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Ngmoco acquires Touch Pets development house

Game developer buys a third company this year. Unlike the other Portland-based pickups, Stumptown Games collaborated with Ngmoco to put out its 2009 hit Touch Pets.

Game developer and publisher Ngmoco has acquired game house Stumptown Game Machine, the co-creator of the Touch Pets series. The two companies had worked together on the burgeoning virtual-pet franchise for the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2009.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Stumptown Games, a creation of Andrew Stern, is Ngmoco's third developer acquisition in the past year. Previous pickups include Miraphonic, which Ngmoco acquired in November of 2009, and Freeverse, which Ngmoco bought shortly after its $25 million round of venture capital funding in February. Both of those development houses continue to run under their own brands.

CNET spoke via telephone on Wednesday afternoon with Ngmoco's chief creative officer, Bob Stevenson, who said Stumptown Game Machine would be receiving a similar treatment. "We want those guys to retain their own culture," Stevenson said. "Each group is unique, and we like them because they thought differently." Stumptown will also continue to operate out of Portland, Ore., just like Freeverse and Miraphonic do. Ngmoco itself is headquartered in San Francisco.

Touch Pets for the iPhone and iPod Touch was a collaboration between Ngmoco and Stumptown Game Machine. Ngmoco

As for whether this means a sequel to Touch Pets is in the works, Stevenson would not say. "We're going to be announcing a product fairly soon. The thing to know is that we'll be continuing in the learning that we went through at the start of the company--and that we went through tremendous learning when we were thinking of the 'freemium' model. We took that knowledge, and we iterated on that with We Rule, and if I think about what we could do now, based on that--the next project we announce with Stumptown is going to have a whole new way."

Ngmoco's "freemium" titles let gamers download the title for free, though certain limitations are placed within the game worlds that often require real-world money to continue playing at an active level. For the company's Eliminate first-person shooter title, this was handled through the sale of in-game energy cells, which would replenish over time, but had to be used in order to level up during online play. Similar systems have been employed in the company's recent We Rule and Godfinger titles, which have users micromanaging time-based tasks that could either be waited out or sped up with the use of in-game credits.

Stevenson said Ngmoco's users are spending 28 million minutes a day playing the company's games, and that many of them are coming back multiple times per day. He also confirmed that iPhone and iPod Touch users in the United States will be getting a pocket-size version of the company's Godfinger game "real soon." He says the title has been tweaked considerably since its Canadian release in March.