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March 12, 2012

Game Developers Plagued by Android Problems

Mika Mobile has stopped developing for the Android operating system, saying that the cost of development does not justify the meager revenue generated by the platform. Mika Mobile’s games include Zombieville USA and Battleheart.

“From a purely economic perspective, [we] can no longer legitimize spending time on Android apps,” said the company on its blog. “There's a big difference between generating revenue, and ‘making money’ - It's not that [Android apps] haven't generated income, but that income is offset by the additional support costs the platform has demanded.”

Mika’s problems with Android are just another of many issues that game developers have had with the platform. The top issue with Android, according to developers, is fragmentation. Most games on Android are built for a specific device or specification. For instance, many game developers are encouraged to build their games for Tegra-specific APIs. As a result, these games only work on phones and tablets that are powered by the Tegra chip.

Most new 4G LTE phones have moved over to the Snapdragon S4 chip, which does not have permission to run Tegra games. However, developers are releasing the game to everyone without clarification, causing confusion and frustration. Users download the game only to find that it is incompatible with their device. A software update can’t help the fragmentation unless developers who have been Tegra-exclusive are willing to open the door for other hardware specs.

Another issue is that most downloads from the Android Market just contain the game engine. Users have to download additional files to use the games, and the files don’t download within Google’s 15-minute returns window. Users don’t have the chance, therefore, to check for compatibility before they have no options for a refund.

“We spent about 20% of our total man-hours last year dealing with Android in one way or another - porting, platform specific bug fixes, customer service, etc.,” said the Mika Mobile blog. “I would have preferred spending that time on more content for you, but instead I was thanklessly modifying shaders and texture formats to work on different GPUs, or pushing out patches to support new devices without crashing, or walking someone through how to fix an installation that wouldn't go through.  We spent thousands on various test hardware.  These are the unsung necessities of offering our apps on Android.”

Until Android figures out its fragmentation and data download problems, gamers may abandon the platform in increasing droves. That’s good news for the iTunes store but bad news for Google.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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