LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Co.'s newly restructured mobile game division briefly knocked the popular "Angry Birds" off its perch atop iTunes' free app store over the holidays in a sign that its purchase of game-maker Tapulous Inc. is paying dividends.
Tapulous' music game, "Tap Tap Revenge 4," was downloaded 6 million times in 22 days after its release on Dec. 20, Disney said this week.
Disney acquired Tapulous in July for an undisclosed amount in an attempt to reverse losses at its interactive unit and expand its mobile strategy. Although it's free, the company's flagship game is a moneymaker because people buy songs they want to play.
Downloads of the newest version of the tap-along game were proceeding at twice the pace of the 2009 release, Disney said.
Disney released the 2010 version three days earlier than the previous year, yet steady momentum after the initial burst allowed it to just beat the goal of a million downloads on Christmas Day, up from 800,000.
"Keeping our servers up over the holidays is a challenge in our own rights. We had five times the amount of servers we had last year (2009) and it's still a massive challenge," said Tim O'Brien, once Tapulous' spokesman and now vice president of business development for Disney mobile.
Newly integrated Twitter posts and the added ability to turn other game players into Facebook friends helped spread the word about the game, O'Brien said.
After two weeks at No. 1 on the Free Apps section for iPhones, "Tap Tap Revenge 4" has since slipped back to No. 5 on the charts with "Angry Birds" fluttering back on top. O'Brien said it was the game's biggest release ever since the first version came out more than two years ago and shows demand for mobile games is still growing.
Efforts to lift up the game "Tron: Legacy" with in-game promotions were somewhat successful. The 99-cent game based on the Disney movie came out around the same time and reached the 25th spot on the paid app store, before slipping back to 39th place.
Including the free, less-fancy version, more than 2 million "Tron" games have been downloaded to date. Disney would not break out how many of the downloads were paid.