Popular game developer halts work on Android

Popular game developer halts work on Android

Summary: Mobile developer Mika Mobile has stopped work on Android as it requires too much support and expense compared to other mobile platforms.

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Mobile app developers have two platforms currently with installed user bases big enough to make them worth the effort. Building apps for iOS and Android have different challenges, and for one developer only iOS is worth the effort. In a blog post last week Mika Mobile, developer of several popular games for iOS and Android, announced the end of support for the latter.

"We spent about 20% of our total man-hours last year dealing with Android in one way or another - porting, platform specific bug fixes, customer service, etc. I would have preferred spending that time on more content for you, but instead I was thanklessly modifying shaders and texture formats to work on different GPUs, or pushing out patches to support new devices without crashing, or walking someone through how to fix an installation that wouldn't go through. We spent thousands on various test hardware. These are the unsung necessities of offering our apps on Android. Meanwhile, Android sales amounted to around 5% of our revenue for the year, and continues to shrink. Needless to say, this ratio is unsustainable."

The bottom line is there is not enough money in Android apps, even popular ones, to offset the significant amount of effort required by Android support. I find the statement about device purchases particularly interesting, as it never occurred to me that Android fragmentation requires developers to purchase a lot of devices just to make sure their apps support them.

Device purchases for support aside, it sounds like a constant battle to make sure a single app works on every new Android phone or tablet that gets released. It's not just Android fragmentation that is the problem, it's the various hardware in use that breaks apps from the sound of things. This developer admits he spends a lot of his time troubleshooting problems with new hardware, and then making his app work properly.

A certain amount of support is required for any app, but the bottom line must support that. This is not the case according to Mika Mobile, and thus they are pulling the plug on Android support. I doubt this situation is unique, and wouldn't be surprised to hear others dropping off the platform. Too many OS versions, too many devices with different hardware, and not enough revenue to support it all. This can't be sustainable by small developers looking to make it big.

The Battleheart game is still for sale in the Android Market at the time of this writing. Hopefully Mika Mobile intends to pull it soon as it can't expect to sell apps without supporting them.

Topics: Hardware, Android, Apple, Apps, Google, Mobile OS, Software Development

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94 comments
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  • Android is doomed.

    The android platform is an utter mess, the users are losers/victims because most of their hardware won't get proper update. Its the carriers who are making money on android, because it supports their fraud business model.
    owllnet
    • I won't say Android is Doomed, but...

      ... Google has, I believe, learned its lesson about having such a wide-open concept that permits the OEMs to tweak it at their desire. Hardware issues seem to be one part of the problem, but their changes to the interface and tying in bloatware (non-removable applications) appear to be having a more significant effect. These OEMs not updating their products when Google releases their updates certain don't help the problem.

      A separate and obviously significant problem is that developers have historically made more money through Apple's 'Walled Garden'. It's not that Apple is necessarily doing the right thing, but rather that there has been far less piracy of apps which are then offered at third-party sites for less or even corrupted by malicious coders and given away for free--netting the developer far fewer profits.

      What this means is that if Google truly works with its Motorola Mobile division to produce quality hardware and an easy, corporate-controlled update system, we could see Android become a real power. The problem will be that the other OEM's will suffer if they don't maintain a high quality level themselves.
      Vulpinemac
      • That's an old argument that's proven invalid

        Have you heard of Windows? Same argument was made with that software vs MacOS X and who has, decade after decade, remain the most widely used computer OS? Even with all it's perceived success, Apple is still a niche product that only accounts for around 10% of the real computer market.

        Also, there is a growing backlash against iTunes and the forced closed garden approach because of the success of the open Android alternative.
        mrxxxman
      • Google...

        It was Google who created that mess in their desire to get as many users as possible to subscribe to their spy-ware.

        If Google wants to rectify this situation, they would have to do two things:
        - put stricter control on the App Store, even if this drastically reduces the number of available applications. More (junk) is not necessarily better.
        - start producing their own hardware, with strictly defined spec. This may expose them to lawsuits with both Apple and Microsoft (and who knows who else), so they may not dare do it, ever.

        The problem is, most hardware vendors who offer "Android" have no clue of the software and they totally depend on what Google offers them or what the carriers order. Rare example of different behavior is Amazon.
        danbi
      • Re. lessons learned....

        The takeaways should be two-fold:

        1) The naivete of GOOG and other like-minded (but probably well-meaning) open-source-as-foundational-for-multi-branded-proprietary products advocates has been exposed. It is not so simple to lay a foundation that is fine-grained and customizable, yet also prevents fragmentation. GOOG is trying to be a software jack-of-all-trades. Stick to core competencies...yes, maybe those can be expanded, but not in every direction all at once. They've gone from search algorithms to maps, street view, gmail and google apps, g+, mobile application OSs, etc. -- the list goes on and on!

        2) Should not some credit finally be given to Apple for its "control" of its design/platform/ecosystem??? Those who decry its lack of openness seem to overlook the fact that what Apple has done is open it only at the right points -- thus preventing the very fragmentation and compatibility issues that are the scourge of Android at the moment, while creating a means for third party app developers to exercise creativity on the iOS platform and make money doing so. At least a little back-tracking from the Apple haters would seem in order here.
        Techboy_z
      • Google really doesn't have a choice

        Unless Google stops using GPL code and switches to BSD like Apple uses. Then Google can close their source and do whatever they want, just like Apple is rightfully doing now.
        paulfx1
      • You've said twice now how people are leaving iTunes

        @mrxxxman
        for Android but have yet to provide any evidence of said. I pointed out that iPhone sales continue to grow quarter after quarter and while you did mention that you know of some guy or gal who went from and iPhone to an Android phone and is happy I also know of people who have dropped Android and went to iPhone's are are also very pleased with their decision. So?

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • @mrxxxman

        "perceived success" and "Also, there is a growing backlash against iTunes and the forced closed garden approach because of the success of the open Android alternative. " Put down the crack pipe man, it's rotting your brain.
        non-biased
      • An interesting point of fact:

        Over the holiday quarter, something like 35 million Android devices were sold in toto. Over that same three-month period, 35 million iPhones alone were sold. Now, based on these figures, that means more phones were sold by one company (Apple) than all Android devices combined by every Android competitor (perhaps but not necessarily excepting Amazon's Kindle Fire.) How is it then that you can claim more people are leaving iTunes when it seems more people are accepting iTunes?
        Vulpinemac
  • Underscores the issues with open source

    you spend far too much time on tweaking a system to do things that professionally developed systems take for granted. The base reason for this is most professional systems look for a 80/20 split. They accommodate the 80 and the 20 will have to look elsewhere. In open source, the 20 get all the attention while they busily reinvent the wheel every week.
    happyharry_z
    • Snarkabong

      So to help sell Windows, the Munchkins will come in here and tell us that Google is not a professional software developer. This is how low they stoop in their never-ending quest to see the Monkey Boy dance once again.
      Robert Hahn
      • Google are not professional software deveolpers

        They are professional advertisers that also make software.
        x I'm tc
      • jdakula

        Sure they are. Know how we can tell? Google's developers are hard at work, while Microsoft's employees are posting here on ZDNet. This is why Microsoft will not have a tablet OS before the fourth quarter. The people working on it are spending half their time chest-beating in the forums about how they will drive their enemies into the sea.
        Robert Hahn
    • Just to be clear: Android IS NOT Open Source

      It is Copyright (C) Google, Inc. It is only available to selected partners under license. No firm may use the trademark Android ?? except by permission.

      Whuh??? That's right: in contrast, Amazon uses the AOSP, and does without the recent Honeycomb and IceCreamSandwich updates. Google releases its obsolete versions as open source. AOSP pointedly does NOT include many features that people take for granted as part of Android: maps and the rest of the Google applications.

      So no, the issue with Android is NOT that it's open source. It's that there are basically dozens of different Androids, with slight differences of skinning, version numbers, graphics drivers, displays, GPUs, etc., all of which heavily impact game development. (But as Apple showed when it rolled out its latest iPad, even text-oriented apps suffer from developers trying to make do with the same approach across the wide variety of devices.)

      Looks like simple fragmentation to me.
      WaltFrench@...
      • Yup

        Google: stamping their own copyrights on other's open source software since 1998.
        Joe_Raby
      • Well, Ice Cream Sandwich Source Code Has Been Released

        Not to say that you're totally off base in principle, but the source code for Ice Cream Sandwich has already been released. Of course, development for Android is pursued in more of a "cathedral" type manner than the "bazaar" method generally employed by open source software. Google develops each version completely in house, then releases it. They don't evaluate patches from diverse sources and incorporate the ones they deem appropriate.

        The issues this company mentions all seem related to diverse hardware rather than having anything at all to do with software. They like the Apple products because there are so few different models of hardware to be concerned about.
        CFWhitman
      • @CFWhitman: You missed his income statement

        Where the Android versions of his apps bring in only 5% of his revenue.
        Vulpinemac
      • Not to mention it's licence...

        Android source is licensed under Apache v2, which doesn't require vendors to recontribute code back in to the community. This is anti-consumer and pro-corporate. Worse, to elaborate on what Joe_Raby has pointed out, Google have actually taken Linux source (which is GPL licensed, meaning vendors are forced to contribute changes back in to the community, and risk legal action if they do not - Linksys for example) and re-licensed it and closed it so corporations aren't required to open source their own changes to the underlying Linux code to work on specific hardware, meaning projects such as CyanogenMod take considerably longer to build and improve because the source isn't there (or is otherwise protected by Google's choice of license).

        To me, whilst this is open source as the source is out there, it's not really. There are still questions as to whether Oracle could come at you if you dare use parts of code that Google have made public before that lawsuit is over, or anyone else for that matter.
        PinkFloydYoshi
      • Android is a name

        So Android should be trademarked. Google Android OS versions are all based on the Linux kernel so that is GPL copyrighted, well copylefted. Google cannot legally distribute Linux without providing the full source code. If what you are saying is true I've no idea why they haven't been taken to court over it already. It would be huge news.

        As a matter of fact nothing you have said is borne out here:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)

        Looks like simple FUD to me.
        paulfx1
      • Google not only allowed it to happen

        but encouraged it - with their basic "Android Market" ('scuse me - Google Play) premise that says"anone is free to use the system, but unless the app is checked out by Google and certified, their customers are "on their own". So, there, in fact, is also the solution to the dev's who bitch about the cost of obtaining so many different devices - they are apparently not willing to trost Google to certify their app, or else may be wanting to try and peddle it outside the Approved Market...uh Google Play, I mean.
        Willnott