The top 50 iPhone developers of 2009: 10 to 1

Counting down the top ten, who'll be the iPhone developer of the year?

The top 50 iPhone developers of 2009: 10 to 1

The fifth part of our round up for the top iPhone developers of 2009 is where we define the crème de la crème.

The top 10 iPhone developers - as sorted by sales performance, critical acclaim of releases, innovation in terms of business approach, and the number and range of titles each studios released - are those companies which have demonstrated multiple times during the past 12 months that they can meet and surpass the highest standards when it comes to making games for mobile devices.

10. Glu Mobile

The smallest of the big three mobile publishers, Glu Mobile's acceptance of the iPhone took longer than other companies thanks to corporate inertia. But once the decision was made, following restructuring in early 2009, the publisher's internal teams quickly got up to speed, proving their experience on mobile was transferable and that they could match anyone.

The high water mark for these efforts have been the free-roaming 3D flying Glyder games, which have been a huge hit with the critics, even if commercial acceptance has lagged. Glu has mixed up its releases with original and innovative IP - also including the likes of Beat It! and Cops & Robber - rubbing shoulders with licensed product such as Family Guy: Uncensored and World Series of Poker Hold'em Legend to maintain a good balance. 2010 will see interesting releases including GPS-treasure hunt game 1000: Find 'em All and Stranded: Mysteries of Time.

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Visit Glu on the web 9. Lima Sky

Set up by brothers Igor and Marko Pusenjak, US developer Lima Sky has released dozen of apps, covering everything from pilot test preparations to bubble wrap apps. However the reason for its elevated position in the hierarchy of iPhone developers is singular: Doodle Jump.

Released in March 2009, this simple 99c game - it could even be described as sketchy in terms of its graphics - is so sticky it's remained in the US top 20 ever since. Indeed, it's currently at #2 in the US paid chart and #17 in the Top Grossing chart: an incredible achievement considering the quality of games it has to compete with.

Its position as a million seller isn't luck though. Lima Sky has regularly updated the game - 22 times to date - adding in content such as the jet pack, propeller hat, trampolines and various seasonal Easter eggs. The Doodler character has also played cameos in other games including Pocket God and The Creeps. Still, the best explanation for its success remains its subtitle - " BE WARNED: Insanely Addictive!" Sometimes one great idea, brilliantly implemented just works.

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Visit Lima Sky on the web 8. id Software

The Texas first person shooter studio would make any top 10 list of game developers such has been its influence on the games industry over the past 20 years. That it also makes it into the top 10 of iPhone developers demonstrates its passion and attention to detail, and notably that of technical director and co-owner John Carmack, when it comes to portable gaming and especially Apple's devices.

Of course, you would be correct to argue games such as DOOM Resurrection, Doom Classic and Wolfenstein 3D Classic aren't anything new - the clue's the word 'Classic' - but considering id invented the genre, it would be churlish to complain..

In fact, it would be futile to complain given the commercial reception the games have received. Priced in the range $4.99-$6.99, they have sold remarkably well, with Doom Classic a US #2 top grossing game and DOOM Resurrection a US #6 paid game. Class - or in this case class(ic) - is permanent.

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7. Tapulous

One of the few iPhone developers to take the new business opportunity by the scruff of the neck and wring the commercial pips out of it, Tapulous built on the success of 2008's Tap Tap Revenge, releasing two sequels and continuing to roll out band-specific versions featuring music from Metallica, Lady Gaga and Coldplay amongst others in 2009.

That the rhythm-action series has now topped 20 million paid and free downloads is hardly surprising, although the news Tap Tap Revenge 3 has served up over one million paid in-app music track downloads, generating $350,000 in net revenue for the company, demonstrates just how open gamers are when it comes to paying for the right sort of additional content.

The result of this activity plus paid downloads and in-app advertising revenue is that by the end of the year, Tapulous was reportedly clearing almost $1 million per month, making it the most successful iPhone developer on the App Store.

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6. EA Mobile

Where to slot the largest mobile and iPhone publisher into this list has been tricky decision. It would have been preferable to single out a specific studio or team for their excellence over a series of games during 2009, but with little corporate transparency in terms of who does what with EA Mobile's catalogue of extremely high quality titles (including no doubt some thirdparty developers), the only real option was to give it a place on the top table; if even more information would potentially have granted one part of EA a higher position thanks to the excellent quality and commercial success of titles such as Need for Speed: Shift, Madden NFL 10, FIFA 10 and The Sims 3.

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Visit EA Mobile on the web 5. PopCap Games

In one sense, the arrival of casual gaming kings PopCap on iPhone during 2009 was inevitable, as was the successful release of titles such as Peggle and Bejeweled. But true to its reputation for not releasing its games on any platform unless those titles match the vision and player experience of the original, PopCap's iPhone development team has done so much more than porting. As proved by the massive and prolonged success of Peggle, Bejeweled 2, Bookworm and Chuzzle - even at their $4.99+ launch price - these games rank up there with anything on the App Store.

PopCap also proved its handle on the dynamic business models available in this area by cutting the price of Peggle from $4.99 to 99c for a weekend; launching it up the charts and resulting in the coining of the phrase 'Peggling(TM)' for any subsequent company that performed a similar sale.

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4. Ideaworks Game Studio

Starting the year as Ideaworks3D, but ending it with a new name to reflect its new singular role as a game developer (in contrast to the middleware role of sister company Ideaworks Labs), Ideaworks Game Studio only worked on two games during 2009, but they were two of the most innovative, successful and surprising of the year.

First up was Backbreaker Football. A technology demo of the animation tools of UK company NaturalMotion, it transformed into a tilt-controlled tackle box that mixed excellent graphics with old school highscore-focused gameplay. A steal at 99c, it's been in the US charts for three months, peaking at #3 in the paid chart.

More of a shock was Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies, which ported a level of the console game to iPhone. Published by Activision and boasting excellent graphics and a multiplayer mode, it was released at $9.99. and it's sat at the top of the US top grossing chart ever since.

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Visit Ideaworks on the web 3. Bolt Creative

You can argue whether it's a game or an entertainment app, but there's no doubt Pocket God was one of the key releases of 2009.

Selling over a million units mainly to teenaged boys who owned iPod touches, the driving force of its year-long sales drive was the commitment of US developer Bolt Creative to keep churning out free content updates. Such was the burden of this, combined with the game's 99c price point, programmer Dave Castlenuovo started to worry about the company's longterm sustainability.

Luckily the decision to implement in-app purchases for additional content, which arrived with Pocket God's 26th update, proved successful. Still, Castlenuovo says the team's next game (which will also use IAP), will be released at a higher price.

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Visit Bolt Creative on the web 2. Gameloft

As with EA Mobile, the lack of corporate transparency concerning the parentage of the majority of Gameloft's 35 releases in 2009 means it's difficult to determine its location as a development powerhouse. The fact it reached the #2 spot, despite this, just demonstrates the excellent job accomplished by French publisher.

Especially in the second half of the year, it relied on original IP, and even if the names and gameplay of titles such as N.O.V.A., Dungeon Hunters, Blades of Fury, Gangstar: West Coast Hustle and Modern Combat: Sandstorm could be considered generic, the quality of the games themselves has been excellent, as proved by the commercial performance of titles launched at $4.99 and $6.99.

The additional momentum provided by licences such as Avatar, Shrek Kart and Driver, combined with cheaper fare such as Castle Frenzy, helped boost Gameloft’s lifetime App Store paid downloads to 10 million: an impressive number, and one only matched by the critical acclaim those games received.

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Visit Gameloft on the web 1. Firemint

When it comes to the best iPhone developer during 2009, there's no competition. A relatively small independent studio based in Australia, Firemint struggled through 2008 trying to complete its remarkable Real Racing demo.

Originally created for N-Gage, a massively ambitious project, which also included Firemint's own online platform, it almost wasn't completed several times due to gaps in the required funding. That these problems were overcome and the game released would have been a great achievement. Real Racing's reception as a game that shattered the quality bar for iPhone games was nothing short of remarkable however.

It wasn't Firemint's only release of 2009 though. Released in February as a cheap if elegant game offering bite-sized chunks of entertainment, Flight Control was the first and to-date the fastest million-selling game on the App Store, as well as one that kickstarted dozens of clones within the line drawing genre it invented.

From simple fun to complex gamemaking, in 2009 Firemint proved it could handle both extremes and did so with a verve and singlemindedness no other iPhone developer could match.

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For the full list of developers with explanations and information, you can read from 50 to 41 here, 40 to 31 here, 30 to 21 here and 20 to 11 here. Or go here for the full PG.Biz 2009 Top 50 iPhone developer listing in one place.