If you’d asked me a year ago who the big players in mobile social gaming would be, Capcom would have been the furthest thing from my mind. But low and behold, the last six months have proven that the traditional gaming giant could easily make a sizable footprint in the smartphone social gaming scene. Now the publisher is giving these games a home of their own through the creation of a new publishing sub-brand, Beeline.

“Capcom recognizes that the market for social smartphone games is very different from our core video game business,” said Midori Yuasa, President and COO, Capcom Interactive, Inc. “Capcom is extremely committed to the smartphone social game space, and the creation of ‘Beeline’ represents a major investment and strategic refocusing of the company’s mobile operations.”

It’s not hard to understand why they’re so committed. The three social games Capcom has previously published, Lil’ Pirates, Smurfs’ Village, and Zombie CafĂ©, have reached a combined total of more than 15 million downloads in less than 6 months. Beeline is expected to introduce eight new games to the mobile market before the end of the year. The brand will also be focusing on the Japanese market, with a Tokyo office porting their existing releases to the East, as well as designing new games with Japanese gamers’ sensibilities in mind.

For those of you who might be worried about the “softening” of Capcom Mobile, you can breathe easy. While Beeline will be publishing mobile social casual games exclusively, Capcom will continue to publish mobile games aimed at the hardcore gaming audience under the Capcom name.

The only real surprise here is that Capcom is stressing the word “mobile” when describing Beeline’s publishing duties. While few companies have managed to bridge the gap successfully between Facebook social gaming and mobile social gaming, we keep expecting to see some of the bigger players in the industry give it a try. Does Beeline’s mobile mandate mean that Smurfs’ Village really won’t make it to Facebook one day? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.