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Xbox Game Studios Spotlight: Alpha Dog Games

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

In this Xbox Game Studio Spotlight, we are covering Alpha Dog, the little known mobile developer out of Nova Scotia which has been tasked with bringing big IP to the small screen. See how the dev ranks, its history, and projects!

Alpha Dog overview

“Odd one out” describes mobile developer Alpha Dog to a tee. The team was snapped up by Zenimax Media for Bethesda Game Studios in 2019. Working out of Canadian province Nova Scotia, famed for its maritime industry, it is safe to say that Alpha Dog is the pride of a relatively small local game development scene. Starting in 2009, founders Shawn Woods and Jeff Cameron decided to bring past game-making experiences onto the mobile screen while building a small indie dev studio in their local area. In 2012, the pair managed to make action-RPG Wraithborne for iOS, Android, and Ouya. This was a full fantasy in your pocket, with runes, magic, big swords, and dungeon crawling. According to NSBI, the game was fairly successful but got mauled by the release of mega-hit Clash of Clans.

This led to an extreme downturn for the team, having to downsize into a basement and retool how the team were operating. It became, in part, about breaking down the successes of the mobile game industry with data and analytics. Making MonstroCity: Rampage for mobile using this information buoyed the studio’s fortunes in 2016. MonstroCity: Rampage is a strange combination of city builder and kaiju elements. Using one of a batch of monsters, you must build your city whilst defending it from attacks. It was successful enough to launch a board game of the same name and is still alive with a vibrant community. With this success, it appears the studio outsourced its smart use data and analytics to other studios.

Eventually, this shopping around managed to get Alpha Dog an audience with Zenimax, a company that wanted to expand into the mobile space with all of its well-known Bethesda properties. That mix of experience, wily new tactics, and need for financial security led to an acquisition in 2019. During this period, the team made Ninja Golf for iOS and Android, a remake of the original Atari game. The first game out of the studio after the acquisition and a major expansion is Mighty DOOM, an action arcade shoot-’em-up for mobile, which is slated for late 2021.

Alpha Dog’s previous project — MonstroCity: Rampage

alpha dog wiki ranking Xbox Microsoft bethesda

MonstroCity: Rampage was a big hit. Released in 2016 for mobile, it is a Top 100 game in over 100 countries, according to gamesindustry.biz. The gameplay is comprised of a cross between city builder, tower defence, and kaiju destruction action. It seems to have drawn plenty of attention thanks to its moreish gameplay with a perfect combination of progression systems and fun smashy-smashy action of rival cities. Support has been ongoing since 2016, and there is currently a board-game version available.

Alpha Dog’s current project — Mighty DOOM (iOS/Android — 2021)

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Mighty DOOM is Alpha Dog’s first major release since Ninja Golf, its acquisition by Bethesda, and then Bethesda’s acquisition by Microsoft. Mighty DOOM is a free-to-play run and gun game for mobile devices, with wave combat. It features a cute little mini DOOM guy and smaller versions of locations we have seen in the legendary franchise. It went into early access in April 2021 (thanks, Pocketbiz) and is supposed to be coming out in late 2021. It doesn’t seem to have been reviewed well by early adopters and the access has been revoked. That suggests that the game might spend a little more time in the oven (roasted by the flames of hell, obviously).

Alpha Dog in 2021

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The Nova Scotians are a fairly quiet bunch. The team started hiring earlier this year, looking for local game dev talent in their wonderful province to join Alpha Dog in Halifax, according to CBC. The Mighty DOOM went into pre-release early access in April of 2021 and is set for release later in the year. Otherwise, it’s been very, very quiet, with no new word on what IP the team will be working on, or what opportunities the Microsoft acquisition will open up for Alpha Dog.

How does Alpha Dog rank?

We were tempted to pop this little team into the C Tier as a promising mobile developer thanks to the success of MonstroCity: Rampage, but have instead opted to keep them out of that discourse by leaving them unranked. While, yes, the team has released early access to Mighty DOOM — the first game from the Nova Scotians since the team was bought up by Zenimax in late 2019 — we feel like we still don’t quite know what Alpha Dog is under Bethesda and Microsoft. A fun little run-of-the-mill game will cement Alpha Dog in that C tier for us, but showing a little more ambition in that space with a fun IP like DOOM might get Alpha Dog into the B Tier. Let’s wait and see for that next project, but we are undoubtedly curious about what this batch of talent can get up to!



A studio yet to produce a game, or yet to prove itself

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