With all the hullabaloo about Apple's iPhone -- low barrier to entry plus massive consumer userbase -- it's easy to forget developers interested in games for mobile platforms have other options.
But in today's Gamasutra feature
, programmer Derek James lays out why it's worth taking a look at Google's Android OS. He says he was "instantly hooked" after experimenting with a G1 developer's phone:
While iPhone apps are written in Objective C, the Android SDK uses relatively more programmer-friendly Java. The iPhone store charges developers $99 a year to distribute their apps, while Android has a one-time $25 fee for developers. And the review process for iPhone apps grows increasingly lengthy -- sometimes weeks or more -- and it's somewhat arcane. Android apps go live as soon as the developer hits the publish button. Google handles the review process post-hoc, and is much more lax in terms of content.
But there are a number of things James says inhibit Android from becoming much of a contender, and he cites key issues from developer Larva Labs' mixed experience, plus a particular piracy problem as key issues:
The developer laments issues with the market interface (poor organization and search) and a lax return policy (24-48 hour returns, no questions asked). But the issue of piracy is also raised, and is another likely source of poor performance of games in the Android Market. A cursory search of popular torrent sites reveals bundles of Android games for download.
The next release of Android is bringing much needed revisions to the market interface. As for piracy, as with any game market, it is difficult to determine the impact. The Android Market includes optional DRM, but it is unlikely to slow or deter would-be pirates.
Unlike the iPhone, an Android device does not need to be jailbroken in order to allow installation of pirated apps. A user can simply install pirated apps onto their SD card and use one of the freely-available app installers from the market. The return policy even allows a would-be pirate to download an app, make a copy, and then get a full refund. They don't even have to pay for the original copy they pirate!
But there are still signs of progress:
Despite the seemingly poor state of the Android market, the Larva Labs developers remain upbeat about the potential. The mobile analytics company Flurry notes the growth of new Android projects next to the relative decline of new iPhone ones. The AdMob market report mentioned earlier also notes that ad requests from Android have now edged out requests from Windows Mobile, both internationally and domestically. While iPhone is still the king of the hill, Android is pushing its way into the market.
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature
on the market for Android developers.