Mobile games developer ngmoco acquired Stumptown Game Machine, the makers of Touch Pets Dogs, one of the most popular pet management games on the iPhone. The creator of Stumptown, Andrew Stern, is actually the creator of the Petz series which is published by Ubisoft, and will now work with ngmoco to launch iPhone games. The pet genre is blowing up across all platforms, and ngmoco’s increasing development muscle always makes me wonder whether they’ll diversify to web.
Touch Pets Dogs has been downloaded over 5 million times, and is a free to play game that is supported by in-game purchases. The free to play model is something that has been supported by Apple since they allowed free games to support microtransaction downloads, and companies like ngmoco are leading the way with games like the first-person shooter Eliminate and now, Touch Pets Dogs. According to Gamasutra:
Bob Stevenson, one of Ngmoco’s co-founders, says that the move to release the game for free “worked out really, really well.” The acquisition of Stumptown, he says, reflects the Ngmoco’s management team’s belief that Stern is “a great collaborator” and the realization that “this just has to be a long term relationship. We have a great working relationship that we wanted to solidify.”
The history here is that ngmoco has been working with Stumptown for a while, already, and the acquisition was a natural fit. ngmoco has a vision of creating expansive, ambitious games, and I suspect that under a third-party contract there are certain components that are more difficult to create. For instance, if you plan to make a game that has updates every few weeks or month, you have to ensure that both parties have a rock solid revenue share agreement, otherwise one team will pull harder than the other, and that leads to failure for the user.