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Neil Young of ngmoco goes unplugged with feelings on Android, Papaya Networks

by Brad Spirrison

Selling his young company to Japanese gaming powerhouse DeNA about a year ago has not mellowed ngmoco founder Neil Young.

Ngmoco, which was founded by Young and several of his colleagues from EA in 2008, is investing heavily in Android gaming titles after initially breaking through as a pioneer in social games on iOS devices.

Young kicked off ngmoco’s Android Developer’s Day earlier this month. Before ngmoco producers treated a select few reporters to upcoming Android titles Skyfall and Dragon Craft (become one of the first users to test the beta debut of Skyfall here), Young shared his thoughts on how his company is approaching Android development (including which tablets they are optimizing titles for first), the marketing lessons derived from DeNA’s dominance in the gaming space and what he really thinks of games created by rival Papaya Networks.

On the upcoming Mobage platform, which will launch on Android in December (and for iOS devices thereafter):

“Our key strategy is to not only build a network, but to open it up to as many developers as possible. We want to take advantage of DeNA and the Mobage service. DeNA is a billion dollar company revolving around building social games that are delivered on mobile devices.”

His thoughts on what else ngmoco learned from its Japanese parent, which prospered through similar smartphone penetration increases in its own country a half decade ago:

“We wanted to suck the brains dry of the people who lived through a very large, robust scale on mobile and learn as much as we could. Combine that knowledge with what we learned as a social, mobile company.”

“It’s not about delivering games exactly you see on [Nintendo] DS or [Sony] PSP or what you see on Facebook. It’s about combining the very best of those things and delivering the best experiences we can.”

“The macro trend is kind of inevitable. We want to make sure we are making the investments now so one, three, five years from now. How do you scale a business in a developed world that is 10X of that (Japan)?“

On ngmoco’s approach to tablets in general, and different approaches between Android tabs and the iPad:

“If you look one or two years, it’s not hard to see how the console space will get disrupted by tablets.”

“The Android tablet ecosystem will change quite radically when the Kindle Fire comes out. You need Kindle or Samsung, those companies can make a difference. Not just a tablet, but a collection of services to make it useful. That will come a very important market.”

“Our heritage is firmly in iOS. The iPad is a fantastic machine and fantastic market. When it goes to tackling the tablet market, you start with the market that exists, which is the iPad.”

On free-to-play gaming:

“You want to have careful designs that allow the users who want a deeper level of engagement and are committed to paying for a gaming experience to do that easily.”

On Papaya Mobile’s premature claim that ngmoco titles were not successful marketed on Android:

“(Papaya operates) a s**tty platform with a whole bunch of s**tty games. They were mean spirited (with their analysis that games aren’t selling on Android). That’s a statement, saying their games are s**tty is a fact.”