Can iOS Top Grossing Squeeze in Another Zoo Game? Zynga Bets So.

The cottage industry of highly lucrative animal care-taking mobile games is starting to attract the big dogs.

For months, Pocket Gems’ Tap Zoo ruled the iOS top-grossing charts until it started getting crowded with similarly inspired games from TinyCo, Backflip Studios and Beeline Interactive. It’s proven to be a money-making genre with six of the top-grossing 25 titles in the U.S. being some sort of animal or fish game.

Now Zynga is breaking into the genre with Dream Zoo, and they’ll certainly have the marketing budget to back it. The company showed off a short trailer today here. (Unfortunately, I can’t embed it because it’s a Facebook video, not a YouTube one.)

All of the core mechanics that Pocket Gems innovated on seem to be there: users can breed animals to create and collect new varieties. Players can also feed and clean their friends’ animals. In the original Tap Zoo version, players give medicine to their friends’ sick animals.

Pocket Gems has been planning for some time to branch out beyond the category.

“We were glad to be a pioneer in the animal-pet genre,” said the company’s chief operating officer Ben Liu in a panel at GDC Austin that I moderated today. “No one knew that it was going to be such a great genre. We’re working on a number of other kinds of projects that we feel confident about.”

But rival TinyCo still feels like there’s lots of room to grow, especially with new smartphone owners coming on-board.

“With smartphone penetration still so low, there’s still going to be lots of pet games and you can innovate on gameplay,” said the company’s director of business development Jennifer Lu.