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Japanese gaming company DeNA acquires iPhone game maker ngmoco

by Phil Hornshaw

It’s a $400 million done deal: that’s what DeNA, Japan’s biggest mobile social gaming company, paid for San Francisco-based iPhone game maker ngmoco.

If you’re an avid iPhone game player, you’ll probably have heard of ngmoco, or at least played a few of their games. They’re responsible for We City, a virtual city simulator released last month, as well as We Farm and a few other titles in the simulator vein. If you need a gaming comparison, think of games like Farmville and Mafia Wars on Facebook. Those are made by a company called Zynga, and ngmoco has even been called “Zynga for iPhone.”

According to its press release, DeNA is working on expanding its business in the Western market, so pulling in the San Francisco app maker will be spearheading that effort. For its part, ngmoco recently started looking to develop its apps for Google’s Android operating system, and had been raising money to do so.

In Japan, DeNA’s customers use its Mobage platform, which is a service that links all of DeNA’s customers and all its applications into one overreaching platform. Players can link up with each other for online games using Mobage’s servers, for example, or purchase new games through it. The plan is to bring Mobage, or some version of it, to the West in the form of a smartphone app, through which all ngmoco’s apps, as well as DeNA’s services and products, would be available. Expect to see Mobage on the iPhone and Android before too long.

Zynga shares a board member with ngmoco, and it’s possible Zynga would have liked to acquire ngmoco itself, seeing as the companies make similar products and ngmoco pulls in revenues of about $30 million a year, according to TechCrunch. But the sale price DeNA was willing to put up, itself worth about $4 billion, was likely way too much for the Farmville maker.