While Apple may be the focus for many, Google's Android mobile platform is slowly creeping up on it. The fact that there are more daily Android activations than iOS has forced developers to take notice, in spite of the platform's well-documented issues, such as fragmentation of hardware and inconvenient payment processes.
According to analysts, Android's share of the smartphone market will be around 40 percent this year, and could jump as high as 50 percent by 2012. That means that by the end of this year there are expected to be nearly 180 million Android-enabled smartphones in the hands of consumers, and that number could top 300 million by next year, and 500 million by 2015.
That dominance doesn't translate to the tablet market, however, where Android devices managed to account for just 14 percent of the market in 2010 with 2.5 million devices sold. However, that number is expected to grow quite a bit, with nearly 14 million tablets sold by the end of the year. And by 2015 analysts predict that Android tablets will be in striking distance of the iPad, with 113 million units sold, accounting for 38 percent of the tablet market.
Many developers initially took a wait-and-see approach, biding their time until the conditions of the market improved. PopCap, for instance, waited until the operating system reached version 2.2, which introduced the ability to save applications to an SD card. Gameloft first decided to enter the market when more powerful phones were released, allowing the developer to bring its high definition mobile games over to Android.
That being said, most developers still take an even more cautious approach to the platform, porting successful iOS titles to Android as opposed to developing original experiences. Generally speaking, games that sell well on iOS will also sell well on Android.
The rising profile of certain Android phones appears to be slowly changing this way of thinking... at least, in some instances. When Gameloft first launched BackStab, a high-profile 3D action game, it was a timed exclusive for Sony's brand new, PlayStation-branded Xperia Play device. Eventually the game made its way to iOS as well, but it was one of the few high-profile games to debut on an Android handset.
"Exclusivities on a platform are driven by business opportunities and technical features," says Corman. "If a game can only run on a specific Android hardware and/or if there's a good business reason then you'll certainly see more Android exclusive titles from Gameloft."
The one thing you will need to think about when releasing a game on Android, though, is where you want to sell it. Unlike Apple devices, which feature one unified store for purchasing apps, Android has many. In addition to Google's marketplace, Android apps can be purchased from places like Amazon and GetJar, or even rented from through services such as Exent's Gametanium.
While this can be daunting and sometimes frustrating, it can also give developers more power. For example, because PopCap wasn't entirely happy with the way the Android market was set-up, it decided to make the debut of Plants vs. Zombies on Android a timed exclusive for the Amazon app store.
"Amazon doesn't solve all of the problems and issues around the Android platform, but they do have a lot of experience in selling digital content," says Contestabile, of the decision to partner with Amazon. "They do have a very large database of credit cards, which means that if you are an Amazon store customer, the billing issue goes away, because with one click you just charge on your Amazon account.
"They do have a very powerful discovery and recommendation engine that they can deploy for Android games. And also, they have a very strong web presence through which they market PopCap products across every platform. You can buy PC games, and console games, and Android games, etc. And so we also felt it was a good way for us to promote products across different platforms."
The relative flexibility of Android also opens up potential opportunities that aren't possible on iOS. For instance, Contestabile says that PopCap could potentially partner with a hardware manufacturer to embed its games on phones, bypassing the various app stores all together.
But if there's one constant complaint about Android, it's that users don't like to spend money. Instead of the one-click purchasing that's available on iOS, Android users are faced with more friction, which leads to fewer sales. That's a problem now, but not necessarily a permanent one. Developers are already seeing consumer behavior change, and many believe that over time the Android user will eventually become much like its iOS counterpart.
The two already have something in common, though, and that's the freemium shift. And because a large part of being successful in freemium gaming is simply getting your game played by as many people as possible, multi-platform games are key. This makes exclusives less likely, but doesn't preclude the idea of a game debuting on Android before spreading to other platforms. Glu's Gun Bros, for example, launched initially on Android before making its way to both Facebook and iOS.
"As it's our focus to deliver top quality freemium mobile games no matter the platform, it's more beneficial to have our games be available on all appropriate platforms vs. just one," says Glu's Breslin.