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N3twork, the social network that pivoted into mobile games a few months ago, has acquired Swedish mobile-game studio Nio Games. That means N3twork will accelerate its return to gaming with the help of the newly acquired company in Stockholm, headed by game veteran Paul Wilkinson.
In December 2013, Neil Young and Bob Stevenson launched N3work, a new social network based on interests rather than friends. It didn’t take off like they expected, so they pivoted back into mobile gaming.
“Back in March, we announced that we were ‘coming home’ and returning to our roots as gamemakers,” Young wrote in a blog post. “At the time, we talked about how we aspire to a redefinition of mobile quality — making games built for the way we use our mobile devices that endeavor to leverage everything we’ve learned on our journey. Today, I’m thrilled to announce that we’re bolstering our efforts to build this new breed of mobile game at N3twork with the acquisition of Stockholm-based Nio Games.”
Nio Games is working on an unannounced title that Young says he is very excited about. Nio Games’ leader, Wilkinson, has been working on video games since the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy days in the 1980s. He has been an engineer on the original The Sims, the lead engineer on the hugely successful mobile title Diner Dash, and most recently the director of mobile development at mobile-game company King in Stockholm. He even worked on the Beavis and Butthead game for Sega Genesis. His team has experience at companies such as Zynga, PlayFirst, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, and SGN.
Nio Games will certainly help San Francisco-based N3twork move back into games. With N3twork, Young tried to apply the lessons he learned from games to a broader form of media. After it launched, N3twork built up a core audience of fans who shared a lot of photos and videos. Apple named it one of its top 25 apps for 2014. More than 20,000 people subscribed to N3twork’s games channel. But it didn’t gain the traction that the company needed.
During the two years that the Young-Stevenson team hasn’t been making games, a lot has changed. Companies such as Supercell (Clash of Clans), Machine Zone (Game of War: Fire Age), GungHo Entertainment (Puzzle & Dragons), and King (Candy Crush Saga) have dominated the charts and are making hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars from their mobile games. Mobile gaming has hit $30 billion, according to market researcher Newzoo.
Young spent a lot of years making games, such as The Lord of the Rings and The Sims series at Electronic Arts. With members of the N3twork team, he also started Ngmoco in 2008. That startup was a pioneering iPhone game company that built 15 No. 1 apps. It was acquired for $400 million by Japan’s DeNA in 2010. They stayed at DeNA for two years and then moved on to start N3twork.
Young said the team’s passion is focused on gaming. He built his first game at age 14. In an email, Young said his company didn’t raise additional funds for the acquisition. N3twork has 40 employees working on products and its publishing platform while Nio has about 10 people.
“We’re one company, working on games together,” Young said. “Paul and his team brings a particular expertise in a category that we think has a lot of potential for both gameplay and monetization innovation. As a part of N3twork, the team we think can do some great things.”
Young said the company is still hiring people in San Francisco.
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