Electronic Arts announced today it will be merging together its two Australian mobile development studios--Firemint and Iron Monkey--to form a new studio.
The rebranded Firemonkeys studio will be based in EA's Melbourne office and will work on new intellectual property in addition to Firemint's and Iron Monkey's current products. These include Flight Control, Real Racing, and SPY Mouse (Firemint), along with Mass Effect Infiltrator, Dead Space for mobile, and The Sims FreePlay (Iron Monkey).
According to EA, the merger of the two mobile studios will make Firemonkeys Australia's largest game development studio. Firemint was acquired by EA last May.
Tony Lay, current general manager of Iron Monkey, told GameSpot the idea to merge the two studios did not come from EA, but rather from talks between himself and Firemint executive producer Rob Murray and their respective teams.
"This is simply the most practical way to be successful, for both Iron Monkey and Firemint," Lay said. "It wasn't our original intention to merge, but since we work in the same building and we often help each other out on projects it made a lot of sense."
Firemint moved into the EA Melbourne office after the EA acquisition. Since that time, Lay says the teams have been increasingly working together. According to the Iron Monkey general manager, the biggest risks the teams undertook in the merger had to do with audience and legacy.
"Ultimately, the name Firemonkeys respects both the studios' legacy. People can still judge us by the products we make. Iron Monkey has always retained creative control over the games we make and that won't change. All this merger means is that we can be a lot more efficient in the way we do business. We can share resources and knowledge with Firemint and become the best of the breed in mobile development."
Lay believes mobile development is slowly growing both in the global gaming industry and in Australia, with smartphone install bases on the rise and the constant improvements in technology. Going forward, Lay says the new Firemonkeys studio will look to establish and push its own brands harder and be the creative centre of intellectual property.
"We want to sit shoulder to shoulder with EA studios like DICE and Criterion, and we'll get there by having IP ownership, whether we create our own or take ownership of an existing one. In the immediate future, this means making sure all Firemonkeys titles are of the same quality and standard as existing Firemint and Iron Monkey titles. I want us to be seen as a creative entity, not simply a porting house."
Firemonkeys is now in the process of hiring new positions. The studio says upcoming launch and project announcements will follow shortly.