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ngmoco's Alan Yu

Creating a solution to discovery and monetisation in the Android market

Founded in 2008, ngmoco was among the first companies to make an impact in the flourishing iPhone market. The company was acquired by the Japanese online portal DeNA last year for a cool $403 million, and since then has been busy developing and populating Mobage, a social network and gaming portal for Android phones.

We sat down with co-founder Alan Yu to talk about the shifting sands of mobile developing, making sense of Android, and what E3 isn't saying about the games industry.

GamesIndustry.biz Your job involves finding new games and new developers to work with, which is an interesting role, and one that must have changed quite a lot over the last few years.
Alan Yu

I think you're right, but fundamentally, while the people I talk to have changed, it's still the same. When you go out and you're looking at ideas and looking at developers, what you're measuring is a couple of things: capability, and chemistry. We're doing less funding of ideas, and more bringing developers on to Mobage, our platform: we've got Zombie Farm, we've got Pocket Frogs, we've got Command Games, who do social card games, we've been launching our own games - we've got about 100 games now, in the pipeline.

ngmoco's moving from being a developer with an affiliate network to really being a platform, with first-party production with our own games, and world class third-party games.

GamesIndustry.biz So in terms of who you want to work with, are you looking at studios with a more pragmatic eye? Studios who you feel have the culture to last, rather than having one idea or one hit game?
Alan Yu

For our third-party programme we're just looking for games that we think will benefit from access to our audience, and I think that's a slightly different vision. There are proven developers in the marketplace, like our partners at NimbleBit or PlayForge. It's less, er, less mysterious, y'know, those guys are known quantities.

GamesIndustry.biz We've seen a lot of new mobile and social developers rise from the ashes of studio closures, and the market is so much more crowded now. Has pedigree become more important to you?
Alan Yu

I think what's really interesting and disruptive about this is...one of the first games we published was Rolando, which was made by a guy called Simon Oliver at Hand Circus, and he'd never made a game before. You're seeing a kind of a..a..blooming of creative expression, because all you really need to do is buy a $99 SDK and a Mac Mini and you can start developing. That's good, and very healthy for the games business.

The interesting thing is that E3 used to represent the totality of the game business, but not any more

Alan Yu, ngmoco

In the console business, you're probably talking to the same 10 to 15 developers out there, everyone's talking to the same guys. I'm exempting internal development, but for third-party indies it's probably the same 15 people you're talking to. There's very few people you're going to trust with $25 million.

GamesIndustry.biz When you look at a show like E3 it's regarded as a platform for an entire industry's products, but generally it's only a small handful of games from the same small crop of studios - and there's a lot of crossover in terms of content even then.
Alan Yu

The interesting thing is that E3 used to represent the totality of the game business, but not any more. Zynga wasn't there [this year], DeNA wasn't there, a whole bunch of people were not there, but I think that's healthy for the business.

GamesIndustry.biz Isn't that, to some extent, a bit of a lie? Talk to Phil Harrison, who's involved with London Venture Partners now, and he'll tell you that all of the movement in the industry is in the areas that don't attend E3.
Alan Yu

What venture capitalists want to do is bet on disruptions, so he's right about that. I just think that console games will always be around, but they aren't the totality of the business any more, and that's healthy.

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Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.