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Daily iPhone App: Ion Racer crashes through for SGN

Ion Racer is the latest title from SGN, which is a collection companies assembled by MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe. I recently met with DeWolfe, who shared his thoughts on social networking. While it propelled MySpace and music in the beginning (around 2008), DeWolfe had suspicions about where it was going. "What really came to mind," he said, "was gaming." Today, the App Store generates billions of dollars a year, and a big chunk of that comes from games. DeWolfe was right.

DeWolfe has since formed up SGN (out of Mindjolt and a few other casual gaming companies) to move a few big social and mobile titles forward, and "roll up a bunch of companies that really are synergistic." SGN will release several titles this year (in addition to the successful Lil Flippers and Fluff Friends Rescue), including Ion Racer.

Ion Racer is a casual racing game with an endless runner/Jetpack Joyride style. You race a futuristic car along the track using the tilt controls, blasting through barriers to get a boost of speed or increased health.

There are three main missions to complete, and the overall goal is to earn "Kions" to improve your car and gain perks. Ion Racer plays fast and loose. The controls aren't as tight as they could be, but the game is so easy to restart that you're never too concerned about losing any one time. There's a fair amount of depth in the racing as well, so if you really practice at it, you can get pretty good as you climb up through the missions.

DeWolfe did tell me that devices like the iPhone are a big draw for companies like his, the App Store is "so frictionless in terms of buying items in the game." Indeed, Ion Racer is heavily driven by in-app purchases. You can earn the currency through races, obviously, but there's also a screen just waiting to take your money if you'd rather purchase perks and upgrades. Ion Racer is currently 99 cents on the App Store, and it's worth the buck, but I suspect that with in-app purchases placed so prominently in the app, it's only a matter of time before things go freemium.

It certainly sounds like DeWolfe has his work cut out for him, but he and his company have a solid foundation if they can keep releasing games like this one.

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