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How embattled BlackBerry intends to entice mobile game devs

How embattled BlackBerry intends to entice mobile game devs Exclusive

October 4, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

In recent weeks, BlackBerry has been slammed by bad news: the company is shedding thousands of jobs and backing away from the consumer market it was courting with its newest devices. The company is soon to be sold.

But amid all this, BlackBerry says, it still offers a dev-friendly platform for mobile developers to bring their games to. BlackBerry emphasizes that the core of its mobile game strategy is to make porting to BlackBerry as simple as possible.

Phones Need Games

After all, says Anders Jeppsson, the company's global head of games, supporting games is a give. "Gaming is the biggest category in app stores," he says. "That's something you need to cater to, regardless of how you're selling your device."

But even when BlackBerry is exiting the consumer market? "I think that people want to be productive and use their time wisely... Mobile gaming fits the definition of being able to crunch a little fun time into your day," says Sean Paul Taylor, the company's lead for gaming R&D.

In other words, BlackBerry says even with its retrenchment as a business-led platform, it still wants games to be part of that strategy.

Games Need Middleware

Taylor's team has been working to get "everything from Fmod to Unity to Marmalade to ShiVa to Ogre to Cocoas2d-x" working seamlessly on its devices, to make building games for BlackBerry easy.

"We're trying to make it zero-cost to bring your game over. I don't know how much the developer community is really aware of that," he says. "It's a no-brainer with Unity; it's just a checkbox."

When it comes to prioritizing what his team works on, Taylor puts it like this: "We're going to attend to anything that will make them money." He points out that The Bard's Tale was ported to BlackBerry in just two to three days, and made back the cost of the port in "just 26 hours."

"It doesn't cost them anything to bring it," he says, "and now they have the opportunity to grasp all these new users."

Making Money, Not Spending It

Jeppsson furthers this argument: "It's actually been quite an easy pitch for us. Fewer and fewer can make do with monetization with only one platform," he says. "There's always the top five titles in the market that generate millions a day, but for the majority of game developers, they need to be able to make money every day."

Unlike Android, BlackBerry has a small slate of devices to support -- smaller even than Apple, right now, as it just relaunched its product lines around an entirely new OS. "Blackberry has one app store and two different form factors, and that's what you really have to think about," says Jeppsson.

If anything gives faith in the company's approach, it's this: Jeppsson says that it's banking on the quality of its development environment, rather than bribes, to lure developers over.

"We're not trying to throw money at them, and as long as we throw money at them, they build for us; we're trying to lower the barrier for all developers... this will benefit us long-term, as well as the developers."

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