Like Zynga, Playdom and Playfish did in the early days of the Facebook platform, Storm8 beat most other game developers to smartphones back in 2009. It’s been nailing the big, lucrative market for simple RPGs and casual simulation titles ever since. And the company is pushing further into the casual side of its business today with the launch of Pet Shop Story and Zoo Story 2.
Both are starting on iOS.
Storm8 has launched many of its games on Android, and was part of Facebook’s mobile platform launch in October, but chief executive Perry Tam wouldn’t confirm that iOS is any more of a focus now. “They’re of equal importance going forward,” he tells me. “We have to dominate in both to be number one.”
Although, his company has clearly been doing quite well on iOS in terms of money. If you add in its casual studio, TeamLava, Storm8 had ten of the top 100 grossing titles on iOS this past year, based on Apple’s Rewind stats (although none of the games were in the top ten, so they weren’t making the most).
Pet Shop Story is along the same vein as the nine existing TeamLava games: You pick a cute animal then build a cute fantasy world for it, for free. But then you pay to buy virtual currency to purchase some goods while playing. The game also adapts a feature seen in similar types of titles, in that you can cross-breed animals to create new ones — chugs, labradoodles, toygers, etc. Zoo Story 2 comes with a similar range of features, including the ability to cross-breed animals, albeit with the zoo theme.
No one can accuse Storm8 of getting experimental. “It’s accurate to say that we’re focused on big trends in gaming, that the key principle is trying to reach as many users as we can,” Tam replies when I bring up the similarities between his company’s games and other hits on the market.
The money that comes in from its games has been adding up fast in the last couple years, in any case. We heard in August that it was raising a $300 million round of funding at a $1 billion valuation, based on a $100 million run-rate. Inside Mobile Apps had previously reported that it had been talking about selling to EA or Zynga before focusing on a new round. Tam wouldn’t comment on its funding/acquisition status, except to say that its goal is to be the number one mobile gaming company. “We think we have what it takes. Whatever can accelerate that would be very interesting.” So I asked about an IPO. He replied: “If that’s what accelerates us, then yes.”