Game developer stops supporting Android due to fragmentation

Mika Mobile has announced via their blog:

Some folks recently sent us news that the 50mb limit of Google’s market has been lifted.

Unfortunately, the same app size limit still exists. It’s still going to require the same technique developers have been using to circumvent the limit for quite some time. The .apk will need to be under 50mb, but can download further data after the fact. The improvement here is that Google is now offering to host up to 4GB of extra data, and that any secondary download is more tightly integrated with the market itself. These are welcome improvements, but due to the way Battleheart is built, it would require a significant amount of time to implement.

As near as I can tell, a complete removal of any size limits is never going to happen due to the way the android market must download apps into a finite download cache (somewhere between 30-50mb depending on the device) which must exist on the device’s internal storage. Many devices don’t have much internal storage, and the exact amount can vary wildly, so if the cache has to stay, it would have been great to be optionally placed on the device’s roomy SD card as needed, and its size greatly increased. This seems like a better solution to me, but I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Android market. I’m sure there are reasons why they chose the approach they did.

We could re-engineer how Battleheart accesses its data to work with this new system. This isn’t an impossible task, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to dedicate resources to it. For one, we’re in the middle of production on another game, and can’t simply drop everything to implement this because Google finally delivered on a year-old promise. And secondly, as I mentioned on Twitter, our Android apps aren’t making money. A few people took offense to the bluntness of this statement, so I’ll clarify in more delicate terms. There’s a big difference between generating revenue, and “making money” – It’s not that they haven’t generated income, but that income is offset by the additional support costs the platform has demanded. Where did your dollar go? 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. 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. Meanwhile, Android sales amounted to around 5% of our revenue for the year, and continues to shrink. Needless to say, this ratio is unsustainable.

From a purely economic perspective, I can no longer legitimize spending time on Android apps, and the new features of the market do nothing to change this. While this news may be disappointing, I hope people can accept that we’ve done everything we can reasonably do to bring our apps to as many potential players as possible, despite the obstacles.

Thanks for reading, and for your understanding.

MacDailyNews Take: Fragmandroid.

Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed.’ We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches… Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same. Twitter client, TwitterDeck, recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations presents developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone…

…There will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers. Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store which offers users the easiest to use, largest App Store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone.

“In reality, we think the ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue which is: What’s best for the customer? Fragmented versus integrated. We think Android is very, very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. And, as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value in having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator.”

“We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s. When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe integrated will trump fragmented every time. And we also think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a singular platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets. So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “closed,” and we are confident that it’ll triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “open.”Apple CEO Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Roel,” “Double07,” “_Bill_,” “Davylow,” and “Mike Caine” for the heads up.]

26 Comments

  1. I wish them luck. But seeing as the iPhone and iPad are only for Apple fans and open Android is for everyone and anyone, Android will be the dominant mobile platform in 2013, 2014, or later.

    Ice Cream Sandwich is a great improvement, but just wait: Marzipan will offer all the features iOS 5.1 currently has. That should ship the second half of 2015 and will only be available on a few select phones. Upgrades to Marzipan for older phones will be promised and then cancelled.

    So, Apple and iOS developers, enjoy your time as the leader until Android leaves you in the dust… sometime in 2013, 2014, or later.

    1. You wrote this tong in cheek didn’t you. It was funny. By the time Android catches up with the current Apple operating system, Apple will have moved on and we will have this comment made again only with the years changed.

      1. Yes, the tong was firmly impaled in his cheek. Not sure how he sits down now. It would be painful to sit on one of those cheeks with a tong sticking out. 🙂

  2. 1% of Android apps are paid apps, compared to 13% in the App Store, Apple has paid out 10x more than Android to developers.

    Given the amount of effort and expense that goes into supporting Google’s shartphone OS, I’m surprised that major defections like this one aren’t more common. You can bet in the best case scenario, Android developers devote nowhere near the resources that Mika did, resulting in a subpar experience optimized for only the major handsets.

    1. where did you took that numbers. The amount of paid apps in the app store are nearly 72% of all apps (28% free) while in the android market 57% of the apps are free.

    1. nwver heard of them before, but this article/letter got me to check him out.

      Battle heart is 69.2 mb. (universal)
      Google really must have ticked him off lol.

      I’ll have to take a closer look at battle heart later, looks fun. I saw zombieville though, zombies…. Who doesn’t like killing zombies?

        1. Ahem! Ahem!

          Depends what kind of zombie your talking about. If you are referring to a George Romero shambler (Night of the Living Dead) or a Dany Boyle sprinter (28 Days Later)? 🙂

  3. Balmer & his “Developer, Developers, Developers” and Steve Jobs in many ways explained why you need a controlled system to have controlled growth.

    Customers and developers both need relative consistency.

    Schmidt as God of Google got a fragged OS & thus from day one a system that bedevils both forms of Google’s customers: software developers and end users.

    People who don’t learn the lessons of the past are…

  4. 50mb limit…

    So THAT’S why when I downloaded dungeon defenders for the fire it was 10mb and I then downloaded a gig of data afterwards…
    Always wondered why it was that way.

    *yes I own a fire and an iPad… I got the fire cheap and plan to hack it. I do not plan to use it much. It’s ok, not even close to a first gen iPad…

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.