Japan’s GREE Acquires Another U.S. Studio, App Ant, To Build Games For Western Audiences

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GREE, the $4.7 billion mobile gaming giant from Japan that’s trying to break into Western markets, just bought another American studio to bolster its first-party game development.

The company acquired App Ant Studios for an undisclosed amount after working with the company on Android games. App Ant was co-founded by Brian Frederick and Paul Pierre, an artist and a UX designer who had done stints at Andreessen Horowitz-backed TinyCo, Storm8, and EA. All members of the team, including the four co-founders, are joining GREE. The iOS version of the company’s main game Dino Life was only previously published in Canada, which is a popular testing ground for game developers before they launch to a broader audience. It gives them the chance to refine and optimize a game and identify any early problems with retention.

GREE has been one of the more acquisitive buyers in the industry as of late, with the $210 million deal to buy Funzio and a $104 million deal last year to buy mobile-social gaming network OpenFeint. Other acquirers like Zynga have been hit hard by what investors perceive as a lack of growth potential on the Facebook platform plus fallout from the $180 million deal to buy Draw Something-maker OMGPOP.

GREE made 12.3 billion Japanese yen ($156 million) in net profit on 40.1 billion yen ($508.5 million) in revenue in the last quarter. Revenues were up 90 percent year-over-year but they were actually down on a quarterly basis after the Japanese government cracked down on a lucrative gaming mechanic that GREE relied on.

As the company’s home market matures, GREE has looked to foreign markets like the U.S. and Europe to fuel future growth. Their strategy is to add more card battle and simulation games (like Dino Life), along with optimizing existing games for revenue-per-user-per-day.