Fresh from raising $12 million in April, Nifty Games has opened a new sports game development studio in Chicago.

Nifty Games has hired 25-year game veteran David Michicich as the new studio’s general manager. He will head a team that works with titles such as NFL Clash, a new game licensed by the National Football League and NFL Players Association. NFL Clash will launch later this year, and is already being tested by some fans. And while Nifty Games isn’t revealing the gameplay yet, the company described it as “Supercell style,” referencing mobile strategy games like Clash Royale.

This is the company’s first internal development studio. Nifty Games chose the Chicago area because of its rich connection to game developers, as well as sports franchises such as the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, and Blackhawks.

Game veterans Jon Middleton and Pete Wanat started the San Francisco-based company to make  sports games. Nifty Games had previously announced a partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to bring an NBA basketball game to mobile devices in the near future. Nifty Games rounds out those partnerships with Think450 as it works to bring authentic sports games to mobile.


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Michicich formerly cofounded sports game developer Robomodo and has held leadership roles at Electronic Arts, Studio Gigante, and  Reliance Entertainment. He worked on a number of game franchises, including Fight Night, Tony Hawk, and WWE.

Middleton said in an earlier interview with GamesBeat that NFL Clash is an innovative take on mobile football games, offering fans a new way to play head-to-head in just minutes. The founders feel there’s a gap in the market for sports fans who want a fast yet deep experience that can last four or five minutes, rather than hours. And it could be an important way for sports fans to scratch an itch when they can’t even watch sports on TV.

The big rival, of course, is Electronic Arts’ NFL Madden games, which are available across all platforms, including mobile. To date, mobile sports games have been casual minigames or simulations migrated from gaming consoles.

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