Supporting BlackBerry is now a no-brainer, says Paw Print's Antony White
RIM needs to target would-be Android users
Most commentators in North America and Europe treat RIM like a dead man walking.
There's plenty of passion for the upcoming fight when it launches BlackBerry 10 within the company, however.
And some of RIM's development partners are surprising upbeat, so following the BlackBerry World 2012 conference, we've been polling the views of game studios already supporting the platform.
Antony White is the co-founder of UK indie Paw Print Games.
Pocket Gamer: What's your current view about PlayBook as a gaming platform?
Antony White: In terms of tablets, the PlayBook is one of our favourite devices. This is based on various aspects, including: form factor, weight, finish and hardware performance. And in terms of what you get for your money, the PlayBook is very much a bargain.
RIM has obviously come from a background where gaming wasn't very high on the agenda and this stigma is still carried forward by some people. But BlackBerry App World has many high quality games, because titles go through RIM's submission/QA process there isn't a plethora of crashing titles.
And because the device has a high hardware specification, lots of developers are bringing over titles from iOS and Android, and some are able to further enhance the graphics due to the improved hardware performance.
How are you finding the early version of BlackBerry 10 in terms of development?
We fully ported Kami Retro to the BB 10 platform in about 20 minutes. That includes BB 10 GUI's (using the Cascade framework) and using 1280 x 768 graphics to be an exact match to the display.
Also, RIM is currently doing a closed beta test of is Visual Studio plug-in, which allows developers to build from Visual Studio. Due to the open nature of the NDK, we have actually already rolled out own, custom Visual Studio integration, and we have certainly found that this helps us turn around titles onto lots of platforms in a relatively short period of time.
In terms of hardware, the BB 10 device [Dev Alpha hardware] we have received is decent. It's more powerful than the PlayBook, so bringing PlayBook titles across is a breeze. We are actually quite excited about the prospects of what more can be done with the hardware.
What are your hopes for the autumn OS and device launch?
We just really hope RIM manages to get lots of devices into customers' hands.
It is already one of the best platforms to develop for from our point of view, so we really want to see a large market share of consumers on the platform.
What do you think is RIM's biggest challenge?
I think the main challenge will be convincing consumers that the BB 10 devices are a good choice in terms of handset. RIM needs to have the applications and games that consumers want; it also needs consumers to find the device desirable.
I don't know how similar the final device will look to the device we received at BB10 Jam, but we are certainly impressed so far.
If we're honest, the [Dev Alpha] device isn't a million miles away from the iPhone 4, design-wise, but that isn't a bad thing! It's certainly a lot nicer than a lot of Android handsets in our opinion.
Some users are currently 'iPhone users' and will basically upgrade to the latest iPhone each time their contract expires. Getting these users converted is going to be a struggle (they'll have applications/games on iOS that they have built up, so they are less likely to switch), but there are also lots of more casual users who will buy a phone based on factors such as look, price (up front and monthly plan), what their friends have etc.
At the moment, these users will more often than not leave a phone shop with an Android phone (generally cheaper than iPhones) and I think this market needs to start considering BB 10 devices.
Once customers start getting BB 10 devices, with all the games they want to play, BBM to send free messages to one and other, and social media like Facebook and Twitter, there is a huge potential to get the snowball effect where their friends will then follow suit.
Do you think RIM can find a place in the mobile gaming market?
Yes. Already the main middleware is supporting PlayBook, so I'm sure they'll support BB10 too. The NDK is straightforward to use, so there is no reason most cross platform developers will not bring their games to BB 10.
If RIM gets it right in terms of price points, plans, phone design, marketing etc, then the install base will follow and suddenly a lot of people will be in possession of a RIM mobile - gaming - device.
It's tricky. You need good software to get consumers, but unless the consumer install base is there, developers can be a little reluctant to get on board.
Certainly making it as easy as possible for developers to get onto the platform is a smart move. If you only invest a day to port to PlayBook, you aren't coughing up too much in terms of salary costs. It's a no-brainer.
Can you say anything about your plans for BB 10's launch?
We'd like to have two titles as launch titles for BB 10, namely Kami Retro (already available on iOS, Android, webOS and PlayBook), and our new free-to-play game Wacky Rapids (which is in regional testing ahead of being released globally within the next month).
We are currently looking at integrating some more advanced features, such as 'roaming profile' support, so you can play a game on your PlayBook, get to a certain point, and then continue your progress on your BB 10 mobile.
We will hopefully have a chance to demo this at a conference prior to the BB 10 device launch.
Thanks to Antony for his time.
You can see what Paw Print gets up to via its website.
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