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Record Spending on Videogame Deals Puts Mobile-Game Makers in Focus

Machine Zone, which makes ‘Mobile Strike’ and ‘Game of War: Fire Age,’ has had a...

A record year in videogame deal making is turning attention to smaller mobile-game developers now that most bigger targets have been gobbled up.

Seven months into the year, videogame deals totaled $25.1 billion, eclipsing the previous full-year record of $14.9 billion in 2014, according to Digi-Capital LLC. Of the deals, 88% have been for mobile-game makers, including three acquisitions totaling $18.9 billion.

A big reason: Only a few developers have figured out how to consistently mine revenue from games downloaded and played free. Now, acquirers are looking at smaller mobile developers such as Kabam Inc. and Scopely Inc. to get a leg up in the hottest market in gaming.

Top-tier app makers give acquirers a beachhead in a market that is overtaking console and PC games, but where lasting success is hard to come by. More than half of mobile-game revenue in the U.S. is concentrated among 10 companies, according to industry tracker SuperData Research Inc.

Just three companies have kept at least one game among the top 10 highest-grossing titles on Apple Inc. AAPL -0.13 % and Google Inc.’s U.S...