Japan's DeNA buys iPhone game company Ngmoco

There's another big exit in social gaming, a field that's fast rolling up: Bay Area-based Ngmoco, which builds games for the iPhone, announced early Tuesday that it's set to be acquired by a Japanese mobile software and gaming company called DeNA. The price is $300 million in cash and stock, with up to an additional $100 million based on employee performance post-acquisition.

The goal for the acquisition is for DeNA to build out its mobile gaming network, Mobage, in Western markets. "Mobage has tens of millions of users in Japan who play many hundreds of applications … Read more

Virtual farm games absorb real money, real lives

Last century's cash crops included tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane. Now we have magic cauliflower and super berries, too--and even though they can't be sold at market, some people still toil from dawn to dusk cultivating them.

People spend not just real time but also real money growing these crops in virtual farming games that combine the allure of both games and social networking in what is usually a cute and deceptively simple package. They can be addictive: many users come back at least once a day to micromanage their farms and deal with other users' requests.

On … Read more

Buzz Out Loud 1290: Android says, Talk to me, baby (podcast)

Google launches new voice control for Android. Apple breaks over-the-air Jailbreaking. Spock's coffin has us spinning in our graves. And also, Rafe needs a new TV. Yeah, it's kind of a slow news day.

Subscribe:  iTunes (MP3)iTunes (320x180)iTunes (640x360)RSS (MP3)RSS (320x180)RSS (640x360)Read more

iPhone 4, iPad ushering in sea change in gaming

One of the clear winners to emerge from Steve Jobs' formal unveiling of the iPhone 4 Monday was the game development community. With major new features like a gyroscope, a better screen, a better antenna and a better camera, developers have a slew of new tools to use in making their games.

Yet at the same time, the release of the iPad has also opened up what amounts to a major new platform for games. Many people are using it more like a computer than an iPhone and that means that developers can take advantage of users' longer sessions with … Read more

Ngmoco acquires Touch Pets development house

Game developer and publisher Ngmoco has acquired game house Stumptown Game Machine, the co-creator of the Touch Pets series. The two companies had worked together on the burgeoning virtual-pet franchise for the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2009.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Stumptown Games, a creation of Andrew Stern, is Ngmoco's third developer acquisition in the past year. Previous pickups include Miraphonic, which Ngmoco acquired in November of 2009, and Freeverse, which Ngmoco bought shortly after its $25 million round of venture capital funding in February. Both of those development houses continue to run under … Read more

A game show app and a real-time kingdom: iPhone apps of the week

The big news this week was Apple's special event to announce the coming release of iPhone OS 4. Among the more than 100 new features in the updated operating system, Apple announced some big changes that both iPhone users and app developers will appreciate. According to Apple, the OS upgrade will be available to iPad users this fall.

Perhaps the biggest announcement of all was the addition of multitasking. This long-awaited feature will let you run multiple apps at a time so you can, for example, run Pandora to listen to music, while you play your favorite game or … Read more

Apple's Game Center isn't worrying game networks

Gamers who use Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, and now the iPad are likely to be looking forward to Apple's "Game Center" network, which was announced among the other updates as part of iPhone OS 4.0. But what about the companies that are running existing social networks for the platform?

It's not the end of the world, apparently.

Ngmoco, maker of popular game titles such as Rolando, We Rule, and Touch Pets, also created the Plus+ social network. It's built in to all of its own titles, as well as a select group of games from other developers. Ngmoco's chief publishing officer, Simon Jeffrey, told CNET that the company "has anticipated this move from Apple for some time," and that it should bring a "cleaner developer and consumer experience."

But what does that mean for the Plus+ implementation that has been built into more than 75 titles? "Plus+ took a strategic shift in direction a few months ago toward being a service, and less about being a set of social-gaming features," Jeffery said in a statement. "Plus+ is all about empowering monetization and discoverability mechanisms for the development community, and we have clearly demonstrated with games like We Rule that these mechanisms work."

Discoverability was, in fact, one of the biggest benefits of using services like Plus+, but it's also something Apple plans to offer within its Game Center. Plus+'s implementation was to show you what your friends were playing, as well as show off games that had just been launched. According to the very few details mentioned by Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, during Thursday's press event, both of these things will be a part of the Game Center framework.

So does that mean that Plus+ is going to be more focused on advertising and the metrics of what users are doing within apps? If so, that's another area where Apple has delved into with its iAds platform.… Read more

Eliminate's 3G multiplayer: How'd they do that?

Ngmoco's Eliminate for the iPhone was a groundbreaking game in two ways. One was its pay-to-score business model, which offered the game for free, but required users to have virtual energy units (which could be bought) to gain rank and equipment bonuses. The second, and more important one, was the back-end server technology that let players hop onto online matches over 3G.

This feature was not so simple to implement, as Ngmoco's director of engineering Stephen Detwiler and lead engineer James Marr mapped out during a talk at Tuesday's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. As Marr … Read more

Playing Eliminate Pro can eliminate your money

Popular iPhone gaming developer Ngmoco released Eliminate Pro yesterday, its much-anticipated, online, first-person shooter. This well-polished "free" game features smooth looking graphics, onscreen controls that are fairly effective (no match for a controller or keyboard/mouse setup, but that's to be expected), a number of power ups to improve your weapons and armor, and five playable maps. In-game kills and winning matches earn you credits you can use to buy new weapons and armor. There are eight armor types, five weapon types, and items to buy like armor designs (skins) to give you a new look. The … Read more

3D planetary tower defense

Star Defense is a noteworthy addition to the crowded field of tower-defense games on the iPhone and iPod Touch. In addition to tight game design and lavish effects (both audio and visual), Star Defense introduces a substantial twist to the genre: a 3D space environment, in which you fight the insectoid S'rath on small planets that you can quickly twist, rotate, and zoom in and out on.

Waves of S'rath march toward your fragile colonist base on a set path through trenches on the game's seven different planets. You can choose between five different types of defense … Read more