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Red Robot Labs buys Supermono game studio

Red Robot Labs is a pretty young startup, founded earlier this. But the mobile game company raised $8.5 million in September and is using that money already. Today, the company is announcing it has acquired England-based game studio Supermono.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Red Robot Labs is also appointing Phil Harrison, former chief of Sony’s game studios and now a venture capitalist in Europe, as an advisor. That shows that these are still pretty heady times in mobile games. In particular, location-based gaming is starting to come into its own, said Mike Ouye (pictured in the middle in front of the Death Star), chief executive of Red Robot, in an interview. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

A purchase like this makes sense, given that Red Robot has a late start in the mobile gaming wars and the competition is fierce, with everyone from Electronic Arts to Zynga participating in the market.

Red Robot launched its first game, Life is Crime, in September at the Penny Arcade Expo West (PAX) event in Seattle. During that debut, players committed more than in-game crimes on the first day and visited over 2,411 unique venues in Seattle. Life is Crime is currently the top Android-based game in the U.S.

Pete Hawley (pictured left, with chief technology officer John Harris on the right), chief product officer, said that his company’s expertise in location will complement Supermono’s experience in making games with cool 3D graphics. Hawley, a native of the U.K., hooked up with the Supermono team when he went home for a visit and met with friends that he once knew in the console game industry.

“We now have a way to expand our intellectual property in new directions,” Hawley said.

Red Robot plans to develop its R2 location platform as a foundation for making better location-games. Supermono, which has a good position in indie games in Europe, will use the R2 platform in its future games. Its titles include the mobile racing game Forever Drive, which is the top game in its category in 50 countries. Tak Fung is general manager at Supermono and some of the company’s veterans made PC games such as Black & White in the past. The Forever Drive game had 1.2 million mobile downloads in its first week. Red Robot now has 27 employees in the U.S. and six in the U.K.

Harrison is a general partner at London Venture Partners. Red Robot raised its money from Benchmark Capital, Shasta Ventures, as well as existing investors Rick Thompson, co-founder of Playdom and Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive.

Harrison said, “I’m really impressed with what the team at Red Robot has achieved in less than a year. Life is Crime has proven their ability to succeed in the mobile game space and the addition of the U.K. studio gives the company access to even more talent.”

Hawley said that both companies have new games coming soon. Life is Crime is debuting soon on the iPhone, and more titles are likely to debut next year from both companies. Rivals in geo-gaming include Ogmento, which just launched a new location-based game. Even as mobile game companies are hiring, a number of console game studios in the U.K., such as one owned by Codemasters, have closed.


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