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A reprint from the May 2013 issue of Gamasutra's sister publication Game Developer magazine, this article polls developers to find out about the challenges and opportunities around developing for Android in 2013. Purchase the May 2013 issue here.
How's Android doing these days?
From the consumer standpoint, Android tablets and smartphones appear to be gaining a little more ground on iOS every year. From the developer perspective, however, early reports of widespread piracy, painful device fragmentation issues, and the perception of a rather tightfisted audience scared many devs away.
Game Developer caught up with devs from industry giants (GREE) and indie powerhouses (Spry Fox) to small studios and individual developers to see how the Android platform is treating them in 2013.
Ken Chiu (SVP of social games), Anil Dharni (SVP of studio operations), Andy Keidel (VP of engineering)
Prior dev background (platforms): iOS, Android, Facebook
Shipped Android titles: Crime City, Modern War, Jackpot Slots
Preferred toolset: Open to all tools depending on the needs of the game. Important to have a strong awareness of all technologies.
Is fragmentation still a major issue for you? Which devices do you target?
KC: It definitely is not a worry but is absolutely a consideration. Android is a huge mobile platform and it is important for us to make sure we have a big presence there and ensure we are always supporting the users and their needs.
AD: Our goal is to ensure compatibility and high performance of our titles with all Android devices, which means we are constantly having to think about different specs and make sure that our game features and mechanics aren't limited by anything around the Android hardware. Our biggest consideration is really making sure that we have the right specs to best take advantage of smartphone hardware and separately the tablet hardware.
Do you have any tips for optimizing the Android dev process?
AK: We've come up with several best practices to improve our Android development workflow. To handle the many variations in screen sizes, we specify UI dimensions for the most common screen specs, and then match and scale the UI dynamically for all other screens. Another key to efficient development workflow is a solid understanding of the lifecycles of the Android application, activities, services, etc. While we have found most Android-specific features to be helpful in structuring our application codebase, we developed a custom approach to our in-memory game database to provide easier support for live content updates, which we perform several times per week.
How have your games sold on Android?
KC: Our games have done really well on Android platforms. All of the titles we have released on Google Play -- Modern War, Crime City, Jackpot Slots -- have been pretty consistently in the top-30 grossing since their launch (which for something like Modern War, means it's been almost a year). So we are seeing tremendous success on Android devices.
Which app stores do you support? How do your Android sales compare to your sales on other platforms?
KC: We support iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. We have seen tremendous success on all of the stores.
AD: We have always worked exceptionally hard to create game experiences that are exciting for gamers, and as such have always seen strong retention rates, strong support of the titles, and great IAP revenues. Our users have been proven to be extremely engaged on both iOS and Android, showing us that there is a very even divide, and we don't see one OS showing higher success than the others. We plan on continuing to support them both and make sure our games have long lifetimes.
Overall, have you found Android dev to be worth the extra work? Are you looking into other mobile platforms?
KC: Absolutely. Android is one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets right now. Android phones and tablets are breaking out all over the world and are most definitely a power to keep an eye on. That being said, I think the key for us has been balance and making sure we always support both iOS and Android. As for other platforms, right now we really look to only those two (Android and iOS), but we are always keeping our eye on other technologies and platforms and their markets.