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Ngmoco is short for next-generation mobile company, and in just over 18 months, its founders, mostly refugees from Electronic Arts, have lived up to that ambitious moniker. The 30-person company develops only for the iPhone and gives away its games, generating revenue from dozens of virtual goods and services layered into the apps. "We're building a platform, almost like Xbox Live," says cofounder Bob Stevenson.

The bigger the platform, the more in-app purchases, so Ngmoco opened up its network, called Plus+ (pronounced "plus"), to other game makers, who have adopted it because it allows players to challenge one another and post high scores on Facebook and other social media. The company says its games have been downloaded 16 million times since Plus+'s debut last summer.