BlackBerry World 2012: Anders Jeppsson on how BlackBerry will be the second great gaming platform

#bbwc Forget Android's install base

BlackBerry World 2012: Anders Jeppsson on how BlackBerry will be the second great gaming platform
It's the third time I've interviewed RIM's head of games Anders Jeppsson, and every time his smile is wider.

From taking on what seemed a thankless task in 2011, the last couple of months have seen strong traction for content on the company's PlayBook tablet.

Rovio has released Angry Birds Space, Gameloft has released the first free-to-play game on the platform GT Racer Motor Academy, while Halfbrick has just announced it's bringing over five games including Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninja.

No surprise then Jeppsson tweeted, "After 15 years in gaming industry I'm having the time of my life doing gaming for RIM! Who would have thought?!"

Indeed, he's actually a little annoyed that five big deals couldn't be signed off in time to be announced at BlackBerry World.

Not your lawyer's RIM

From having no history with BlackBerry - you can't buy the phones in his native Sweden, and he previously used iPhone and Android devices - Jeppsson and his gaming team are changing the perception of RIM within the mobile games industry.

Sure, developer support isn't yet up to iOS or Android standards, but RIM's positioned itself ahead of Windows Phone, and Jeppsson says he has Android in his sights.

"Just talk to Fishlabs," he says.

Michael Schade, CEO of the German developer was onstage during the BlackBerry World keynote, showing off Galaxy on Fire 2 HD.

It will be released on the App World at the end of May, with Schade enthusing over how quickly it got the game running for PlayBook - one day - as well as the fact the game can be released for $10, as on iOS.

In contrast, Fishlabs has been hit by massive piracy and support issues on Android, and the game isn't generally available; only for Xperia Play and devices using Nvidia Tegra chipset.

More to do

There are plenty of studios to be won over, however.

"We're getting there, but there's still a lot of RIM bashing going on in the media," Jeppsson acknowledges. "And some developers still think making BlackBerry games means using Java."

Busting such misconceptions has been his biggest challenge.

The company's decision to give out over 20,000 PlayBooks has physically demonstrated its commitment to developers, as well as providing the opportunity for studios to see how easy it is to get their games running on the new OS.

Labeled the PlayBook Tablet OS, it's a version of the all-new BlackBerry 10 OS, which will power its future phones. All content that works on PlayBook will work on BB 10; something already demonstrated by studios who have received the Dev Alpha reference hardware at BlackBerry World.

"Our code is really solid," Jeppsson says.

"We've focused on providing developers with the tools they need, from physics and audio engines to UI and social networking, and often making sure that they are open source too. We have over 50 projects on GitHub, and a beta version of Visual Studio will be available soon."

He adds, "My job isn't just getting Rovio to support BlackBerry, it's about providing the SDK and APIs, a platform that all developers can use".

Push to #2

So there are good foundations, but while the goal of making BlackBerry 10 a platform that's easy to support, the big question mark is what its install base will be, say by the end of 2012?

"Sure, PlayBook isn't a large audience, but it's active and monetising well," Jeppsson argues.

"I can't share the figures but a large proportion of devices downloaded GT Racer Motor Academy. But, of course, we're not going to see 10 or 20 million devices until the phones are launched."

That's due sometime later in the year, possibly September. Then we'll really see whether RIM can make the most of the opportunity to make BlackBerry a strong third mobile gaming platform.

Jeppsson's ambitions are higher though.

"iOS is a great platform for games," he says.

"Our goal is to provide a second great platform for developers. One that's robust and provides security. That's what they really need."

His view of Android is clearly defined by its absence in the conversation.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.