Indie Gamers Hit the Right Buttons

Startup design outfits are staking their claim to a small-but-growing market niche -- so-called "casual games"

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When Andy Schatz left an executive-level job at game maker TKO Software in December, 2004, to start his own gaming studio, he figured he would have to stretch his $100,000 savings for as long as four years before his new business caught on. His math was way off. Schatz's Pocketwatch Games just sold the rights to its first title, an animal-adventure game called Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa, to distributor MumboJumbo after a three-way bidding war. Schatz is hoping that MumboJumbo regulars including Wal-Mart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY) will opt to carry Tycoon as early as next year.

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