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Are we still treating Android as a second class mobile gaming citizen?

Our Mavens circle the age old iOS-versus-Android debate
Are we still treating Android as a second class mobile gaming citizen?
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In the past three weeks, San Francisco's Moscone Center has hosted the developer conferences from Apple and Google.

Neither event has thrown out particularly surprising headlines, but the given the duopoly the two companies now control in terms of mobile operating systems - especially in terms of mobile gaming - we decided to ask our Mavens a question combining psychological and strategic elements.

We asked:

Given Android is the largest mobile games market in terms of players, is closing on iOS in terms of revenue parity, and provides a much more flexible development environment, including for non-mobile devices such as Nvidia's new Android TV Shield...

(Not to forget VR and AR hardware...)

Do you think we're still underestimating the gaming potential of the Android ecosystem compared to the neatness and higher per user revenue of iOS?

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

I think overall Android is catching up, but I expect that ad revenue makes up a larger portion of app revenues on Android than on iOS.

“You can concentrate on the more popular handsets and achieve revenue goals.”
William Volk

Per-user, an Android title is netting less revenue than an iOS one.

There's still the issues of fragmentation and slower operating system updating by Android users, but you can concentrate on the more popular handsets and achieve revenue goals.

One that is troubling, Google has moved to a subjective approval process similar to Apple's.

In the past, Android would enjoy games that wouldn't be approved by Apple. Examples include political themed games, humorous games with 'tasteless' themes etc.

From personal experience I can confirm that a title that meets all the rules can still be rejected by Google. And that's a shame.

Jared Steffes

Jared Steffes

Co-founder at Muxy

While watching the Google I/O keynote I asked some friends, "Why does there need to be an entire OS overhaul each year?"

“The revenue plan needs to be treated differently for Android. Ads reign supreme.”
Jared Steffes

It really just multiplies the segmentation problem. Apple realized the issue and the rumor is that iOS 9 will work well on older devices. People don't need to buy a new phone or tablet every 2 years, but if they do, they want to know that the device will have a usage life longer than that.

I've been using an iPhone 4 lately just to see how many new games I can't use on the iOS 7-powered device. It is about 30% of the new apps I want to try. Pretty low in my opinion.

The revenue plan needs to be treated differently for Android. Ads reign supreme. Getting better value from the ads and the mechanic of incentivized is a bummer to have to make a game around, but it is the reality.

I'm glad Unity, UDK, and others have made it easier to develop through the segregation but how long will it last with the exponential hardware upgrades through Moore's Law? 64-bit processing is finally making it to our handsets altering the internal structure of our codebases.

The NVIDIA Shield Console is an awesome machine. It is overpowered right now which allows it some future proofing. The Android library is good, but they are apps you can play on most other Android devices.

Shield Android TV is the sizzle
Shield Android TV is the sizzle

What really stands out is the ShadowPlay that allows a player to stream from their Steam PC library that is powered by an NVIDIA GPU. The Grid service makes things even easier by delivering the OnLive experience we wanted, as long as your internet is good.

I am not sure if anyone is developing a title just for the Shield Console. It doesn't make sense to do that yet.

Adam Telfer

Adam Telfer

Consultant at MobileFreeToPlay

Yes, absolutely. Android should not be considered a second-class platform. Ignore Android at your own peril.

We at Wooga underestimated the potential of the Android platform.

With our recent launch of Agent Alice, we've found that the Android ecosystem is a major market for us.

<em>Agent Alice</em> has boosted Wooga's confidence in Android
Agent Alice has boosted Wooga's confidence in Android

We've since become a much bigger advocate internally for ensuring that Android is not thought of as a "second-class" platform.

Most of our game dev teams have now put much more focus on building the game from the start with Android in mind. Also we use Android to iterate quickly during our recent soft launches.

Kevin Corti

Kevin Corti

Principal at Spidershed Media

“If you are a company that has strong growth ambitions ... then catering for Android is a must.”
Kevin Corti

I totally get why, if you are a smaller Western-based dev, then it will make more sense to focus on iOS.

Higher ARPPU and less device fragmentation will be front of mind in that decision-making process.

If you are a company that has strong growth ambitions, however, then catering for Android is a must.

The danger is that we look at these as different devices or operating systems. What they are, really, are different markets with different customers in different places, that we reach in different ways/through different messages, that monetise in different ways.

That implies extra effort and upon the things that smaller devs don't want to spend time on but they run the risk of losing out to those that do take the time and effort to make Android work for them.

Dave Castelnuovo

Dave Castelnuovo

Owner at Bolt Creative

You have to be multi-platform in this environment but I still think Android is a second class citizen.

Google just doesn’t manage the environment that well. Piracy is huge, fragmentation is a pain.

You have to release a game for Android but it’s always going to be the after-thought.

I would put more time into a Steam build than Android.

John Golden

John Golden

Senior Director of Marketing at PlayPhone

“Android has significant share and growth potential in emerging markets.”
John Golden

Android has significant share and growth potential in emerging markets, which is where the majority of gaming growth will be.

Android's flexibility and appeal in these markets - especially with 3G networks and low end phones – will help Android maintain that share moving forward.

Hundreds of millions of new Android users in India, southeast Asia and Latin America provide a huge pool of gamers that will want to play games on their smartphones.

That's a market that can't be ignored moving forward.

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

I've made it fairly clear over the last couple of years that I'm an Android fan; although not an uncritical one.

Fragmentation issues are a problem but still nothing compared to the bad old Java days. More problematic for me is their attempt to approximate Apple's app store approach which I fear holds Google back, despite overwhelming iOS in terms of sheer numbers.

“The ability to trigger a download via your browser is fantastically effective if used well.”
Oscar Clark

The Android strategy of making the OS accessible to all manufacturers has paid off and means that there are every kind of device from some of the most powerful to some of the lowest cost with one OS to rule them all.

However selling IAP has never been easy. 3 years ago at Papaya, we found that we were able to make some decent IAP revenues by offering an i-game currency across multiple games in the same social network. That seems like a different era now.

The key at the time was Trust. The process to set up you credit card and other payment details for your Google Wallet still isn't a natural one, unlike Apple who have established that billing relationship from the first moment you obtain a compatible device. Developers have to convince players that setting up their Google account is worth the hassle.

That's why I feel Google continuing to try to replicate Apple is a mistake.

I suspect that to disrupt the current imbalance Google would to open up to other established billing relationships whether that's PayPal or the operator, or whoever. Perhaps even considering a shift to a wholesale rather than retail model. However, I suspect that the short term costs would make that too difficult.

Download via browser is great for virality
Download via browser is great for virality

But Google have more that just better numbers. Google Analytics is an amazing resource and the ability to trigger a download via your browser is fantastically effective if used well.

All that being said, being where we are now, advertising is a great revenue stream as has already been said. There are a great many players who have become accustomed to games being free with ads and if you scale effectively you can still make good revenues.