App studio Firemint acquires Melbourne gaming house Infinite Interactive

Melbourne video game studio Firemint, which has raked in millions from the success of its Flight Control and Real Racing iPhone apps, has acquired gaming studio Infinite Interactive with the combined unit to focus on self-published titles.

Infinite Interactive is the maker of several popular titles including Puzzle Quest and Warlords, but has relied on investors and larger publishers for work – a problem the two companies say has now been solved.

“The move further boosts Firemint’s strength in designing and developing original games, while providing the Infinite Interactive team with a channel for independent publishing,” the companies said in a statement released overnight.

Financial details of the deal have remained undisclosed, but Firemint chief executive Rob Murray says the deal provides both companies with a way to combine talents.

“For us, it’s definitely an opportunity. We’ve wanted to get together but haven’t had all the commercial pieces on place,” he says.

“We still see ourselves primarily as exploring through the games themselves, and the plan is to explore some wider game types and different experiences. We have actually got a significant portfolio of work in progress.”

Video game studios have come under hard times during the past two years. Major publishers have shrunk their budgets during the financial crisis, leaving smaller developers without work or the means to self-publish their own games.

This has caused some studios to collapse altogether, such as Melbourne’s Transmission Games in 2009, while others such as Red Tribe have been forced to lay off staff. More recently, Brisbane’s Krome Studios laid off over 100 employees in August.

But some studios such as Firemint have been able to survive by leveraging the popularity of the iPhone as a gaming and private distribution platform, reducing their reliance on external publishers. Last September Firemint confirmed Flight Control has sold over three million units, while Infinite has found success on the iOS platform as well.

The acquisition is a testament to Firemint’s growth – smaller studios are usually acquired by large publishing groups instead of other developers.

Other Melbourne studios, such as Brisbane-based Halfbrick, have scored millions from the App Store as well.

By joining with Firemint, Infinite will be able to access a suite of new platforms including Nintendo DSiWare, the Sony PlayStation Network and the Steam distribution platform for PC and Mac.

Both chief executives have been known to each other for several years – Murray was actually inspired to create Flight Control after Fawkner showed him an early version of Puzzle Quest.

“I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Steve and his team to Firemint,” Murray said. “Steve is an outstanding game designer and our two studios evolved very similar philosophies of developing addictive, fun and polished original games.”

Fawkner will take a product management position within the company and continue working on an undisclosed title, which will be published under the Firemint brand.

“By joining forces, we now have a way to further develop some of the exciting new concepts we’ve been working on. This new position really frees me up to focus on game design,” he says.

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