One of the two biggest challenges for mobile developers -- and the primary reason non-iPhone platforms haven't grown faster than they have - is the lack of popular delivery mechanisms, according to Michael Pachter. Pachter, an industry analyst, is senior VP, research, entertainment software publishing and retail at LA-based Wedbush Securities.
"The App Store makes it easy for people to display, search for, and find iPhone games," he says. "There isn't a really good analogous distribution model for the other handsets. I mean, we're talking about the internet here, which is a huge place. How do you tell people where to find your games? And so gamers end up being captive to the carrier decks. In addition, the carriers take the lions' share of the revenue, which makes it less lucrative for the developers."
Gamevil USA's Lee concurs, describing the Blackberry and Windows Mobile "single marketplaces" as fairly new and not as convenient to use as the iPhone's App Store.
Blackberry's App World went live last April and Microsoft's Windows Marketplace for Mobile last February. But, says Lee, "I haven't seen either of the companies driving the online stores full force."
And, according to Area/Code's Lantz, the Android Marketplace - which opened in October 2008 -- is "every bit as confusing and hard to use as the iPhone App Store; it just looks thrown together and a lot worse."
Having one marketplace in which to sell a game gave sales of Area/Code's original iPhone version of Drop 7 a huge boost when the game made an App Store recommendation list put together by Apple.
"This is a very hit-driven market, where the majority of sales are localized in a handful of titles," explains Lantz. "If you don't have money to spend on marketing - and most of us small developers don't - it's difficult to overcome the discovery problem. The App Store has a profusion of titles, which means that only a handful become runaway successes while the vast majority don't get any traction at all. It wasn't until we got promoted by Apple that we got some visibility and sales picked up momentum."
However, he says, promoting the Android version of Drop 7 will be more challenging without the benefit of a single marketplace that is as supportive as was the App Store.
The second hurdle, says Pachter, is determining the right mobile gaming audience to enable developers to chase the installed base.
"The Blackberry audience is largely working people who rely on their device for e-mail, so they are probably less likely to be gamers," he explains. "I think you want the younger, cooler phone, which is the Android. It clearly doesn't have as big an installed base, but it will. It's going to be huge." He admits being unable to cite comparative gaming data. "The Android is so new and there are probably not more than five million out there. No one is going to have an accurate tracking of what it is cataloguing yet."
Without really good data, says Gamevil's Lee, developers need to go with their gut when deciding which games they choose to design for which platforms.
"Each platform has a distinctly different audience," he says, "which, at the moment, can only be determined by gut feel. For instance, Android owners tend to be more male, more tech savvy.
"You might want to give them a more hardcore gaming experience than you'd give Blackberry owners who tend to use their devices for business in order to send text messages and e-mails. Because the platform is rather slow, you can't run heavy 3D games on a Blackberry; casual games work better."