In order for BlackBerry to regain the mobile spotlight, it'll need games. In an era dominated by Android and iOS, though, it won't be easy for a historically business-focused mobile platform to attract game developers.
I spoke with BlackBerry's game R&D lead Sean Paul Taylor about why they're betting on easy ports, gamepads, and BlackBerry Messenger.
On the difficulty of porting to BB10
"We recently announced that Unity is adding BlackBerry 10 support. What you get is nothing really new, which is a good thing. All you really add in is the Standard or Pro mobile module, go to File, Build Settings,
and click on the BlackBerry tab here. Nothing that's really 'Whoa, that's something new,' which is what devs have been asking us for since the last GDC.
"Also, a lot of people don't know about the Visual Studio plugin. A lot of game developers tell us they develop and iterate in Windows, so we thought we'd set up a development plugin that lets to pick a BlackBerry target, change your definitions in your code, and do the porting layer for that stuff so you can just build, deploy, and debug right in there. They can stay in this environment now, that's key, you don't really have that in Android. Everything collaborates with the platform just like if you were using an Eclipse plugin."
"As for in-game social hooks and leaderboards: We acquired ScoreLoop a while ago, they already had a major place in the market, and it's cross-platform. You can actually write a cross-platform game and compete with each other on the same leaderboards from a BlackBerry and iOS device."
"Devs wanna know about traditional stuff; what's the display size, what's the exact GPU model. [The BlackBerry Z10] is good hardware to be writing games on, the kind of hardware devs want to write games on, and they know how to optimize their shaders for this. We've put this device in the sweet spot."
On integrating mobile gamepad support
"We're going to be heavily promoting gamepad support, whether it's through monetization or however we decide to execute this. We put controller support in the OS in the way we think is the most developer-friendly way, and there should be no reason you don't add gamepad support. We just like the idea of being able to play a game and have the option to get really enthusiastic at it, plug it into the TV, and play with a gamepad."
"The guy who sent me this game build he added gamepad support in one hour. All the guys who have tried it have said, 'Yeah, you guys did it really nicely.' Before people did it with HID, which is a low-level standard, and if you're familiar with that, that's good, but even the guys doing it with HID ported it over because it was easier."
On the process of adding a game to the BlackBerry store
"It starts off with pretty much what you'd expect; you set up a vendor account, identify a game title as a SKU, get a certificate for yourself so you can sign things. It's pretty easy, with [setup] wizards and stuff...If you're a bigger game with a lot of content, you can do GPU-specific texture compression and optimization. Then you set up your PayPal or however you want to get paid, and the money starts coming in. We do game submission reviews, of course, but they were quite friendly and it was easy to get into the store."
On BBM's potential to offer devs new viral vectors
"We're hoping you're gonna make a lot of money, obviously. Game developers want their game to be played. You want to connect with your audience, you want them to love your game. We're going to try to build our platform in a way that lets them reach out to their users, and make money. Other marketplaces are crowded and hard to get exposure; we're going to try and build up the social connection you have with your audience, let people recommend games through the BBM network (BlackBerry Mobile). You can have ongoing back-and-forths with people, this guy just did this, this guy just beat you. We think of BBM as a subset of your entire social community, and we think this connection will make developers really excited about the ability to connect to the players."
For Gamasutra's full GDC 2013 event coverage this week, check out the official GDC 2013 event page