Following Four-Year Hiatus, WildTangent Reopens Games Studio to Focus on Mobile

After taking four years off from producing PC games, WildTangent is opening a new game studio to tackle mobile.

“We had a studio for several years, but honestly, during the last couple of years it had no hits, so we closed it in 2008,” said WildTangent’s CEO Mike Peronto.

The new studio will be based in Seattle, which is a short drive away from the company’s Redmond, Wash.-based headquarters, and is spitting distance from Zynga’s studio here.

While the office will only hold about 20 people, it has some pretty big ambitions.

Mostly, it will be used to develop asynchronous multiplayer games, like Zynga’s Words With Friends, which encourages users to take turns playing the game. Additionally, it will oversee bringing the company’s classic PC titles, like Polar Bowler, to mobile. Former PopCap Studio art director Rick Schmitz has joined WildTangent to head up art direction for Polar Bowler and up to three other games from the company’s catalog of PC games.

In addition to being able to develop mobile games, Peronto also believes WildTangent will be able to monetize them better than others.

A year ago, that meant rolling out a Netflix-like model for renting mobile games on Android smartphones. Today, the company is also announcing at Casual Connect that it is bringing its advertising platform from the PC to mobile, which may provide one way for developers looking to monetize as well on mobile as they do on Facebook.

So far, several game developers, including Ludia and 50 Cubes, have signed up, allowing players on their games to watch a brief ad in exchange for free game play or an in-game item.

“The game industry has screwed up because they have ignored brand advertising, which is a $70 billion market on TV this year,” Peronto said.

Today, most advertising inside of games is on direct response, which requires someone to take an action — such as downloading a game — for the developer to get paid. An impression model only requires someone to view the ad.

Currently, WildTangent charges advertisers $125 per impression on the PC, which Peronto believes they can also also get on mobile. The company’s PC platform today is getting about one billion impressions a month across both online and social games. Electronic Arts licenses the technology, and uses it inside its Facebook games, including The Sims Social.

WildTangent is also optimistic about its rental model. Instead of having to purchase a game without knowing if it’s any good, users can pay a fraction of the price to rent a mobile game for a day. The small trial fee is then applied to buying the game if you choose to continue playing.

WildTangent has launched the service with T-Mobile and Sprint, and is now confirming that it has a deal with AT&T. By partnering with the carriers, the game application ships on the handsets and is integrated into carrier billing. That’s a good thing, but, of course, the carriers don’t always work as quickly as everyone would like.

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