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Top 50 Mobile Game Developers of 2015

The shakers, makers and movers
Top 50 Mobile Game Developers of 2015

Welcome to's Top 50 developer list for 2015, which is sponsored by mobile advertising platform Supersonic and developer, publisher and tools company Chukong Technologies

Now in its sixth year, it's becoming harder to recall those days when the iPhone 3GS was the only serious gaming device available.

Clearly, there have been a lot of changes since then; something the list reflects in both obvious and more subtle ways.

For example, our list is now truly global, demonstrating you can find world-beating mobile game developers everywhere from Helsinki, Tokyo, San Francisco, London, Seoul and Shanghai to less well known cities like Karlsruhe and Aarhus.

We're everywhere

A more subtle change is the maturing of the market.

With mobile game revenues in 2014 estimated to be $25 billion, it's clear that the early days of high growth are over. Instead, in future, developers will be competing for slices of a relatively fixed pie.

And much of that pie is already claimed by companies with annual sales of more than $1 billion. 

That's not to say that new games and new entrants can't shake up the system, however. As demonstrated in Japan and China, radical change is always possible.

Nevertheless, in this year's list, we're focused less on headline financials, and more of the quality of games; something that in future will only become a more important part of exciting the mobile gamer.

And, after all, that should be the starting point for every game.

#50: Pocket Gems

Pocket Gems

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Pocket Gems »

One of the original US-based social game mobile start-ups, Pocket Gems demonstrates the balance that should be maintained between innovation and day-to-day operations.

For example, 2012 release Tap Paradise Cove is still being updated and still experiences occasional peaks into the US top 100 grossing chart.

At the end of the year, Pocket Gems also released a hidden object game based on the Night at the Museum franchise of films and fashion sim Runway Life.

But as well as games, the company has been focused on a more longterm project, it's interactive storytelling app Episode, which has received around 1 million downloads and generated more than 300 million read chapters.

#49: Creative Mobile

Creative Mobile

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Creative Mobile »

With over 250 million downloads of its various drag racing games Estonian developer Creative Mobile continues to attract the hard core audience that finds rival games such as CSR Racing and Fast & Furious too mainstream.

Especially strong on Android, original release Drag Racing continues to perform strongly, despite the release of sequel Nitro Nation Racing.

Creative Mobile is also experimenting with audience segment via the beta release of Drag Racing: Club Wars, which brings alliances, or racing clubs, into the meta-game.

The company is also extending its commercial arm by publishing thirdparty titles such as Ambush! and Clash of the Dammed under its Fun Factory label.

#48: HandyGames


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HandyGames »

One of the few remaining veterans of mobile gaming, German outfit HandyGames thrives thanks to the combination of the high quality of its games and its close cooperation with OEMs and platform holders like Apple, Google, Sony and Samsung.

It's particular keen to seek out new opportunities, which has seen it releasing some of the first games for Android Wear smartwatches - it's also supporting Apple Watch - as well as being an original Kickstarter support of Ouya.

As for its game, they range from pick-and-play arcade titles like Aces of the Luftwaffe to deeper strategy titles such as Townsmen and turn-based strategy game 1942 Pacific Front.

#47: Ubisoft


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Ubisoft »

For various reasons, notably a historic non-compete with Gameloft, mobile game have never been a native platform for Ubisoft.

It's trying to change this culture, though, notably with acquisitions such as UK outfit Future Games of London and Finnish studio RedLynx.

RedLynx's Trials Frontiers demonstrated a welcome combination of high-end production values and F2P monetisation; the latter being something Ubisoft has struggled with.

It's also looking to engage with the global market as demonstrated by a deal with OurPalm to distribute games including FGOL's Hungry Shark franchise in China.

A key title for 2015 will be Assassin's Creed Identity, which is currently in soft launch.

#46: Zynga


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Zynga »

Reinvention is a difficult skill, something Zynga has been finding out over the past two years as it looks to reposition itself back into "growth mode".

The plan is to build up around the pillar categories in which it is already strong, such as racing (CSR Racing); poker (Zynga Poker); social (Words with Friends); and simulation (FarmVille 2).

In that context, the release of the mobile, more core, reimagining of Facebook game Empires and Allies will be significant in 2015, as well as the expected output from wholly-owned studio NaturalMotion, which has been remarkably quiet since its $527 million acquisition at the start of 2014.

#45: ZeptoLab


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ZeptoLab »

The vast bulk of ZeptoLab's releases, and revenues, have come from Om Nom and its Cut the Rope franchise, which has racked up more than 600 million downloads.

Much anticipated new game King of Thieves will demonstrate that the Russian/UK developer is more than a single-game studio, however. It promises to be multiplayer-focused, with a gameplay mix of platformer meets tower defence. You'll get to set up your defences while trying to steal other players' gold.

Of course, Om Nom hasn't been forgotten either. A standalone app, My Om Nom, lets you interact with the cute sweet-eating monster, also introducing a female version for the first time.

#44: Gameloft


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Gameloft »

Like some of the big Japanese companies, Gameloft is having to rethink its approach to mobile games.

It's released fewer games recently and many, such as the much delayed Brothers in Arms 3, haven't perform as expected, resulting in static annual sales of $275 million.

Going forward, Gameloft is looking to release 20 games in 2015, with high profile releases such as Dungeon Hunter 5 to the fore.

It will also hope that the release of a new Minions film in the summer will provide the opportunity for global strong sales. Its 2013 release Despicable Me: Minions Rush clocked up more than 800 million downloads, and it has over 150 million active monthly players.

#43: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment »

Like many large media companies, Warner Bros. releases a lot of mobile games, not all them top-notch.

But it's the output of its Chicago inhouse studio NetherRealm that has really stamped a mark on the app stores. Each of the three F2P fighting games it's developed provide powerful gameplay experiences as well as strong integration with world-class IP.

The most recent release, WWE Immortals, is perhaps the most interesting as it sets real WWE characters within a fantasy supernatural world, while also providing the opportunity for the game to develop over the months in step with the WWE calendar. It's a clever move and one that mirror's the work Glu Mobile pioneered with Kim Kardashian, although whether the game has similar success remains to be seen.

And next up from the studio comes Mortal Kombat X, which will see the classic fighting game reimagined as a fighting/card-battler hybrid, as well as providing console-mobile cross connectivity features.

#42: Ndemic Creations

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Ndemic Creations »

It's always dangerous to run a service that closely interacts with real-world events, particularly when in the case of game of 99c disease simulator Plague Inc, the player's goal is to wipe out the world's population.

In that context, the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa could have cast a morbid shadow over the game, which has racked up 45 million downloads and has ranked as the best selling iPhone app in China and #3 best selling iPhone game in the US. Indeed, despite being released over two and a half years ago, it's still a constant in US iPhone paid app chart's top 20.

Turning the weakness into a strength, however, UK developer Ndemic Creations gave players the opportunity to donate to charities working in the affected countries, raising $76,000 in the process.

And another neat touch was the Christmas update which had players infecting the world with seasonal happiness.

#41: Marvelous Europe

Marvelous Europe

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Marvelous Europe »

Like many Japanese game companies, Marvelous runs a number of different businesses from anime DVDs and stage productions to console and mobile games.

But it's the success of mobile RPG Logres of Sword and Sorcery that's currently boosting its commercial performance. Off the back of 4 million downloads in Japan, the game has been a top 20 top grossing iPhone game for 12 months. In turn, the company's half year profits rose 109 percent.

Marvelous isn't immune from the feature phone games transition in Japan, though. It wrote off the cost of developing a Evangelion mobile browser game to focus on more native releases, such as NBA Clutch Time.

#40: GREE


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With FY15 sales predicted to be $820 million, GREE remains one of the largest pure F2P mobile games companies in the world.

It is having to work hard to find growth, however, particularly given the strong pressures in its domestic Japanese market, where it competes with the likes of DeNA, GungHo, and Colopl for the high ARPU audience which it dominated in the days of mobile browser games.

Now it's looking to partnerships with local channels such as LINE and KDDI to provide future growth, while it expects to release 11 new native games in the coming months. And one recent sucess story in Japan is Shometsu Toshi which has experienced strong growth, with three million downloads to-date.

In the west, veteran titles like War of Nations and Knights & Dragons provide solid if unspectacular revenues, but it will be looking to make more from its San Francisco development hub during 2015.

#39: Imangi Studios

Imangi Studios

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Imangi Studios »

Like the genre it spawned, Temple Run is a franchise that appears to offer endless success. So, although its App Store description says it's has "over a zillion downloads", the truth that the series has now clocked up over 1 billion downloads is no less amazing.

In this respect, the only competitors that can match Imangi Studios' game in terms of casual appeal are Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and like those games, Temple Run's cultural force is now beyond what you'd expect from a mobile game.

And given the possibilities for spin-offs - we've already seen Disney's Temple Run: Brave and Temple Run: Oz, and a virtual reality version for Samsung Gear VR headset - it would appear there's still plenty of road ahead.

#38: Chukong Technologies

Chukong Technologies

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Chukong Technologies »

There's always lots going on at Chinese developer, publisher and tools company Chukong. Its biggest recent news has been its decision to postpone plans for an US IPO.

But in the meantime, it's been beefing up its Cocos2D-x engine operations; a part of the business it currently considers to be undervalued.

For example, it's added Cocos Services, which include service integration with the like of Chartboost and Vungle. Corporately, the company has also received strategic investment from the likes of Qualcomm and GungHo.

In terms of games, Fishing Joy 3 and Qin's Moon have been successful in China; both generating over $5 million a month at launch.

#37: TinyCo


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TinyCo »

Despite being one of the original US social mobile game start-ups, 2014 was the year that TinyCo went all in on one big licence - Fox's Family Guy cartoon.

Following in the footsteps of EA's successful The Simpsons: Tapped Out, the game - Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff - mixes up classic simulations gameplay with the character and humour of the TV show.

But most important for the game's success has been the regular content updates which bring real world seasons and crossovers from other Fox properties such as America Dad, to keep the experience fresh.

The result is a game that's been top 10 grossing in 51 countries on iPhone, and remains a solid performer in the US top 50.

#36: Nexon


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Nexon »

Thanks to its purchase of Japanese developer Gloops, a browser game company, Nexon's mobile sales had been on the slide.

But a renewed focus on native games, which has been particularly successful in Korea, has seen a rebound with revenues now running at a more than $300 million annualised rate.

Recent strong performers include Legion of Heroes for Kakao and top 10 top grossing game FIFA Online 3 M. And even in Japan, recent release Skylock has picked up 1 million downloads.

Still, Western markets aren't yet significant for Nexon; something it's looking to change with the release of Big Huge Games' DomiNations, not to mention games from US dev Turbo and German outfit Envision through its new subsidiary Nexon M.

It's also just signed a deal to make a LEGO-based F2P RPG, due to be released first in Asia, sometime during 2016.

#35: Disney Mobile Studios

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Disney Mobile Studios »

Given its massive scale, mobile gaming remains a tiny part of Disney's media operations, yet it's not insignificant culturally or in terms of revenue.

For example, the success of Disney Tsum Tsum on the LINE platform in Japan generated decent revenue in-game, as well as driving the physical sale of over 1.6 million plushies.

Disney's other current top performer is a more traditional tie-in.

A match-3 game based on the Frozen film, Frozen Free Fall, has been a top 50 top grossing game for 12 months in the US, Germany, Russia, the UK and Japan. These two games alone were enough to boost Disney Interactive's recent income to $75 million.

The more lucrative opportunity in 2015, however, will be provided by the next Star Wars film. In that context, strategy game Star Wars: Commander has proven to be solid, if not spectacular, in terms of its grossing performance.

#34: Nordeus


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Nordeus »

2014 was a big year for football, and Serbian developer Nordeus continued to dominate the mobile football management genre with its Jose Mourinho-fronted Top Eleven 2015.

Both on the App Store and Google Play, the game - which has just been updated to the 2015 edition - is firmly nailed into the top 30 top grossing charts for the key EU5 countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK.

And that's where it's been since its 2012 release.

Helped in terms of reach by the ability to play from mobile and Facebook, Top Eleven supports 40 languages, including Catalan and Albanian; features that enable it to attract a daily audience of five million players.

#33: Mojang


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Mojang »

While the headline news about Mojang was Microsoft's $2.5 billion acquisition and the departure of Notch (and his subsequent spending spree), Swedish developer Mojang had a very productive year.

Of course, Minecraft - Pocket Edition continued to sell and sell and sell... across the App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore. To-date, the total is over 30 million, which given the $6.99 price, results in net income of $147 million.

More significantly, however, it released new game Scrolls for Android tablets (and PC).

A free-to-play card-battler, it's not been a Minecraft-scale success but it's been hovering around the Google Play top 100 position, and no doubt there will be a strong jump when the iPad (and Mac) versions are released.

#32: Space Ape Games

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Space Ape Games »

One of the developers that's built on the opportunity for mobile strategy games created by Supercell's Clash of Clans, London-based Space Ape is on the rise.

Set up mainly with experienced staff from EA's Facebook-orientated Playfish studio, Space Ape's launch game Samuari Siege was designed to get players into alliances as quickly as possible, creating a strong and engaged audience.

It's clearly worked with the developer reporting an annualised run rate of $24 million. It's since accelerated its business with a $7 million VC round, which it will use to launch second game Rival Kingdoms, which is currently in soft launch mode and promises even more multiplayer goodness, and less "monotonous tapping".

A recent investment by Sega Networks - that will enable it to gain more traction in the lucrative Japanese market - is just the icing on Space Ape's cake.

#31: Sega Networks

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Sega Networks »

While much of Sega Sammy is being reorganised to align the company for the digital now, Sega Networks is in rude health. The F2P mobile consumer division grew its annual revenues five-fold to over $200 million last year, and accounts for roughly 50 percent of all Sega Sammy's digital sales.

The Japanese mobile market is the core of this growth with Puyopuyo! Quest doing around $5 million a month and Chain Chronicles - which has also been successful in China and southeast Asia - leading the charge by generating over $100 million a year.

Demonstrating strength in depth, Sega Networks has another five titles that generate over $1 million a month, and 15 new games in development.

It's also looking to get much active with western developers as its investment into Space Ape Games and Ignited Artists and the acquisition of Demiurge Studios demonstrates.

#30: LINE Corporation

LINE Corporation

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LINE Corporation »

Although formally a mobile messaging platform, in recent months, the LINE Corporation has moved from being an active publisher of mobile gaming into being an active participant in mobile game development.

The highest profile move in this respect has been Epic Voyage, a joint venture game development studio in Japan set up with GREE.

It's also now looking to work directly with mobile developers in Taiwan and Thailand, both of which - like Japan - are countries in which LINE is the #1 messaging service.

More generally, LINE now has over 170 million monthly active users and there are 13 countries in which it has more than 10 million users, making it a strong global platform for developers.

As for LINE, the majority of its $720 million annual revenues are generated from casual arcade games such as LINE Cookie Run, LINE Pop, Disney Tsum Tsum and LINE Get Rich (a version of Netmarble's Everybody's Marble).

But it's also looking to extend its reach, branching out into midcore games and RPGs; a process it kicked off with sister company NHNPlayArt's Revenant Gate.

#29: Flaregames


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Flaregames »

Flaregames is currently a poster child the German F2P mobile business.

Following the success of its original Royal Revolt game, Royal Revolt 2 - the redesigned TD-action hybrid - was one of the most polished games of 2014.

The 100-strong company, which has offices in Karlsruhe and Frankfurt, continues to experiment; it's currently working on two card-collection games, but its big opportunity is its evolution into a publisher.

Buoyed by total funding of $23 million, it's since signed up Subatomic's latest Fieldrunners release, Fuzzycube's Epic Loot and Superweapon's Dawn of Steel. It also released Remedy's Agents of Storm.

Revenue grew 350 percent in 2014 and CEO Klaas Kersting says he expects at least the same growth in 2015.

#28: Netmarble


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Netmarble »

A prime example of the complex world of the Korean chaebol, CJ Games and Netmarble used to be subsidiaries of Korea's largest media company CJ E&M. It has business interests in music, TV, movie theatres and shopping malls as well as games.

It is, however, in turn part of conglomerate CJ Group, which has activities ranging from logistics and home shopping to pharmaceutics, biotechnology, food and entertainment.

Then, in March 2014, a $500 million investment from Chinese giant Tencent enabled entrepreneur JoonHyuk Bang to become the largest shareholder in Netmarble, merging it with CJ Games. Tencent now owns 28 percent of the company with CJ E&M also retaining some stock.

The reason for such business maneuvering is that thanks to casual games like Everybody's Marble for Kakao, which has been a top 5 grossing game on Google Play in Korea since its July 2013 release, Netmarble Games is often listed among the top 10 top grossing mobile games companies in the world

It's been a strong supporter of Korean mobile messaging service Kakao; something that Tencent hopes will prove equally lucrative when that expertise is combined with its similar WeChat service.

#27: Longtu Game

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Longtu Game »

One consequence of very large mobile game markets and the rise of multiplayer games which are operated as a service is that top grossing games tend to stay in place for long periods of time.

That's particularly the case in China where Dota Legend (also translated as Dota Arena) - which was developed by Shanghai-based Lilith Games and published by Longtu Game - was been the top grossing iOS game for four months and has remained in the top 10 since its February 2014 launch.

And according to research looking at China's fragmented Android ecosystem, the 2D side-scrolling squad-based arena-battler was the top grossing game on Android too.

We'll get to see whether it will find the same audience in the west when Koram Games publishes it internationally.

#26: Devsisters


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Devsisters »

One of the Korean studios riding the Kakao wave to success, Devsisters is no flash in the pan. Founded in 2009, the developer had been working on its OvenBreak games for almost four years until it released a renamed version of the side-scrolling endless runner for Kakao.

Released in April 2013, Cookie Run for Kakao has generated over 40 million downloads and has been in the top 10 grossing chart for Google Play in Korea ever since.

There's also been a version released for rival social platform LINE, which was a top 10 grossing game in Taiwan, Thailand and more briefly Japan too.

And on this basis, Devsisters floated on the KOSDAQ exchange using the ticker 194480, in October 2014. It raised over $130 million, valuing the company at over $400 million.

#25: DeNA Co.,Ltd.

DeNA Co.,Ltd.

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DeNA Co.,Ltd. »

After a difficult 18 months, it looks like DeNA might have turned things around.

Sure, quarterly sales are still in decline and its western strategy remains a mess, but consumption of its in-game currency rose for the first time in Japan recently. China, although a small part of the business, is also growing fast thanks to games such as One Piece: Sailing On.

Yet, the company's hopes for a quick rebound to the $2 billion annual sales it once generated will live and die on its performance in its core Japanese market.

Games such as the Cygames-developed Granblue Fantasy and Square Enix's Final Fantasy Record Keeper are showing strong early promise. DeNA will be looking to aggressively market them up to scale soon, while also considering how to revitalise its operations in Europe and North America.

#24: SundayToz


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SundayToz »

Many developers have released games on Korean mobile messaging service Kakao, but few have been as successful as SundayToz.

Released in 2012, its cute match-3 Anipang for Kakao was one of the first big hits on the platform. It peaked at 10 million daily players and two and a half years on remains in the top 50 top grossing Google Play chart.

Another SundayToz game to ride the Kakao wave was Anipang Mahjong, which has been in the Korean top 20 grossing Google Play charts for 18 months. The result seen SundayToz boosted into the big league; the KOSDAQ-floated company now has market cap of over $450 million.

More recently it's launched Anipang 2 for Kakao as well as Aqua Story for Kakao, although they haven't been as successful, mainly because Kakao is becoming a saturated channel.

SundayToz has had more success in southeast Asia, however, with a game for another social mobile platform: LINE Trio.

#23: uCool


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uCool »

While Super Bowl XLIX will have been the first time many people will have heard of uCool, the US developer's decision to spend big promoting Heroes Charge, its first mobile game, comes from business acumen honed in highly competitive world of web F2P games, where it operates titles such as Tynon and Commanders of Evony.

As for Heroes Charge, the 2D side-scrolling squad-based arena-battler is already a great success, having been a top 10 top grossing iPhone game in 74 countries, including a particularly strong performance in key markets such as including Russia and South Korea.

An extensive TV marketing campaign at the start of 2015 in western Europe and the US - including the Super Bowl - has also had an impact, boosting Heroes Charges into the US top 50 and the top 20 in France and Germany.

#22: CyberAgent


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CyberAgent »

Gaming only makes up around a quarter of Japan internet outfit CyberAgent's sales.

But thanks to studios such as Cygames, Applibot and Sumzap, and its Ameba female-focused social platform, the company is a big player on the Japan scene.

Revenues peaked in 2013 thanks to browser games such as Rage of Bahamut, but since then, CyberAgent has transitioned to native experiences with the likes of Dragon Quest Monster Super Light (published by Square Enix) and Granblue Fantasy (published by DeNA), racing up the top grossing charts.

Combined with its own robust publishing activity, that's why sales in FY15 look certain to hit an all-time high.

#21: Wargaming


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Wargaming »

Given Wargaming's World of Tanks is one of the most popular and lucrative F2P games on PC, the move to take it mobile could have been considered a straightforward process.

Yet as many developers of PC-centrics genres such as FPS and MOBA have discovered to their cost, while the technical porting process is easy, modifying the atmosphere and experience is anything but.

Of course, Wargaming had a solid foundation in terms of gameplay, meta-game and monetisation to build on.

Nevertheless, World of Tank Blitz provides a well-honed balance between the full PC experience that's been simplified for on-the-go play sessions.

And this is something that can be seen in its commercial performance. It's a top 50 grossing iPad in key territories ranging from the UK, Germany and Russia to Japan and South Korea and top 100 in the US.

#20: Rovio


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Rovio »

As happens to all pioneers, Rovio is going through a reinvention process.

Always painful, in the Finnish developer's case this is even moreso because of the way it built corporate structures to deal with the massive success of the original paid Angry Birds games.

Now firmly into its F2P era thanks to thirdparty-developed games like Angry Birds Epic and Angry Birds Transformers, the company continues to rank in the global top 10 in terms of downloads.

This is important as it demonstrates the brand loyalty that's been accumulated over 600 billion slingshots. Of course, generating the sort of revenues from these eyeballs that its Helsinki neighbour Supercell has managed is another challenge, but one that we believe Rovio has the ability to meet.

Still, aside from such hardnosed business decisions, the company has also demonstrated its more playful side with the release of Retry, an old-school arcade-style game from internal Level 11 studio.

#19: Square Enix

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Square Enix »

Famed console RPG publisher, Square Enix has continued its momentum when it comes to mobile games, especially in the lucrative Japanese market.

Indeed, the company is in the vanguard when it comes to veteran Japanese game companies trying to deal with the switch to mobile in their domestic market.

Notably this is because it's combined the worlds and characters from well-loved franchises such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy with F2P monetistion and user experience. Its Million Arthur card-collection franchise has also been an extremely strong performer across southeast Asia.

Extending that success internationally, particular in the west where it has the potential of brands such as Hitman, Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, will provide the next opportunity.

#18: Tencent


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Tencent »

Given the sheer scale of Tencent's mobile game operations - by revenue, it's the world's largest mobile games company - it's very difficult to know where to rank it, particularly as development is by far the smallest part of the business.

More generally, the scary thing for other Chinese publishers is that Tencent's market share in the sector is already even more dominant than its grip on the Chinese PC games market.

It could be argued that Tencent is the Chinese mobile games market.

The reason is the viral power provided by Tencent's QQ instant messenger and WeChat mobile social platform, which is combined with its other app distribution channels. Tencent has recently strengthened its power in this area with the purchase of #1 Chinese games website

It's no surprise therefore that Tencent typically has five or more games in the Chinese top 10 grossing chart; a monopoly that is now forcing its competition to concentrate on more open markets in southeast Asia like Hong Kong and Taiwan.

It's also invested heavily in the west taking majority ownership of Miniclip and investing in the likes of Dots developer Playdots and US MOBA outfit Hammer & Chisel.

#17: Kiloo


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Kiloo »

Now over 100 staff-strong Danish developer Kiloo remains one of the secrets of the mobile games industry. It doesn't say much about itself, but instead lets its main title Subway Surfers do all the talking.

Developed and operated with fellow Danes Sybo Games, the 3D endless runner has been a top 20 grossing Google Play game since it was launched way back in October 2012.

It's never been quite as successful on the Apple App Store, but remains within the iPhone top grossing top 100. And this has been the platform that with the addition of studios Manatee, Baboon and Giving Tales that Kiloo has become the Kiloo Group.

It also generates a substantial amount of revenue from in-game advertising; a monetisation technique it's most recently employed in new release Smash Champs, which is designed specifically to maximising the opportunity.

#16: Storm8


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Storm8 »

Storm8 has always been a something of a blackbox; it's clear to see the inputs and outputs but the workings of the Bay Area F2P social mobile developer have been hidden. As it continues to grow, however, the 250-strong company is opening up. One aspect of this is its recent aggressive hiring policy which has seen it adding a new CCO, president of games and network and a VP of product.

The basic formula remains the same though. It operates a portfolio of over 45 casual social, arcade and casino games, all of which sit within and drive the wider growth of its social network, which are now consolidated under a relaunched Storm8 Studios brand.

And that's the strategy that has generated over one billion downloads to-date.

As for new strategies, one key area will be how the to-date western-focused company engages with the lucrative and fast-growing Asian markets, something its partnership with messaging service Viber is designed to address.

#15: IGG


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Hong Kong-floated IGG (I Got Games) sits firmly within the trend of being a one-game company.

It's released lots of games, of course, on mobile and web, but the majority of its revenues - currently around $200 million a year - comes from Castle Clash.

In one respect, the mobile strategy game found its opportunity on Google Play, taking the #1 spot before Supercell got around to launching Clash of Clans for Android. But IGG has skillfully operated the game, both in terms of multiple language support and a subtle twist on the strategy gameplay thanks to its addition of hero units.

IGG isn't just relying on Castle Clash for future growth, either. Although it has now ranked up 70 million installs, new game Clash of Lords is already generating around $10 milllion per quarter.

More ambitiously, IGG has also released location-based community app Link in the hope of creating a social networking platform in southeast Asia.

#14: Ustwo games

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Ustwo games »

Fundamentally, UK studio Ustwo isn't a mobile games company. The vast majority of its 200 staff work on user interface and design projects for corporate clients.

But it is its experience on streamlining complex situations, often in a playful manner, that has seen it making some of the most striking mobile games of recent years.

The first - Whale Trail - was in many ways a complex and complete "succailure", at least in terms of its commercial response on the app stores. That stated ustwo continues creativity with the project, gaining a book deal and also planning an animated series.

More importantly, though, the experience led directly onto Monument Valley, the company's premium Escher-esque atmospheric puzzler, which has garnered multiple game of the year awards, over 2.5 million sales and was recently boosted back up the paid charts thanks to an appearance in Netflix's House of Cards TV series. 

#13: Gumi Inc.

Gumi Inc.

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Gumi Inc. »

Gumi has been around some form since 2007, but it's only in recent years that the mobile game developer has found recognition outside of Japan.

That's all because of the massive success of its RPG Brave Frontier, yet another example of the strongly-monetising games that the Japanese market throws up.

Yet the years spent releasing feature phone games for GREE, Mixi and DeNA weren't wasted, instead acting as a training ground for CEO Hironao Kunimitsu, who is one of the most enthuaistic and ambitious chief executive running any mobile games company.

Balancing his goal to be the no.1 provider of social games in the world, with the mantra of "First to try. First to fail. First to recover", in the past six months, he's floated Gumi on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, is setting up 4 development studios in the US and Europe, has a strategic partnership with LINE, and has invested in French dev Oh BiBi.

Clearly a CEO and a company in a hurry, Gumi is one to keep a close watch over during 2015.

#12: Gamevil


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Gamevil »

It's 15 years since CEO James Song founded Fistnet Inc, the company we now know as Gamevil. During those years a lot has changed for the Korean developer turned publisher, which currently has over 450 staff in seven offices worldwide.

One thing that hasn't changed however, is Gamevil's ability to outperform the competition, something underlined by the company's first $100 million revenue year.

In fact, 2014 sales were up 79 percent to $131 million, and the company predicts 2015's sales will rise another 120 percent.

This milestone has been driven by corporate decisions in terms of buying valued partners including Monster Warlord developer Everple and Elune Saga developer Waplesoft. Of course, it's also the majority owner of the other big Korean mobile publisher Com2uS.

The result is that Gamevil brings the best of Korean RPG mobile gaming to world, and especially southeast Asia; a region that is seeing very high levels of growth.

#11: Colopl


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Colopl »

A product of the highly monetised Japanese market, Colopl's main revenue driver remains Quiz RPG: The World of Mystic Wiz, a game which single-handedly keeps it firmly in the global list of top 10 mobile game companies by revenue.

It's been using the cash it generates to launch new games such as Slingshot Braves and White Cat Project, which have found traction in the Japanese market. Interestingly, its portfolio of Kuma the Bear apps also provides an opportunity for gameplay experimentation and user acquisition.

As for the future, Colopl is set fair for strong growth. During 2015 it expects release at least nine games, raise headcount to 600, and increase annual sales 30 percent to $600 million.

Much of this will come from the US, Korean and Chinese markets; places it's targeting with a new corporate structure.

#10: Kabam


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Kabam »

Despite annual sales growing 11 percent to $400 million, Kabam's business has been undergoing significant restructuring.

It's scaled back its low margin publishing business and sold off most of the web games on which it built its reputation as a canny F2P publisher to concentrate on mobile games.

To supercharge this, it's also reorganised its internal studio structure, including the acquisition of two US developers TapZen and Magic Pixel. The plan is to maintain a focus on console-quality titles such as the recently released MARVEL Contest of Champions.

Equally significantly, Kabam is investing in better customer support and maximising the longterm value of its players by subtlely reconsidering the way it monetises them in-game.

The other big future opportunity for the company is China. Despite much of its development talent being located there, it's a consumer market Kabam is yet to engage with. This is about to change, though, thanks to a strategic partnership with Alibaba, which the Chinese company sweetened with a $120 million investment.

#9: Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard Entertainment

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Blizzard Entertainment »

While other games companies dash this way and that, following new trends and opportunities, much like The Dude in the Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski, Blizzard abides; abides and thrives.

In that context, the release on tablet and PC of Hearthstone, a card-collection game based on the World of Warcraft universe, is just another demonstration of the company's (technically it's part of the combined Activision Blizzard behemoth) total focus on the key components of a successful game - gameplay, procession, community and user experience.

But, perhaps the most significant example of Blizzard's confidence in its broader approach to making games is that the free-to-play game is a prime example of a lightly leveraged in-app purchase economy.

You pay for card bundles or arena admission if you want to. There's no hard sell. Nevertheless, Hearthstone has been the top grossing app in 47 countries and remains a solid fixture in the US top 50 top grossing chart.

#8: EA Mobile

EA Mobile

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EA Mobile »

Although only accounting for around 10 percent of EA's total sales, for previous quarters EA Mobile was the tail that wagged the dog, with games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out providing a positive spin on otherwise gloomy numbers.

As global competition in the mobile market has increased, however, EA Mobile is having to work harder to maintain its position. Ironically, the rest of EA is demonstrating ruder health.

Of course, the brand strength of its sport division, build on decades-long franchises like FIFA and Madden provides a very solid foundation. Indeed, EA Mobile says the active player base of these games grew 45 percent year-on-year.

Over the past nine months, however, EA Mobile's sales have plateaued at around $120 million per quarter, making it a nominally $500 million company in annual revenue terms.

This confirms its status as a top 10 mobile games company, but to push onto the next level, it will be looking to brands like Real Racing, Dragon Age, Battlefield and SimCity for expansion.

And in the latter's case, it can point to the strong launch of SimCity BuildIt - 26 million downloads - to show its IP has plenty of potential yet to be exploited.

#7: Com2uS


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Com2uS »

Korean pure mobile publisher Com2uS is currently in overdrive mode. It's always been a solid operator, in part due to its strong presence in the lucrative and highly localised Korean market.

But the combination of key games like RPG Summoners War and Ace Fishing and a push on international growth, especially in southeast Asia, have propelled its sales skywards.

2014 revenues were up over 200 percent to $216 million, and Korea only accounted for around 25 percent of them; a striking shift from 2013.

One consequence is Com2uS' shares have risen almost 10-fold in a year, taking its market cap to over $1.7 billion. And that's something which has boosted majority owner - and one-time rival - Gamevil, also underlining the enormous synergies the $65 million acquisition has unlocked - something we pointed out at the time.

As for the engine that's driven this growth - Com2uS' games - it continues to focus on the genres it knows best such as RPGs and sports games, notably fishing, baseball and golf.

#6: Mixi


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Mixi »

Until the release of Monster Strike in mid-2013, Mixi was most commonly known the Japanese mobile social networking service that didn't get games and compared to game-oriented rivals like GREE and DeNA was now in a moribund state.

A change of CEO saw the company reverse this policy, actively looking to games to save the business.

Still, from that point of view, spending $5 million on a launch campaign for its debut Monster Strike - a monster collection game with pinball-style gameplay created by Street Fighter II designer Yoshiki Okamoto - could have been considered a last throw of the dice.

Yet, while the game quickly climbed into the Japanese top grossing top 100, it wasn't until the start of 2014 that it fought its way into the top 10. But, again, the timing was serendipitous for Mixi as the longstanding #1 top grossing game in Japan - GungHo's Puzzle & Dragons - was finally peaking.

The two now swap the top spot on a regular basis, although Monster Strike's small audience - it has around 20 million downloads in Japan to Puzzle & Dragons' 33 million - means it holds the prize for best monetising game in the world.

And that's why the company is the highest new entry on our 2015 list.

#5: King


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King »

One of the curses of the global mobile games business is that while the highs are now higher than ever, it doesn't take long to popular games, especially casual games, to experience saturation and start to decline.

In one sense, then, King's status alongside Zynga as a "failed IPO" merely goes to show just how successful its billion dollar franchise Candy Crush Saga has been.

But ignoring the simple narrative of decline - something King is demonstrating in terms of the growth of "non-Candy Crush Saga revenues" as well as the solid launch of sister game Candy Crush Soda Saga - and a much more positive picture emerges.

Most obviously, King's ability to generate a large amount of net cash - $661 million in 2014 - gives it plenty of opportunity to please the stock market with dividends, as well as build new products and acquire talented developers, as it did with Singapore-based midcore strategy studio Nonstop Games and US outfit Z2Live.

And let's not forget, the company still has 149 million daily active players.

#4: Glu Mobile

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Glu Mobile »

Despite being viewed as the poisoned chalice of mobile game publishers of years, Glu Mobile has finally demonstrated that it can launch and operate a global hit.

The bigger surprise, however, is that despite its reputation for high-end 3D action games, its rocket fuel proved to be a simple 2D social celebrity fashion sim rebranded thanks to US celebrity Kim Kardashian.

An immediate hit, thanks to its strong virality and the ever-present media presence of its star (and her family), Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has transformed Glu's fortunes, generating $40 million, or around 50 percent of the company's quarterly revenue.

2014 sales doubled to $223 million. The game also kicked the company into comfortable profitability for the first time since it pivoted into the role of a smartphone F2P games publisher.

That's not to say that Glu's expertise in terms of developing and operating 3D action games is now being ignored. Deer Hunter 2014 also generates strong sales, and recent acquisitions such as Diner Dash developer PlayFirst and Racing Rivals' studio Cie Games demonstrates that the San Francisco-based company's future is not just based on the wiles of Mrs Kardashian West.

Still, it will be the likes of Kim and new signing Katy Perry that will determine its financial success in 2015. 

#3: Machine Zone

Machine Zone

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Machine Zone »

US developer Machine Zone is a one-game company, but when you have a game like Game of War - Fire Age, that's all you need for massive global success.

But what's really significant is how Machine Zone has steadily built this success over the months and years: the game was originally released in July 2013.

For example, for much of 2014, Game of War oscillated between #4 and #3 in the US iPhone top grossing chart. A continuing focus on live events and marketing, including the company's extreme user acquisition TV campaigns using swimwear model Kate Upton - culminating in a multi-million dollar Super Bowl advert - have now dragged the game to the #2 spot.


Of course, the US isn't the only important market, and Game of War's global success is demonstrated by the 85 countries in which the game has been the #1 top grossing iPhone app.

Aside from flashy TV campaign, the real reason for its success is its engaging social gameplay, which is embedded into the game's deep alliance system.

#2: GungHo Online Entertainment

GungHo Online Entertainment

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GungHo Online Entertainment »

Despite the GungHo Online group including noted console developers such as Grasshopper, Acquire and Game Arts, the company's cutting edge remains its 'accidental' billion dollar franchise Puzzle & Dragons.

It's now accumulated 43 million downloads, including 6 million in North America, 2 million in South Korea and over a million each in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but the vast majority of the revenue generated by the match-3 puzzler with CCG/RPG elements still comes from Japan.

Indeed, such has been the game's success in its home market, and the power of its monetisation techniques, that at one point in 2014 it was accounting for over half of all smartphone gaming revenues in Japan.

Significantly GungHo has used some of this revenue to make some global strategic moves.

It's bought a majority stake in Android-focused social gaming mobile platform PlayPhone, adding to its inventory with investments in US video gameplay sharing technology Kamcord, Chinese publisher and tools outfit Chukong, and US developer 17-BIT.

Finally the publishing deal for Puzzle & Dragons signed with Tencent will finally demonstrate whether the most valuable Asian mobile game can make any impact in the fastest-growing and soon-to-be most lucrative Asian mobile games market - China.


#1: Supercell


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Supercell »

Not only is Finnish developer Supercell the most profitable games company in the world, it's also the purest.

Now majority-owned by Japanese corporation Softbank, it simply continues to do what it's always done on mobile - operating globally at a higher level than anyone else.

With a laser focus on games, backed by massive capital resources and a honed yet still surprisingly small headcount, all three of its games, strategy games Clash of Clans and Boom Beach and social farming sim Hay Day, are massively successful. The only variance between them is measured in the exact number of hundreds of thousands of dollars each generates on a daily basis.

For example, it's been estimated that Clash of Clans alone generated $1.8 billion in 2014.

Certainly, this level of success does raise the question of how much longer the company can continue to exert its elevated sensabilities in terms of ambition and drive.

However, the cancellation of 'fourth' game Spooky Pop demonstrates the legendary attention to detail currently remains as sharp as ever. 

That stated, the company's $10 million Super Bowl advertising campaign featuring a suitably over-the-top Liam Neeson in the in-game role of AngryNeeson52 suggests there's plenty of creative juices still in the tank.