Is ngmoco the future of game publishing?

Earlier this month I wrote an article on here giving Electronic Arts some free consultancy. I have been speaking to a senior Electronic Arts executive since then and he suggested I took a look at ngmoco.

Ngmoco was started last year (June 2008) by a very well known industry veteran, Neil Young. Previously he  had managed Maxis, EA Los Angeles, and EA’s Blueprint division.

Ngmoco publishes quality games on the Apple iPod at the rate of about one a month, the most well known of which is Rolando. They are successful, getting millions of downloads. The company is also very well funded with excellent venture capital connections.

But this is not why ngmoco is the future of game publishing, oh no. The name ngmoco stands for Next Generation Mobile Company, a proud name and one they should justify. And they are doing.

In my free EA consultancy article I said “Developers should think that it is better to come to you to publish their iPhone games than it is to go directly to Apple.“  And this is exactly what ngmoco have done. But they have done it with a method that is not in my article. Just last month they announced the Plus+ network, a social networking, game discovery, and multiplayer platform for the iPhone. A very clever move. Regular readers here we be well aware of the convergence between gaming and social media.

So iPhone game developers, if they have any sense, will be flocking to ngmoco to publish their games. Ngmoco have set up a special external publishing division called the Plus+ Publishing group to handle this. And to run it they have recruited yet another industry veteran, Simon Jeffery, who moved there from being President of Sega America. A good move from old fashioned publishing to the cutting edge.

What every iPhone developer need to know is this, copied from the ngmoco website: We’re commissioning, financing & publishing games with micro-studios & independent developers. If you’re interested in collaborating email us at

And just to add a little speculation, Plus+ would make a fantastic platform for an MMO.

note: Other social networking solutions on iPhone include Aurora Feint’s OpenFeint, Chillingo’s Crystal and Agon. Further proof of the breadth and depth of creativity on the iPhone platform.


  1. Hi Bruce,

    Great post on how ngmoco is becoming a strong publisher in the iPhone space. I would say that the pressing issue on the iPhone isn’t brand strength and publisher focus. The bigger issue is the continued devaluation of digitally distributed mobile software. App Cubby released a very accurate and thorough article on this recently.

    This is a big problem that any iphone publisher, including ngmoco will have to deal with very soon. The App Store is turning into a 99c store and what will result from this is crappy games because that’s all that developers can afford without taking on too much risk.

  2. Joseph that is a very interesting article and anyone interested in the iPhone market should read it.

    The fundemental problem here is that developers are self publishing and so not doing enough of, or the right kind of, marketing.

    As Modern Warfare 2 is proving on console you can sell a huge amount at higher prices. It is a matter of having brand values and that these are perceived to give competetive advantage.

    Marketed properly you can sell more at a higher price if you create the perception that it is worth more. What the iPhone market is lacking is proper marketing.

  3. Hello Bruce,

    As always, great article! As a long-time gamer and recent iPhone adopter I’ve found a burgeoning playground of incredibly fun and deep games in the app store. Publishers like ngmoco and GAMEVIL are both literally rocking my perception of handheld gaming with games like Star Defense and Zenonia.

    As a “heavy user” of services like XBLA, PSN and WiiWare, I am accustomed to spending on average fifteen dollars per eight-to-ten hour game. The problem with the app store seems to be that it has sold itself short–almost like the impulse aisles next to grocer’s checkouts–and it lacks confidence in its consumers.

    Given that the store is a new service, there’s bound to be an inordinate amount of chaff (just look at the “shovelware” phenomenon on the Wii that is just now on the wane). I think that as these publishers grow their franchises and proper fanbases we’ll begin to see successful ten and twenty dollar games.

    I can’t wait. Also, it looks like GAMEVIL is readying their IPO. Should be interesting to watch.

  4. Well, maybe.

    The first attraction for any developer in any kind of publishing relationship is invariably one thing: The money. It seems like ngmoco are putting their hand in their pocket to finance games like a publisher.

    However the second attraction for good developers is generally value. Assuming they can cover the dev costs alone (which many can), what they need to know for a fact is that ngmoco can guarantee them more value than if they just bunged up their own games in the App Store.

    This is much harder to do because the App Store offers no premium shelf spacing for special relationships that I’m aware of. So this means any advertising or promotion than ngmoco or any iPhone publisher can do is by necessity going to be off-platform rather than on-platform, and that immediately weakens its value. Add to that that they are probably taking a further % cut from the selling price of the games at least (or looking to buy them outright). If it were me, with all these considerations, as a developer I would insist on a fee or guaranteed advance that at least tripled what I was expecting if I went it alone.

    I’m undecided about whether ‘publishing’ in that context has any value for iPhone games. Neil has had some success so far in getting the word out at GDC and the WWDC etc, but those are exceptional events because of the novelty of his company. What’s the day to day business going to look like though? A network of cross-promoting apps a-la Facebook?

    I don’t know if that will work in the context of the iPhone. It’s a very open question.

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