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The Top 50 iPhone Developers of 2009

We salute the teams and individuals who made 2009 such a brilliant year for iPhone gaming
The Top 50 iPhone Developers of 2009

The iPhone development scene may still be in its infancy at less than 18 months young, yet its gaming output (over 30,000 gaming titles and growing fast) has already surpassed its console cousins in terms of sheer quantity.

Naturally with these sort of volumes and pricing tending toward 99c, the quality scales may not be tipped quite so easily.

However, in amongst the massed ranks of novelties, me toos and general dross, there are a host of developers creating top notch games that stand out from the crowd and earn critical praise as well as commercial success.

It's in honour of those developers that the team behind PocketGamer.Biz and PocketGamer websites spent much of their Xmas break huddled in the company cabin deep in contemplation, conversation and heated argument to assemble our inaugural iPhone Developer 50.

So, read on for the full list in reverse order and click on the links for the full explanation about the companies involved.

Suffice to say, like all lists, this one is liable to stir some comment, be it celebration or gnashing of teeth so we welcome you to offer your viewpoints in the comments below.

Meanwhile, we'd like to simply offer our congratulations to the developers included in the list who all deserve their new years honours for services to iPhone and pocket gaming.

#50: Red Rocket Games

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Red Rocket Games »

Set up by veterans from EA, Sega, Activision, and Disney Online, Red Rocket released a number of games during 2009: Mevo and the Grooveriders, Little Runner, Dark Harvest and The Hand Who Loved Me, demonstrating a quirky style and a willingness to try new things.

#49: Connect2Media


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Connect2Media »

The UK mobile publisher came to the iPhone in 2009 with a range of interesting titles. These included ports of Tumblebugs and the highly regarded Go! Go! Rescue Squad, the innovative gameplay of Timeloop and the sweet tactile action of Arachnadoodle.

#48: Supermono Studios

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Supermono Studios »

Formally known as MrFungFung, and proving that one-man bands could make an impact with the critics, if less so commercially, ex-Lionhead and Sony developer Tak Fung released one of the year's most enjoyable games in the form of his frantic 2D arcade shooter MiniSquadron.

#47: Strange Flavour

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Strange Flavour »

One of the less high profile iPhone developers as its games are published by Freeverse, British brothers Aaron and Adam Fothergill built on their successful 2008 release Flick Fishing - which broke the million sales barrier in 2009 - with two new games, Slotz Racer and Grunts.

#46: Appy Entertainment

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Appy Entertainment »

The US outfit formed from veterans from console developer High Moon Studio has been one of the smarter operators on the App Store. Intelligent PR and marketing for its FaceFighter app got it to over a million downloads, while more traditional game fare came in the tasty shape of Zombie Pizza.

#45: Candycane


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Candycane »

Having found success in 2008 with addictive puzzler Fuzzle, in 2009, the Estonian developer doubled up releasing a similar puzzler Fling! Initially faced with slow sales, it took the decision to make the game free for a period. With the price returned to 99c, Fling! bounced up the charts, reaching #1 in the US, UK and Canada.

#44: John Hartzog

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Another of the one-man bands who found success during 2009, Hartzog's simple 99c castle defence game StickWars was released in April and from that point on became a fixture at the top of the App Store, gaining the #1 position during June.

#43: IUGO Mobile Entertainment

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IUGO Mobile Entertainment »

While this talented Canadian studio found 2008 more challenging than 2009, it continued to release plenty of top class games, continuing its Toy Bot Diaries as well as branching out with the Spy Bot Chronicles, Zombie Attack! and A.D.D. It was eventually rewarded with chart success thanks to November release Implode!.

#42: MoreGames Entertainment

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MoreGames Entertainment »

Despite working on well regarded and successful games such as iDracula and Knights Onrush - both of which can be argued to have defined the topdown shooter and castle defence genres respectively - Russian developer MoreGames keeps a low profile as its titles are published by Chillingo.

#41: Bryan Mitchell

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Elegantly simple and yet both challenging and addictive, Bryan Mitchell's Geared was one of those 99c games that snuck up on the App Store #1 position at launch and refused to let go. He also released Spaceballs, a game that's had an incredible 51 price changes since April.

#40: Crescent Moon Games

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US developer Crescent Moon spent the year working on the highly anticipated role-playing game Ravensword : The Fallen King. Originally planned for PC but transferred to iPhone (and co-produced with Human Powered Games), it was created using the Unity engine, and as well as typical RPG elements, 3D graphics and immersive gameplay were key elements. Ravensword was released by Chillingo, marking a change for the publisher as its first premium priced title at $6.99.

#39: Imangi Studios

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Imangi Studios »

While Firemint kickstarted the line drawing genre with Flight Control, husband and wife team Imangi Studios managed the almost impossible, taking the concept and giving it enough of a twist to avoid accusations of plagiarism with Harbor Master: a game that reached #2 in the US charts. Imangi also demonstrated its range releasing Little Red Sled and Hippo High Dive and co-producing geoSpark with Critical Thought during 2009.

#38: Deep Silver Fishlabs

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One of the most respected names in mobile gaming, German studio Fishlabs has built its reputation on cutting-edge 3D graphics and used its advantage to the maximum for iPhone during 2009. As well as hardcore titles such as Galaxy on Fire and Rally Master Pro, it experimented with ad-funded games for Barclaycard and Volkswagen, demonstrating a taste for business innovation too.

#37: InMotion Software

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Set up by veterans from Midway Austin amongst others, InMotion's key release in 2009 was I Dig It, a game which was #1 on the US App Store and #2 in another six territories. It followed this up with I Dig It Expeditions, and also released a range of other apps and games including Dungeon Defense, Simon IQ and Recess.

#36: Revo Solutions

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Revo Solutions »

Of all the companies on our list, Romanian developer Revo Solutions has claim to be the industry's best keep secret. That's because despite working of two of 2009 best reviewed game in the shape of air combat sims Skies of Glory and the million-selling F.A.S.T., publisher SGN generally gets the headlines. And maybe that's why Revo is now branching out with its Magnetic Sports range, albeit published by Bulkypix.

#35: Graveck


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Winning the prize for the greatest contrasting fortunes during 2009 is US studio Graveck. It released two iPhone games: 10 Balls 7 Cups, which sunk without trace, and Skee-Ball, a remodelled and renamed version - which published by Freeverse - went on to be one of the most successful games of the year, staying in the US top 20 from its September release, and ending the year in the #1 position.

#34: FDG Entertainment

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Best known for its Bobby Carrot mobile series (which has also been released on iPhone), German developer FDG demonstrated its ability to hook up to the more casual App Store audience with the release of the 4 million downloaded Parachute Panic. This was the first title to fully integrate the technology from social gaming network Scoreloop. FDG's other games included Mr. Mahjong touch and Kryzer Prologue.

#33: Critical Thought Games

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Critical Thought Games »

As if running US MMOG developer and technology provider Simutronics wasn't enough, David Whatley somehow also finds time to make iPhone games. His first was geoDefense, a futuristic-style tower defence game that hit the US #10 position. He then released the sequel, geoDefense Swarm, which reviewed even better and hit the US #1 spot, and was #2 in another five countries. He finished off the year with geoSpark: a collaboration on the TD theme with Imangi Studios.

#32: Semi Secret Software

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Formed by Eric Johnson and Adam Saltsman, Semi Secret is one of those arty groups who make games across a range of different platforms and it was the iPhone version of its Flash game Canabalt that stood out in 2009. Simple in its execution but addictive in term of gameplay, and with well implemented social features and a steady $2.99 price point, it didn't top any charts but performed solidly reaching #21 on the US top grossing chart.

#31: Godzilab


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The French studio behind the critical smash iBlast Moki might not win any prizes for its game name or marketing nous, but when it comes to developing a wonderful debut that appealed to hardcore iPhone gamers, Godzilab was without rival in 2009. IBlast Moki sold reasonably in certain territories too - notably the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Germany - but failed to make much impact in the US. Still, all eyes will be on the team's next project.

#30: Rough Cookie

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A collaboration between two Dutch companies - Khaeon and Elements Interactive - Rough Cookie is one of the few developers to have released each of its iPhone games (three to date) via a different publisher. Its 2008 debut Dougie Moo's Aqua Antics came out with Chillingo, while its most recent title WaterWays was released by Taito. Its major claim to fame however is Star Defense, published by ngmoco. Arguably the best in the crowded tower defence genre thanks to its 3D planetary theme and good social support, it’s been supported by the free Star Defense Prelude, although a launch price point of $5.99 limited sales.

#29: Jam City

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More of a publisher than a developer - we've already noted F.A.S.T. and Skies of Glory were developed by Revo Solutions - nevertheless SGN (Social Gaming Network) has an important place in the iPhone ecosystem.

For one thing its apps have been downloaded more than 14 million times. And although the vast majority of these were free, it is pushing the freemium business model with games like Agency Wars and Skies of Glory, as well as more casual cross-platform social games such as i(fluff)Friends.

#28: Mobigame


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The most unlucky iPhone developer of 2009 had to be French studio Mobigame, which despite making a brilliant puzzle game in the cuboid shape of Edge, found itself caught up in a ridiculous copyright spat.

This resulted in the game being regularly removed and resubmitted to the App Store under a variety of names due to complaints from Tim Langdell of EDGE Games. It is currently available as Edgy. Mobigame's second release of the year, Cross Fingers - a sliding puzzler - was much less controversial but equally compelling.

#27: Two Tribes

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With a strong history in development for Nintendo portables and mobile, iPhone was the obvious next step for Dutch developer Two Tribes. It released two games in 2009, both published by Chillingo.

The first was a version of its Toki Tori puzzle platformer, which reviewed very well as well as hitting the #9 spot on the US chart. It finished the year releasing the movie tie-in Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs. Again it reviewed well and sold in Europe going top 10 in eight countries, although US downloads proved harder to come by.

#26: Ubisoft RedLynx

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With platform-defining mobile games such as Pathway to Glory and Reset Generation under its belt, the reputation of Finnish outfit RedLynx preceeded its arrival on iPhone. Debut Monster Trucks Nitro was something of a slow burn however, reaching its chart peak towards the end of the year despite being released in March.

RedLynx's other game was the marvellous DrawRace, which combined topdown racing with line drawing gameplay. A #1 game in the UK, its US peak of #17 didn't fulfill its full potential.

#25: Taito


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Best known as being the creator of Space Invaders, it was no surprise that of the six games Taito released for iPhone during 2009 Space Invaders was the most popular.

The innovation and flair that Space Invaders Infinity Gene demonstrated however went far beyond what was expected, with the game gaining plaudits as one of the best of the year. It also sold well; notably in Japan where it was #1. Other notable Taito releases included Puzzle Bobble and Cooking Mama, which went top 20 in the US despite its $6.99 price tag.

#24: Meridian Digital Entertainment

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We don't know much about Meridian Digital Entertainment. Even its location is a bit of a mystery; Hong Kong, we think.

What we do know however is that as well as a love of game titles beginning with A - all six iPhone games it released in 2009 started with the letter - it demonstrates a high quality of development, over various genres, which range from action to time management.

Its biggest game was Alive 4-ever, a topdown zombie survival shooter with multiplayer mode, which reviewed highly and got to #2 in the US and UK charts at its launch 99c price.

#23: 2XL Games

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Formed by members of off-road racing specialist Rainbow Studios, 2XL Games has brought the professionalism of its console work onto the App Store, making its mark as one of the best racing game developers for iPhone.

Despite launching at $7.99, its debut 2XL Supercross impressed critics and sold remarkably well, a performance matched by follow-up 2XL ATV Offroad, which reached #5 in the US chart, albeit on the back of a Christmas price cut.

2XL ended the year releasing 2XL Fleet Defense, a frantic time management game.

#22: True Axis

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This Australian developer exploded on the iPhone in November with Jet Car Stunts. A complete surprise to most and one of the best reviewed games of year, it continues to impress critics with its playability, which is spread across platform and racing levels.

Helping True Axis make such a refined game is its True Axis Physics middleware, while its next project looks to have great potential as it's the iPhone version of PC shooter Space Tripper.

#21: Secret Exit

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This Finnish studio, formed by veterans of the Fathammer mobile technology studio, kicked off 2009 with Zen Bound, an experience which no one could agree whether should be defined as a game or not.

There was little disagreement about its magical qualities however, as it was the one of the best reviewed titles of the year. Indeed, no other release has yet come close to its gentle playfulness and art. Sales where harder to come by however. In complete contrast, Secret Exit ended the year with Stair Dismount, a falling-down-the-stairs simulator.

#20: Digital Chocolate

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One of Europe's most experienced mobile developers, Finnish studio Sumea was bought by publisher Digital Chocolate in 2004, and since then has continued to build on its reputation. Adding iPhone to its stable of supported devices certainly hasn't been an issue with the additional processing power and touch control enabling new experiences.

Most obvious in the case of a game such as 3D Rollercoaster Rush, which gained another dimension and went top 20 in the US, the UK, Germany and France, the studio also demonstrated its expertise in addictive gameplay with the likes of Crazy Monkey Spin and Californian Gold Rush in 2009. And combined with games from Digital Chocolate's other studios in the US, Spain, India and Mexico, the company's total for iPhone downloads is now over 40 million.

#19: Gamevil


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Baseball and role-playing games have been the focus on iPhone for Korean mobile publisher Gamevil during 2009. It's best known for Zenonia, which remains the top reviewed RPG of the year, thanks to its real-time combat and hours of gameplay. It's sold remarkably well worldwide considering its $5.99 launch price (since dropped to $2.99).

The more action-packed Hybrid: Eternal Whisper performed solidly, while the cutesy Baseball Superstars 2010 did the business in key baseball markets such as Japan and the US. The company ended the year demonstrating a more casual touch too with Boom It Up!

#18: HandCircus


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If you want an example of how the iPhone shook up the world of game development, you only need to consider Simon Oliver; the one-man band that is Hand Circus. Previously a Flash developer, his interest in the indie games scene was kickstarted in 2008, with the release of the iPhone SDK, and many months of work later, the result was Rolando; one of the defining games of 2008.

Making a sequel to that explosive debut was always going to be a tall order but Oliver, with help from his friends and publisher ngmoco, managed to pull it off, with Rolando 2 - generally reckoned to expand and enhance the original magical experience, thanks to additions such as water, vehicles and an overall more satisfying flow.

#17: Tiger Style

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Created when David Kalina and Randy Smith left their jobs at EA's Los Angeles studio to make their own way in the world of iPhone gaming, Tiger Style burst onto the App Store with its debut, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. It combined their previous professional experience with gameplay and an art style that perfectly matched the platform.

Equally important, they proved they understood the App Store business model by releasing the game at $2.99 - it peaked at #3 in the US chart - maintaining the price and supporting the game with a free promo in the shape of Spider: Hornet Smash.

#16: Illusion Labs

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After a stellar 2008, in which Swedish developer Illusion Labs created two of the year's best selling games in the shape of Touchgrind and Labyrinth, 2009 proved to be a period of consolidation. The studio still managed to release two excellent titles however. Sway built on Illusion's expertise in physical simulation, while Labyrinth 2 did everything you'd expect from a sequel.

Of course, Illusion also received the benefits from its previous work, with Labyrinth clocking up over 10 million downloads, spread across the paid and free versions, while despite its $4.99 price tag Touchgrind continues to sell well; it's currently top 20 in the US Top Grossing chart over a year after launch.

#15: Chillingo


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UK publisher Chillingo is unique in this list lacking any internal game development teams. Instead it's built its reputation as a pure publishing operation: it's released the largest number of iPhone games of any company. But while this scattergun approach worked well in 2008, the changing ecosystem of the App Store during 2009, forced the company to act smarter.

It still releases a lot of 99c games, notably through its Clickgamer label, but the main Chillingo name is now reserved for high production, higher price experiences. Examples of this approach saw 99c games such as Parking Mania go top 5 in ten countries, while Ravensword and Ice Age 3, where launched respectively at $6.99 and $4.99; the highest prices for Chillingo released product. The next building block in this approach will see the release of Crystal, the company's own social gaming network technology.

#14: ngmoco


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ngmoco »

Despite relying almost exclusively on thirdparty developers in terms of the games it publishes - the exception is Eliminate - ngmoco remains one of the most influential iPhone game companies. It led the App Store charge in 2008, and has proved to be a bellwether company during 2009.

Following the relative commercial under performance of high quality titles such as Rolando 2 and Star Defense in the summer, it quickly changed direction, releasing online multiplayer titles Eliminate Pro and Touch Pet Dogs, both of which employed the new freemium business model. Rolando 2 was also quickly revised to employ the in-app purchase option, becoming the first free iPhone game to do so. The purchase of Miraphonic, a developer of free social online games such as Epic Pet Wars reinforced this change of direction.

#13: Com2uS


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Korean mobile publisher Com2uS has quietly been one of the most innovative iPhone companies during 2009. Concentrating on mainly baseball and role-playing games - it's released two of each - it's been one of the first to support in-app transactions with players able to purchase virtual items for their characters in Homerun Battle 3D.

Equally significant is its implementation of online multiplayer. In the case of Homerun Battle 3D, you play head-to-head against another player, and can view their performance in real time in the top right of your screen. Its other networked game takes this sort of competitive gameplay to the next step. In Sniper Vs Sniper: Online, you have to shoot your opponent down the sight of a sniper's rifle, although there's also a co-op mode.

#12: Backflip Studios

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Backflip Studios »

Set up by ex-Yahoo executive Julian Farrior in April 2009, Backflip Studios hit the App Store running, releasing the free ad-funded Paper Toss (12 million downloads and counting), the 99c version, Paper Toss: World Tour, and Ragdoll Blaster, a simple yet addictive physics-based game ($1.99) that's sat in the charts ever since its May release. Indeed it went top 5 in seven countries and a sequel is on the way.

Meanwhile the company expanded its six-man development team with experienced console staff to make Harbor Havoc 3D, a well reviewed member of the line drawing genre. The result is Backflip to-date has reportedly cleared $1.75 million in ad revenue and sales.

#11: Freeverse


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Freeverse »

Before iPhone, Freeverse was a niche Mac game publisher. Now it's one of the few companies to have successfully ridden the waves of App Store development, from the initial anything goes to the current squeeze between thousands of cheap apps and the ever increasing production quality required for more expensive games.

It's managed to accomplish this by mixing up its approach: publishing for developers such as Strange Flavour and Graveck; self-publishing; and developing for other publishers. For example, its Top Gun game for Paramount has been in the charts since its May release, while the Graveck-developed Skee-Ball has been one of the 99c hits of the year. Freeverse has also experimented with new business models; the million-selling Flick Fishing was one of the first games to use in-app purchases, while it's released general apps such as Postman and Eye Glasses.

#10: Glu Mobile

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The smallest of the big three mobile publishers, Glu Mobile's acceptance of the iPhone took longer than other companies thanks to corporate inertia. But once the decision was made, following restructuring in early 2009, the publisher's internal teams quickly got up to speed, proving their experience on mobile was transferable and that they could match anyone.

The high water mark for these efforts have been the free-roaming 3D flying Glyder games, which have been a huge hit with the critics, even if commercial acceptance has lagged. Glu has mixed up its releases with original and innovative IP - also including the likes of Beat It! and Cops & Robber - rubbing shoulders with licensed product such as Family Guy: Uncensored and World Series of Poker Hold'em Legend to maintain a good balance. 2010 will see interesting releases including GPS-treasure hunt game 1000: Find 'em All and Stranded: Mysteries of Time.

#9: Lima Sky

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Set up by brothers Igor and Marko Pusenjak, US developer Lima Sky has released dozen of apps, covering everything from pilot test preparations to bubble wrap apps. However the reason for its elevated position in the hierarchy of iPhone developers is singular: Doodle Jump.

Released in March 2009, this simple 99c game - it could even be described as sketchy in terms of its graphics - is so sticky it's remained in the US top 20 ever since. Indeed, it's currently at #2 in the US paid chart and #17 in the Top Grossing chart: an incredible achievement considering the quality of games it has to compete with.

Its position as a million seller isn't luck though. Lima Sky has regularly updated the game - 22 times to date - adding in content such as the jet pack, propeller hat, trampolines and various seasonal Easter eggs. The Doodler character has also played cameos in other games including Pocket God and The Creeps. Still, the best explanation for its success remains its subtitle - " BE WARNED: Insanely Addictive!" Sometimes one great idea, brilliantly implemented just works.

#8: id Software

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The Texas first person shooter studio would make any top 10 list of game developers such has been its influence on the games industry over the past 20 years. That it also makes it into the top 10 of iPhone developers demonstrates its passion and attention to detail, and notably that of technical director and co-owner John Carmack, when it comes to portable gaming and especially Apple's devices.

Of course, you would be correct to argue games such as DOOM Resurrection, Doom Classic and Wolfenstein 3D Classic aren't anything new - the clue's the word 'Classic' - but considering id invented the genre, it would be churlish to complain..

In fact, it would be futile to complain given the commercial reception the games have received. Priced in the range $4.99-$6.99, they have sold remarkably well, with Doom Classic a US #2 top grossing game and DOOM Resurrection a US #6 paid game. Class - or in this case class(ic) - is permanent.

#7: Tapulous


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One of the few iPhone developers to take the new business opportunity by the scruff of the neck and wring the commercial pips out of it, Tapulous built on the success of 2008's Tap Tap Revenge, releasing two sequels and continuing to roll out band-specific versions featuring music from Metallica, Lady Gaga and Coldplay amongst others in 2009.

That the rhythm-action series has now topped 20 million paid and free downloads is hardly surprising, although the news Tap Tap Revenge 3 has served up over one million paid in-app music track downloads, generating $350,000 in net revenue for the company, demonstrates just how open gamers are when it comes to paying for the right sort of additional content.

The result of this activity plus paid downloads and in-app advertising revenue is that by the end of the year, Tapulous was reportedly clearing almost $1 million per month, making it the most successful iPhone developer on the App Store.

#6: EA Mobile

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Where to slot the largest mobile and iPhone publisher into this list has been tricky decision.

It would have been preferable to single out a specific studio or team for their excellence over a series of games during 2009, but with little corporate transparency in terms of who does what with EA Mobile's catalogue of extremely high quality titles (including no doubt some thirdparty developers), the only real option was to give it a place on the top table; if even more information would potentially have granted one part of EA a higher position thanks to the excellent quality and commercial success of titles such as Need for Speed: Shift, Madden NFL 10, FIFA 10 and The Sims 3.

#5: PopCap Games

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In one sense, the arrival of casual gaming kings PopCap on iPhone during 2009 was inevitable, as was the successful release of titles such as Peggle and Bejeweled. But true to its reputation for not releasing its games on any platform unless those titles match the vision and player experience of the original, PopCap's iPhone development team has done so much more than porting. As proved by the massive and prolonged success of Peggle, Bejeweled 2, Bookworm and Chuzzle - even at their $4.99+ launch price - these games rank up there with anything on the App Store.

PopCap also proved its handle on the dynamic business models available in this area by cutting the price of Peggle from $4.99 to 99c for a weekend; launching it up the charts and resulting in the coining of the phrase 'PegglingTM' for any subsequent company that performed a similar sale.

#4: Ideaworks Game Studio

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Starting the year as Ideaworks3D, but ending it with a new name to reflect its new singular role as a game developer (in contrast to the middleware role of sister company Ideaworks Labs), Ideaworks Game Studio only worked on two games during 2009, but they were two of the most innovative, successful and surprising of the year.

First up was Backbreaker Football. A technology demo of the animation tools of UK company NaturalMotion, it transformed into a tilt-controlled tackle box that mixed excellent graphics with old school highscore-focused gameplay. A steal at 99c, it's been in the US charts for three months, peaking at #3 in the paid chart.

More of a shock was Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies, which ported a level of the console game to iPhone. Published by Activision and boasting excellent graphics and a multiplayer mode, it was released at $9.99. and it's sat at the top of the US top grossing chart ever since.

#3: Bolt Creative

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Bolt Creative »

You can argue whether it's a game or an entertainment app, but there's no doubt Pocket God was one of the key releases of 2009.

Selling over a million units mainly to teenaged boys who owned iPod touches, the driving force of its year-long sales drive was the commitment of US developer Bolt Creative to keep churning out free content updates. Such was the burden of this, combined with the game's 99c price point, programmer Dave Castlenuovo started to worry about the company's longterm sustainability.

Luckily the decision to implement in-app purchases for additional content, which arrived with Pocket God's 26th update, proved successful. Still, Castlenuovo says the team's next game (which will also use IAP), will be released at a higher price.

#2: Gameloft


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Gameloft »

As with EA Mobile, the lack of corporate transparency concerning the parentage of the majority of Gameloft's 35 releases in 2009 means it's difficult to determine its location as a development powerhouse. The fact it reached the #2 spot, despite this, just demonstrates the excellent job accomplished by French publisher.

Especially in the second half of the year, it relied on original IP, and even if the names and gameplay of titles such as N.O.V.A., Dungeon Hunters, Blades of Fury, Gangstar: West Coast Hustle and Modern Combat: Sandstorm could be considered generic, the quality of the games themselves has been excellent, as proved by the commercial performance of titles launched at $4.99 and $6.99.

The additional momentum provided by licences such as Avatar, Shrek Kart and Driver, combined with cheaper fare such as Castle Frenzy, helped boost Gameloft’s lifetime App Store paid downloads to 10 million: an impressive number, and one only matched by the critical acclaim those games received.

#1: Firemint


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Firemint »

When it comes to the best iPhone developer during 2009, there's no competition. A relatively small independent studio based in Australia, Firemint struggled through 2008 trying to complete its remarkable Real Racing demo.

Originally created for N-Gage, a massively ambitious project, which also included Firemint's own online platform, it almost wasn't completed several times due to gaps in the required funding. That these problems were overcome and the game released would have been a great achievement. Real Racing's reception as a game that shattered the quality bar for iPhone games was nothing short of remarkable however.

It wasn't Firemint's only release of 2009 though. Released in February as a cheap if elegant game offering bite-sized chunks of entertainment, Flight Control was the first and to-date the fastest million-selling game on the App Store, as well as one that kickstarted dozens of clones within the line drawing genre it invented.

From simple fun to complex gamemaking, in 2009 Firemint proved it could handle both extremes and did so with a verve and singlemindedness no other iPhone developer could match.