Home   >   Lists

Top 50 Mobile Game Developers of 2013

The shakers, makers and movers
Top 50 Mobile Game Developers of 2013

Four years ago, we launched our first annual rundown of the best mobile game developers in the world, and this year's selection is more vibrant, exciting and global than ever.

But, of course, that's only to be expected given the industry itself is more vibrant, exciting and global that ever before.

As for the unveiling, we'll be kicking off the countdown tomorrow with numbers 50 to 41: presented thanks to our sponsors 'Math Behind the App Stores' data experts App Annie, and the largest Chinese mobile game developer platform CocoaChina.

The countdown will continue daily, and include our special 10 To Watch list of the upcoming studios we think could be challenging for 2014's list.

The top 10 will be revealed at an exclusive event in San Francisco next Sunday evening prior to the start of GDC.

A who's who?

Of course, we're not going to reveal any of the winners yet, but we can divulge some information.

There are 19 new entries in the 2013 list, compared to 23 new entries in 2012, with four new entries appearing in the top 10.

And looking at geographical breakdown, the US is best represented with 17 entries, followed by Europe at 15 and Japan with seven.

Four are UK developers (the best represented European country), four from Korea, and three each from Russia and China.

#50: Spacetime Studios

Spacetime Studios

More Info

Spacetime Studios »


While other MMOG developers struggle to make headway on mobile devices, Spacetime Studios merely builds on its now three year history.

Its 2011 debut Pocket Legends has been joined by horror (Dark Legends), fantasy (Arcane Legends) and sci-fi-themed (Star Legends) siblings, all of which are serviced using the company's proprietary Spacetime engine, enabling cross-play across mobile, PC and browsers.

It's this flexibility that's boosted downloads to over 10 million and average player sessions to 25 hours per month. And, in turn, this has seen the 40-strong company rewarded with Top Developer status on Google Play.

#49: Animoca Brands

Animoca Brands

More Info

Animoca Brands »


Despite being based in Hong Kong, Animoca is clear about its business model; it's focused on launching games and entertainment apps into western markets for Android devices. Gaining its first VC round from big hitters such as Intel Capital, IDG and Accel, its 300-odd releases have racked up more than 115 million downloads, so it's certainly fulfilling the brief.

Top titles include the Pretty Pet series of games and its Star Girl fashion game, while it's recently closed a deal to make games with the Mr Bean and Ultraman brands, cultural characters for UK and Japanese audiences respectively.

#48: PlayFirst, Inc

PlayFirst, Inc

More Info

PlayFirst, Inc »


Once PlayFirst was a PC casual games company, but post-12 November 2012, it became a family-focused pure mobile player with over 10 million daily active users, mainly of its massively successful Dash games.

In that context, as well as ditching PC games, 2012 was significant for the company as it finally moved onto Android, at least into Amazon's ecosystem, with Diner Dash released in October, followed by Cooking Dash in December.

PlayFirst now plans to release a new title for Amazon devices every month, with Google Play activity also pencilled in at some point in 2013.

#47: Chair Entertainment

Chair Entertainment

More Info

Chair Entertainment »


While the Infinity Blade games remain some of the best examples of console-quality gaming applied to touchscreen devices, the past months have been an underwhelming time for Epic-owned Chair Entertainment.

It's continued to update its iOS-only titles - and Infinity Blade II still sits in the US top grossing top 100 - but the company's only new title in 2012 was the comic US election-themed Vote! Similarly odd was the news that Epic had parted company with the retrospectively well-named Impossible Studios, postponing (perhaps forever) the release of Infinity Blade: Dungeons in the process.

#46: Red Robot Labs

Red Robot Labs

More Info

Red Robot Labs »


Location-based persistent world mobile publisher Red Robot Labs had a busy year. It raised $5 million for Asian expansion and opened up its R2 platform for selected mobile developers with the first release being the Android version of ShortRound's Global Outbreak topdown shooter.

In the meantime, its signature title Life is Crime continues to rack up the downloads - 4 million to-date - with the live team running regular events based on gang activity to grow the community. It also recently launched Life is Magic on iOS and Android, which uses the company's proprietary map data to rendering the earth in a fantasy setting.

#45: WeMade Entertainment

WeMade Entertainment

More Info

WeMade Entertainment »


Best known as the creator of online PC games such as the Legend of Mir series, WeMade is now rapidly expanding its mobile operations, under the label weme. Indeed, 40 percent of the revenue it generated in Korea during Q4 came from mobile games, around $9 million.

The reason is two-fold. Titles such as Viking Island, Candy Pang and WindRunner are proving popular. Released in January, the latter already has 4.2 million DAUs. And more generally, the Korean market is booming thanks to KakaoTalk. Eight of WeMade's games integrate the messaging service. Indeed, WeMade actually owns 3.8 percent of Kakao.

#44: NimbleBit


More Info

NimbleBit »


Game-making twins Ian and David Marsh (aka NimbleBit) are perhaps the closest thing the industry has to those successful film-making auteurs. Maybe you could think of them as our equivalent of the Coens or Polish brothers? And they certainly demonstrated their pixel-arty credentials again with Pocket Planes, which was released on iOS in June, and via Mobage on Android.

Of course, as the top of the top grossing charts have become more aggressive territory, it wasn't a particularly financially lucrative game, but with new title Nimble Quest inbound, their vision - and fanbase - remains strong as ever.

#43: TinyCo


More Info

TinyCo »


Like many of the first generation of social mobile companies, TinyCo has had to demonstrates nimble feet to keep relevant. Its portfolio of Tiny-label casual games continues to perform, particularly on Android where the company has Top Developer status on Google Play. It's also been loud in its praise of monetisation levels on the Amazon ecosystem.

And thanks to its $5 million TinyFund to source third-party content, it's now looking to new genres. Its first midcore title is card-battler SpellStorm, while Super Slots is a casino game, and Guess! a nod towards the With Friends market.

#42: Miniclip


More Info

Miniclip »


As part of its transformation from popular Flash games portal to cross-platform gaming company, Miniclip continued to build out its mobile presence in 2012. Key developments during the year included the announcement of over 100 million lifetime downloads on iOS and Android, something backed by the company's X-Port Genie engine, which enables it to also develop for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.

As for games, Miniclip successfully published Ndemic's Plague Inc. on Android, while rolling out its popular multiplayer Flash game 8 Ball Pool on iOS and Android. This runs seamlessly across mobile and web platforms, underlining its ultimate goal.

#41: MAG Interactive

MAG Interactive

More Info

MAG Interactive »


Ruzzle wasn't the first project from Swedish start up Mag Interactive. It's been doing work-for-hire projects since 2009. Instead, it labels the word game, that has over 30 million players and has generated 3 billion rounds since its April 2012 release, the 'first launch from its own product development'.

Of course, the majority of downloads have been of the free version, but the introduction of a single $2.99 IAP in January saw Ruzzle rise into the top 10 US top grossing chart; one of 39 countries where that happened. The game's even done 500,000 paid sales on Android.

#40: Ndemic Creations

Ndemic Creations

More Info

Ndemic Creations »


Inspired by Dark Realm's Flash title Pandemic 2, Plague Inc. demonstrates the mobile ecosystem still holds potential for even one-man indies. Together with some outsourced help, James Vaughan saw his 99c game hit the iOS #1 paid slot in both the UK and US. It was then published by Miniclip on Android, gaining millions more downloads. Well, it was free on the platform.

To-date, 200 million game sessions have been played, with Vaughan cautiously hiring some staff to make Ndemic Creations a 'proper' developer and build on his success with follow up and new titles in 2013.

#39: Ubisoft


More Info

Ubisoft »

UP 9 PLACES (previously as RedLynx)

Historically restricted by its close relationship with Gameloft, it's was only in 2012 that Ubisoft started to show it was really serious about mobile gaming. The highlight was Apple's crowning of the excellent Rayman Jungle Run as its iPhone Game of the Year. The paid title didn't trouble the top grossing charts, however.

Still, with the acquisition of RedLynx (#48 in 2012's list), not to mention a ramp up in publishing operations, it's clear Ubisoft will be acting aggressively in 2013, both in terms of standalone games like the GREE co-developed Assassin's Creed: Utopia and tie-in experiences for console titles, notably Watch Dogs.

#38: Xyrality


More Info

Xyrality »


While many core German browser and PC publishers are attempting a shift to mobile, Xyrality has already succeed. Its city-building PVP title Lords & Knights has been installed over 3.5 million times on iOS, Android and web, and was a top 5 top grossing game in Germany for 2012 on iPhone and iPad.

One reason for this success is players can access their game state on any device, ensuring much higher session frequency and retention. It's something the 60-strong Hamburg team will be building on with the recent release of the Celtic Tribes on iOS

#37: Creative Mobile

Creative Mobile

More Info

Creative Mobile »


Estonian start up Creative Mobile has been a quiet success story. It released free-to-play Drag Racing game on Android and iOS (as Nitro Nation Drag Racing) back in April 2011. It's since racked up a download total of 100 million (91 percent on Android) with daily active users peaking at two million.

The franchise has seen expansion with a bike version, while the anticipated sequel is due soon, which will add much more content and social features using a team-based dynamic. Creative Mobile is now also taking a publishing role, releasing A-Steroids' RPG Clash of the Damned.

#36: Telltale Games

Telltale Games

More Info

Telltale Games »


The ubiquity of iPad provided episodic content developer Telltale Games with the opportunity to get seriously into mobile gaming. It took time to get its PC/console technology and processes working successfully for touchscreen devices, but in 2012 demonstrated how much it had learned with the success of The Walking Dead.

This was released as a multi-platform product, in terms of content delivery and, surprisingly perhaps, pricing, too. This means that each of the to-date five episodes is priced as a $4.99 in-app purchase. But given the quality of the experience, it's been a lucrative decision.

#35: Pocket Gems

Pocket Gems

More Info

Pocket Gems »


With four titles in the 100 top grossing iOS game charts for 2012, Pocket Gems has demonstrated its history as one of the first social mobile developers - notable for its Tap-titled games - continues to pay dividends. However, the market is now very different to 2010, so it's looking to evolve to continue its success story.

The big news is its decision to become a third-party publisher. The thinking is Pocket Gems applies its expertise in launching, operating and monetising to the innovative content coming from indies. Twyngo, dreamfab and WeRPlay are the first developers to sign up.

#34: Zynga


More Info

Zynga »


Was the decision to float a bad one? Maybe. Certainly at $10 a share, as everything the company now does is viewed in the light of its underwater stock. That's not to say there hasn't been serious problems, both in terms of the high turnover of executives and studio restructuring. Given Zynga's astonishing growth, however, growing pains were always likely.

No matter. Annual sales in 2012 were $1.28 billion, it has $1.65 billion in cash, and 240 million monthly active users, 72 million of which are on mobile. With its publishing efforts ramping up, Zynga has everything to play for in 2013.

#33: Capcom


More Info

Capcom »


Having split its business into the western-focused Beeline and Japan-focused Capcom Mobile, Capcom's recent experience has been similar to other Japanese publishers. After a great start, Beeline has stuttered with new F2P social releases like Ghostbusters and Smurf Life not matching Smurfs' Village enormous success in 2011 and early 2012. Total downloads for the unit are 86 million, mainly from Smurfs' Village.

Domestically, however, games such as Minna to Monhan Card Master (on Mobage) and Resident Evil: Outbreak Survive (on GREE) pushed Capcom Mobile's nine months sales up 115 percent year-on-year to $89 million. It predicts revenue will rise a further 63 percent in 2013.

#32: Halfbrick Studios

Halfbrick Studios

More Info

Halfbrick Studios »


It has been a quiet 16 months for Australian developer Halfbrick. Obviously there's plenty going on behind the scenes, but its last new game was the reworking of the classic Fruit Ninja gameplay for movie Puss in Boots in October 2011.

Still, even though top grossing titles such as Jetpack Joyride (just released for BB10) and Fruit Ninja are paid releases, their millions of fans demand updates. Halfbrick also released the Android version of Jetpack Joyride in September (for free), where it's notched up millions more downloads. But given the company's high standing in the mobile gaming ecosystem, what players really want to know is what's next?

#31: Namco Bandai Games

Namco Bandai Games

More Info

Namco Bandai Games »


While its mobile operations in the west are being restructured, in Japan Namco Bandai is growing fast. Thanks to agreements with GREE and DeNA - it has a joint venture with the latter - user numbers rose from 10 million to 30 million during 2012.

Key titles include One Piece Grand Collection (on Mobage) with 4 million users; a number matched by players of its Mobile Suit Gundam games. Another strong performer is The Idol M@ster brand. These are unlikely to perform in the west, though, where the company relies on the evergreen Pac-Man and air combat game Sky Gamblers.

#30: Chukong Technologies

Chukong Technologies

More Info

Chukong Technologies »


Part of the Chukong Technologies group, PunchBox is the company's game development, publishing and advertising arm, while Chukong works with external studios to release their games in China and globally.

Its most successful title is the Fishing Joy franchise, which has been downloaded over 200 million times since its iOS release in 2011 and generates around $6.3 million a month. Most of the 10 million daily active players of the free-to-play arcade fish catching game are in China, but the game has also been released globally and more recently on Android.

#29: Madfinger Games

Madfinger Games

More Info

Madfinger Games »


Thanks to its technical expertise, and the support of companies such as Unity and Nvidia, Madfinger is now one of developers that gamers look towards to provide the best graphics on mobile devices. With its Shadowgun and Dead Trigger franchises, the Czech studio has cornered the market in third- and first-person perspective shooters, respectively.

Sure, they're not the most popular genres on touchscreen devices, especially given the blood and gore it adds to the mix, but downloads numbers measured in the tens of millions demonstrate that, if nothing else, Madfinger is fulfilling the itchy thumbs of console gamers on the go.

#28: Nexon


More Info

Nexon »


Until its $470 million acquisition of Japanese mobile developer gloops (from 'global loops') in October, Korean outfit Nexon was a bit player when it came to mobile games. It had released versions of its big online titles but the likes of MapleStory Live and Combat Arms: Zombies hadn't been successful.

Now, however, Nexon has itself an established studio it expects to generate at least $85 million in annual sales, thanks to core Japanese titles like Japan Pro Baseball Card Battle and Warriors of Odin. The combination of the two will be fascinating to see, especially in terms of their releases through Mobage and GREE.

#27: ZeptoLab


More Info

ZeptoLab »


Russian developer ZeptoLab made its name with Om Nom and the colourful world of candy puzzler Cut the Rope; a 250 million-downloaded franchise it continues to support on mobile and web. The first release since that success was the similarly sweet puzzler Pudding Monsters.

Out simultaneously for iOS and Android (including Amazon and Nook), its more thoughtful approach hasn't captured the imagination like Cut the Rope. The lack of free content on iOS may also have something to do with this. Still, ZeptoLabs has plenty more cooking for 2013. If nothing else, we've haven't seen the last of Om Nom.

#26: Digital Cloud

Digital Cloud

More Info

Digital Cloud »


Chengdu-based Digital Cloud is primarily focused on the Chinese and Asian iOS market, and it's been mighty successful in that business. Released in July, its turn-based free-to-play MMORPG DragonForce (Dragon Bane in the west) has been sitting pretty at the very top of the Chinese top grossing iPhone and iPad ever since. It's also performed well in Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia

Digital Cloud isn't a one-trick pony, however. Its has three Three Kingdoms-themed strategy games, which have also spent many weeks towards the top of the Chinese top grossing charts.

#25: Konami


More Info

Konami »


Like many of the big Japanese publishers, Konami has a significant mobile games business - if only in Japan. With an audience of 34 million monthly active users, the division posted nine months revenues of $250 million in 2012, albeit down 9 percent year-on-year. This is generated by titles such as Dragon Collection (on GREE) and Sengoku Collection (on Mobage), which have been top grossing for years.

In western markets, Konami's attempts to rework its console brands onto mobile have yet to find much success, although that may change with the release of Metal Gear Solid Social Ops on GREE.

#24: GREE


More Info


UP 4 PLACES (previously listed as Funzio)

2012 was an annus horribilis for social gaming network giant GREE. While Japanese arch rival DeNA saw its sales and share price soar, GREE still hasn't had the breakout western hit it so desires. Instead, for much of the year revenues declined quarter-on-quarter, resulting in a downgrade of its FY13 forecast by 17 percent. It also had to apologise for not properly implementing spending limits for Japanese children.

Still, this is a company with annual sales of $1.6 billion, and $480 million in cash, so its importance in the global industry is hard to overstate. 2013 can only get better.

#23: Wooga GmbH

Wooga GmbH

More Info

Wooga GmbH »


Facebook might not be the gaming cash cow it once was, but it's still important, even for mobile success. Just ask Wooga. It leveraged its strength on the platform to make mobile a key part of its business. Indeed, the iOS version of Diamond Dash is said to have the highest percent of Facebook Connect users of any iOS title; over 60 percent.

So with only two releases, mobile now accounts for 50 percent of Wooga's revenues; up from zero 15 months ago. And it's not stopping. It has four games in development for 2013; ranging from casual to midcore PVP titles

#22: Glu Mobile

Glu Mobile

More Info

Glu Mobile »


As seems to be the way with Glu Mobile, there's good and there's less good. 2012 sales were up 32 percent to $87.5 million, but losses increased to $22.1 million. One reason was more Apple restrictions on incentivised downloads, but a strategic rethink also delayed the release of some titles.

Bottomline is the charts are getting more competitive and that's driving up expected quality. Glu is looking to overcome this by opening up its third-party publishing. It's hopeful about the potential of casino games too, thanks to investment in start-up Bee Cave, and a hook up with real money specialist Probability.

#21: G5 Entertainment

G5 Entertainment

More Info

G5 Entertainment »


Bringing its experience from the publishing of casual PC games to mobile, Swedish-headquartered and Russian-operated G5 Entertainment continued its momentum in 2012: annual sales were up 74 percent to almost $13 million. Its long term goal is $45 million in revenue and it's raised $6 million to enable further expansion in 2013.

Still, that target will take some doing but G5 has deals with 80 third-party studios and is ramping up its Android activity. Internally developed titles such as the free-to-play Virtual City Playground have provided a foundation for growth as well. It accounted for 30 percent of Q3 sales.

#20: Game Insight

Game Insight

More Info

Game Insight »


Founded in 2010, Russian outfit Game Insight hit the ground running. Consisting of a dozen studios - its headcount is now over 500 - it was quick into free-to-play mobile games, especially on Android.

Its focus is casual sim and city-building games, set in exotic locations, while a keen understanding of monetisation has ensured its 140+ million downloads have converted into strong revenue numbers. For example, Airport City has generated over $19 million, Paradise Island over $23 million and Mystery Manor over $41 million. Annual sales during 2011 were rumoured to be over $50 million, with more fuel for expansion provided by a recent $25 million VC round.

#19: Mojang


More Info

Mojang »


Is Mojang a core mobile developer? No. Minecraft was originally a PC phenomenon before user demand brought it to iOS and Android in the cutdown form of Minecraft - Pocket Edition. But despite its $6.99 price tag, it continues to sell strongly: 5.9 million during 2012. That's a cool $29 million in net revenue.

So maybe not core, but Mojang is certainly a key mobile player. It's found itself a special niche on the platform, just as it has on PC. Whether it can repeat the experience with forthcoming multi-platform collectible card game Scrolls, we'll find out later in 2013.

#18: Big Fish

Big Fish

More Info

Big Fish »


One of the heavyweights of the PC casual space, Big Fish had already moved to mobile with success (especially on iPad), although its hidden object games were premium experiences. Even if you downloaded them for free, you paid to unlock the majority of content.

The big change in 2012 saw the company embrace free-to-play titles. It's only released three to-date - Big Fish Casino, Found and the excellent Fairway Solitaire - but they're generating around $4 million per month; a number we expect to increase substantially. Plus there's the potential of its tablet streaming game service Big Fish Unlimited to consider.

#17: Kiloo


More Info

Kiloo »


One of the veterans of mobile game development, Danish studio Kiloo surprised everyone when it released Subway Surfers' usage figures. Co-produced with fellow Danish outfit Sybo, it's been downloaded over 130 million times on iOS and Android, racking up a massive 25 million daily active users. That's Angry Birds-style popularity.

When it comes to monetisation, the game has taken longer to get up to speed. Kiloo says it prefers to focus on retention. Still, now comfortably in the US top 20 top grossing charts, this should provide a good foundation for the five new titles Kiloo has in co-production.

#16: Backflip Studios

Backflip Studios

More Info

Backflip Studios »


Backflip released its signature game DragonVale in October 2011, and ever since the dragon breeding/nurturing title has sat strong in the top 20 US iOS top grossing charts. It was the top grossing iPad in the US last year. 2012 also saw the release of Android versions for Amazon and Google Play. No numbers have been formally released but if it's not already, it surely soon will rank as a $100 million franchise.

It's a remarkable demonstration of the power of a new theme within a well-understood genre when backed by a laser-focus on running a service: in this case that's a big monthly update.

#15: Storm8


More Info

Storm8 »


One of the original social mobile games success stories from 2009, Storm8 recently announced some big numbers; 400 million downloads, 200 million players, and 10 million DAUs across its large portfolio of casual, core and casino games.

Indeed, it remains hard to keep track of everything the 175-strong outfit is up to given the different labels it releases under: Storm8 for midcore; TeamLava for female-casual; Shark Party for social casino; and FireMocha for hardcore. But tying everything together is its own integrated social network, which provide cheap user acquisition via cross promotion, enabling its games to get critical mass very quickly.

#14: Gameloft


More Info

Gameloft »


2012 saw another strong financial performance from French publisher Gameloft. Sales were up 27 percent to $275 million; higher than the $260 million it originally predicted. What's significant about its operations, however, is that unlike most other companies on this list, it doesn't appear to have any key top grossing titles. Social free-to-play game Ice Age Village was the only one of its titles that featured in Apple's top grossing charts for 2012, for example.

Instead, Gameloft continues with a volume-and-scale approach to the market, with Java game sales in emerging markets remaining a surprisingly key element of its revenue.

#13: Imangi Studios

Imangi Studios

More Info

Imangi Studios »


Things just continue to better for Temple Run outfit Imangi. Having announced the original free-to-play title had been downloaded over 100 million times in August, it continued to demonstrate indies can prosper on the App Store. The sequel blasted out of the blocks in January, out-scoring Angry Birds Space with 50 million downloads in 13 days.

In addition to working on their own games, the husband-and-wife team (now plus three staff) also found the time to help out Disney as it uses the addictive nature of the endless running gameplay to promote movies like Brave and Oz.

#12: Gamevil


More Info

Gamevil »


Building on its strong 2011 performance, Korean publisher Gamevil boomed in 2012. On the back of the fast-growing domestic market, sales were up 64 percent to $66 million. The company predicts this will be $94 million in 2013 so it's no wonder its share price has risen over 50 percent in the past 12 months, valuing Gamevil at over $500 million.

Top performing titles included free-to-play social games such as Fishing Superstars and Punch Hero, which combined with the continuing expansion of its third-party publishing operations saw Gamevil sail past the 200 million download mark in December.

#11: CyberAgent


More Info

CyberAgent »


While it operates Japanese social mobile network Ameba, amongst other internet properties, web giant CyberAgent's high ranking on the 2013 list comes thanks to its subsidiaries Cygames and Applibot.

The former is famous for card-battler Rage of Bahamut. Published on DeNA's Mobage platform (DeNA has equity in Cygames), the title has been downloaded more than 10 million times globally and has ranked top 20 in the iOS and Android top grossing charts since launch.

Similarly, Applibot's Legend of the Cryptids has been very successful on both platforms. The result is CyberAgent's mobile game revenues in 2012 were $290 million.

#10: Com2uS


More Info

Com2uS »


Over the past couple of years, Com2uS has demonstrated in positive and negative fashion how quickly the mobile games market can change. The larger of the two big Korean publishers (Gamevil is the other), it was slow to transition from the sale of Java games to target the more complex international smartphone market. The result was sales dropped 12 percent in 2010.

Com2uS turned this around with typically core Korean fare such as RPG Inotia and its baseball franchise 9 Innings, as well as expanding its thirdparty publishing efforts. It released 43 games in 2012, compared to 18 iOS games in 2011.

But it wasn't just quantity which saw Com2uS' sales up 112 percent in 2012 to $72 million. Its decision to target the casual free-to-play market with games such as Tiny Farm coincided with the incredible growth of the KakaoTalk messaging service in Korea.

When it started supporting games in the summer of 2012, Com2uS was quickly on hand to rework existing titles to support the new viral discovery channels. It's followed this up with titles for Japanese messaging service Line, and it's these new channels, combined with 50 planned releases that Com2uS hopes will boost sales to over $90 million in 2013.

#9: DeNA Co.,Ltd.

DeNA Co.,Ltd.

More Info

DeNA Co.,Ltd. »

UP 16 PLACES (ngmoco's listing)

When it comes to the global expansion of social gaming networks, 2012 saw Japanese giant DeNA demonstrate it's not about the network per se, it's about the games on the network.

Hence, given the vast majority of its revenue comes - and continues to come - from Japan, the overseas success of card-battling title Rage of Bahamut, especially in North America, provided strong evidence it was on the right track. DeNA backed up that success on its Mobage network with similar hardcore game such as RPG Blood Brothers, while also releasing more card-battlers based on western licences such as Marvel and Transformers. The result was nine month sales grew 44 percent to around $1.6 billion, while its share price rose 42 percent during 2012.

And it's got plenty more planned in 2013. Most anticipated is The Drowning, a free-to-play shooter from its Swedish studio, which looks to combine console-quality graphics with novel monetisation and gameplay loops. It continues to sign up thirdparty studios to use Mobage, as well as doing deals with companies such as Renren and Mixi too.

And, perhaps most strategically, DeNA is reacting to the growth of messaging services such as Line and KakaoTalk with its own Comm service.

#8: Disney Mobile Studios

Disney Mobile Studios

More Info

Disney Mobile Studios »


Despite being a tiny element in the Disney media empire, its mobile division continues to shine. Kickstarted by the acquisition of Tapulous in 2010, Disney Mobile is demonstrating it can successfully walk the line that joins great games and leveraging Disney's classic and emerging character set. (Just think what it's planning with Lucasfilm' IP?)

Where's My Water? continues to be the jewel in the crown, with Swampy the crocodile now an iconic character in his own right. His status is backed by over 100 million iOS and Android downloads, and gameplay mechanics have found success a second time around with Perry the Platypus dropped into the lead role for Where's My Perry?

There's been a similar approach in terms of gameplay appropriation in the hook up with Imangi Studios, which has seen the mechanic from Temple Run successfully rolled out for films Brave and Oz. Meanwhile, older franchises have been supported with titles such as Toy Story: Smash It! and Monsters Inc Run, a themed version of Mega Run.

But perhaps the most significant aspect of Disney Mobile's success is its ability to mix free-to-play releases with paid-plus-IAP games. In this case, the brand is demonstrating brand value.

#7: King


More Info

King »


Having created and incubated hundreds of casual games within its own portal for a decade, 2011 saw deploy its expert knowledge onto Facebook's then-stagnating games platform. The result is the London-headquartered, Swedish-operated company is now second only to Zynga on the social network. That experience was then redeployed in 2012 as it opened up the gates for its mobile assault.

This saw successfully launch its two top brands, Bubble Witch Saga and Candy Crush Saga onto iOS and Android. What really made the match-3 and the bubble-popper games successful was's determination to sync Facebook and mobile sessions so players can access their accounts - game state, power ups, friends, leaderboards etc - no matter what platform they're playing on.

It's something casual players have quickly come to expect as standard and helped propel Candy Crush Saga to the #2 top grossing spot on the US iPhone chart, where it's been for the past couple of months. It's no surprise then that App Annie ranked #3 in terms of being the top grossing iOS gamer publisher during January. We expect more of the same in 2013.

#6: Kabam


More Info

Kabam »


The most significant trend in our 2013 top developers list is the influx of well established companies from Facebook and web/online gaming. With 600 staff and a lifetime $100 million franchise in the shape of PVP city-builder Kingdoms of Camelot, midcore publisher Kabam ranks highest among that cohort. The reason goes beyond those bare facts, however.

The company's obvious first step when coming to mobile was to re-imagine Camelot for iOS and Android, which resulted in standalone title Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, released in February. It was the top grossing iPhone game in the US during 2012. A timely reskinning on the back of the company acquiring the licence to The Hobbit film trilogy saw the release of The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. But it was Arcane Empires, the company's debut mobile-first title that proved most interesting.

Either way, all three games have been successful, with Kabam generating around 60 percent of its FY12 $180 million sales from those mobile titles. As for the future, the iOS version of sci-fi defence strategy game Edgeworld in testing, while Kabam says it's also looking beyond its midcore fanbase to a more diverse audience, including casual games; something it will address with its new publishing division.

#5: NaturalMotion Games

NaturalMotion Games

More Info

NaturalMotion Games »


Demonstrating how quickly success can be redefined upwards, NaturalMotion's CSR Racing was the exemplar everyone employed to use to highlight the rise of midcore free-to-play gaming - at least until Clash of Clans was released.

Previously focused on paid console-quality mobile games for iOS, the company's breakthrough in 2011 was its decision to get early into free-to-play gaming with 3D pet title My Horse.

A success (for its time), this provided the foundation for the high-end drag racer, which burst onto the App Store in June following its onstage reveal at Apple's WWDC event. When in August, NaturalMotion announced the Boss Alien-developed title had generated $12 million in a month, it was an impressive number. And it was made even more so given the company had just closed a $11 million VC round.

Since then CSR Racing has remained in the US top 25 top grossing charts, generating tens of millions of dollars more for NaturalMotion; something it's used to tidy up its business, buying Boss Alien. The UK-based outfits have also been hiring aggressively, with various projects - midcore and casual - in development, although news about technical demo Clumsy Ninja has gone quiet.

#4: GungHo Online Entertainment

GungHo Online Entertainment

More Info

GungHo Online Entertainment »


In terms of recent app store performance, it's tempting to view GungHo Online as the Japanese equivalent of Supercell. That would be wrong, however. It's been around much, much longer (since 1998) and is a substantial entity consisting of half a dozen studios making games for console, online, handheld and mobile devices, as well as being floated on the JASDAQ stock exchange.

Yet, its phenomenal success in 2012 is in some ways similar to Supercell, as it's driven by the mass market adoption of free-to-play gaming: in this case a single title, Puzzle & Dragons.

The exact numbers are hard to break out from GungHo's overall business - 2012 revenue across all divisions was $280 million - but analysts reckon Puzzle & Dragons is currently generating around $50 million a month on Android and iOS, mainly from the Japanese market, although it's successful in Korea too.

Of course, GungHo has released plenty of other mobile titles, but it is Puzzle & Dragons, which like Clash of Clans, demonstrates the 'winner takes all' situation at the top of the app stores. The result is that (at time of writing) GungHo is worth $5.5 billion; more than Zynga, GREE or DeNA.

#3: EA Mobile

EA Mobile

More Info

EA Mobile »


While its parent is blown this way and that by the decline of retail and the ongoing console transition, EA Mobile continues to shine. It generated $269 million in FY12 sales, up 17 percent year-on-year, and will likely beat that substantially in FY13. Nine months sales are $230 million, thanks in part to the ongoing contribution from PopCap's mobile business, and other acquisitions like Firemint and Chillingo.

Indeed, demonstrating a 'sum of the parts' attitude, there's a new confidence about EA's mobile output, whether it's the growing revenue from mainstays like FIFA and Madden as part of the connected Origin platform play, or the surprise success of the free-to-play The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Launched, and pulled from app stores in April because of server issues (and more), it returned in October, generating $23 million in Q3.

Combined with high-end titles F2P such as Real Racing 3, and the reworking of brands such as Tetris and The Sims, EA looks likely to continue to battle with Supercell for the #1 top grossing publisher slot on iOS, even if it still occasionally drops the ball as occurred with the canned mobile release of Battlefield 3.

#2: Rovio


More Info

Rovio »


Despite releasing four games in 2012,'s #1 developer last year slips one place. Like Supercell, Rovio is based in Helsinki, Finland, and it might feel aggrieved to have lost top status to its neighbour. After all, 2012 saw it break through the 1 billion installs barrier, ending the year with 263 million monthly active users.

Combined with hundreds of millions of dollars generated from merchandising - Rovio has 25,000 official branded products in China, apparently - it's by far the most valuable western mobile games company (even if it now prefers to label itself an entertainment media company). Equally, during 2012, it extended the Angry Birds franchise significantly with the Star Wars and Space releases - its best games so far. Bad Piggies and Amazing Alex were also solid expansions to its portfolio.

So why #2? It's a marginal call, but for all the success, Rovio is lagging when it comes to the free-to-play curve, which is where the big app monetisation bucks are being made. It doesn't need extra reach or cash now, maybe, but as it looks to IPO in 2014, it will need to demonstrate it understands the mechanic that's driving the market better than the launch of Dreamworks' tie-in game The Croods suggests. It didn't trouble the US iPhone top 100 top grossing charts.

#1: Supercell


More Info

Supercell »


Everyone loves the 'zero to hero' narrative, but although Finnish developer Supercell didn't feature in's top 50 list for 2012, its 'overnight success story' is more nuanced than you might imagine.

Formed in 2011 by veterans from Digital Chocolate's Helsinki studio, it hit the ground running thanks to a $12 million VC round. Alas, Supercell launched its midcore Facebook game Gunshine just as the Facebook market was tightening. Then moving its focus to tablets, it started talking up turn-based tactical shooter Battle Buddies; a game that was never released.

So, it wasn't until mid-2012 that Supercell demonstrated how much it had learned, launching midcore PVP city-builder Clash of Clans, and farming 2.0 title Hay Day for iOS. The rest is history. Both have remained at the top of the top grossing charts ever since, generating what's estimated as more than $200 million in revenue.

Indeed, not only was Clash of Clans the top grossing iOS game during January 2013, when combined with Hay Day, Supercell is the top grossing games company on iOS, beating EA into second place, even though the latter has 10 titles in the top 200.