Electronic Arts announced today that it is merging two top mobile game studios, IronMonkey and Firemint, which will fittingly combine to create a new company, called Firemonkeys. (All parties are awarded 50 points for the awesome portmanteau.)
For those unfamiliar, IronMonkey is probably best known for adapting popular EA titles to mobile, like Mass Effect Infiltrator, Dead Space, and The Sims FreePlay. Freemint, meanwhile, has produced a number of its own popular games, including Flight Control, Real Racing, and SPY Mouse — to name a few. Both studios are currently subsidiaries of the gaming giant, which acquired IronMonkey in early 2010 and Firemint in May 2011.
The rebranded operation will continue to work out of EA’s Australian headquarters in Melbourne, where the teams will be tasked with creating new, original titles, while expanding on their existing catalogs. Going forward, EA has made it clear that it will be pinning much of its hopes on expanding into mobile, with a focus on free-to-play games monetized by in-app purchases.
But, in the long-term, EA can’t just rest on its laurels, squeezing pennies out of its successful franchises, it will have to create engaging, original titles for new generations of gamers. Big ticket acquisitions of PopCap and Playfish have made it clear that the company’s future lies in mobile and social.
As for the new Firemonkeys, IronMonkey General Manager Tony Lay told GameSpot that it wants to “sit shoulder to shoulder with EA studios, like DICE and Criterion,” and he believes that the team will get there by having IP ownership. “I want us to be seen as a creative entity, not simply a porting house,” the GM said.
And, abroad at least, many will be looking to Firemonkeys for leadership. The merger creates the largest game development studio in Australia, EA said today, as the studios’ games have collectively seen 50 million players in 2012 as well as more than two decades of experience between them.
The teams have already basically been working side by side, and the merger really just makes that relationship official, allowing the two teams to pool resources and collaborate on projects when mutual interests and strengths align. Smartphone growth is exploding both in Australia and in neighboring regions and Firemonkeys leadership says that it wants to leverage this adoption to increase brand recognition and become a new center for producing creative IP.
While it already stands as Australia’s largest mobile games studio, EA was quick to point out that it’s looking to expand further and is currently hiring for a number of positions.