Vivendi Mobile and Amplified Games along the way, it took until the release of Trade Nations in November 2010 to gain its first success.
It's since released Battle Nations and MetalStorm: Wingman, both of which play to the company's hardcore focus and have been more successful in terms of hitting the top grossing positions on global charts. It's looking to repeat this with another air combat game slated for a May release, also bulking up on staff during February by acquiring nine-man Big Sandwich Games.
38. Red Robot Labs
The first location-based games developer to appear on the PocketGamer.biz top 50, Red Robot Labs is a US start up with execs from CrowdStar, EA and Playdom, which has raised $10.5 million, launching its Mafia Wars-style game Life is Crime on Android in September.
Downloaded over a million times, it's now also available for iPhone. The cross-platform experience is heavily focused around player-vs-player activity, targeting a competitive hardcore market.
Building up scale in 2012, Red Robot has two new games in development, one of which is being developed at UK-based Supermono Studios, which it acquired in December.
Such is the relentless activity in the social mobile space, there are always new companies looking to make their mark and take their slice of the action. One such is CrowdStar.
A Facebook publisher of casual games for girls, it's now aggressively moving onto iOS and Android, bringing titles such as Social Girl to the mobile audience.
Backed with an impressive $23 million in VC funding, and the support of OpenFeint and Sibblingz investor Peter Relan as CEO, it's also starting to branch out with games for guys. Wasteland Empires was released on Facebook last year.
36. Get Set Games
It's a mark of the support and polish that Get Set Games have continued to lavish on Mega Jump since its May 2010 release that many now consider it to be the archetypal mobile endless jumping game.
Of course, it's very different to Doodle Jump, having adopted a free-to-play model and all that goes with it.
Downloaded over 19 million times on iOS and Android, the Canadian studio has been quick to use new business models such as incentivised actions, also being one of the first company to try the Kiip reward system. 2012 will see the release of companion game in the form of endless runner Mega Run.
35. Game Insight
Slightly confusing, given that it's known on Android Market as Cooper Media, Game Insight is a Moscow-based casual mobile publisher, consisting of 13 studios and over 250 staff.
Originally releasing on social networks and iOS, it's now focused mainly on Android, seeing great success in 2011 with free-to-play games in genres such as town building and hidden object.
Titles such as Crime Story and My Country have each received over 1 million downloads, while Paradise Island is now over 5 million downloads. It's also looking to release its games via HTML5 in 2012, and has announced it's opening a San Francisco office to maximise its western publishing operations.
34. Limbic Software
Given that boutique studio Limbic Software has only released three games in two years, its presence in our top 50 demonstrates its development prowess. Still, while Nuts! and Tower Madness are well regarded, it was Zombie Gunship that created the company's reputation.
Placing you in control of aiming high powered weaponry from a circling AC-130 gunship in the hopeless task of defending those on the ground from the zombie apocalypse, it mixes sheer gameplay addiction with a very smooth in-app purchase process. It hit the #1 position in the top grossing charts in 19 countries, including the US.
33. G5 Entertainment
Swedish-headquartered and Russian-based G5 Entertainment has been one of the quiet success stories of the mobile industry in 2011.
Fulfilling its promise to deliver a new release every week, the once casual PC publisher has added to its iOS focus, launching on Android Market during the summer. Virtual City Playground is its most popular title, with the company's cumulative download total boosted to over 33 million, and growing at around four million every month.
Its games, which are sourced equally internally and from third party developers, often in eastern Europe, focus on the time management and hidden object genres.
Like similar companies, TinyCo burst onto the mobile social scene in 2011 with a blaze of publicity and a big cheque.
Backed with $18 million from Andreessen Horowitz, it's since been building out various versions of its Tiny social games, gaining more than 20 million downloads in the process.
But it's also focused on the wider picture, setting up a $5 million developer fund to plug third party talent into its user base. It's been active on Android too, highlighting its goal to simultaneously release iOS and Android games using to its Griffin game engine. And it's signed up with DeNA to release its games on Mobage.
31. 11 bit studios
Arguably the graphical game of the year on iOS - it won an Apple Design Award - Polish developer 11 bit Studios (and publisher Chillingo) spent plenty of time making sure reverse tower defence game Anomaly - Warzone Earth was as polished as it possibly could be.
That certainly paid off in terms of review scores with the title being the highest reviewed iPhone game on the Quality Index. Commercially it didn't match these heights, though; perhaps the decision to split the release into iPhone and iPad SKUs diluted its presence. The game was released on Android, for Kindle Fire, and on consoles too. We can't wait to see what the studios gets up to next.
You can see the full Top 50 Developers of 2012 list as it's revealed here.
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