Android Gaming Has Finally Arrived
Gaming SDKs Made for Android
Software development kits--or SDKs, as they are more commonly known--are extremely important to developers. They provide the framework and resources that developers need in order to create successful programs and applications. Without access to a platform's SDK, a developer has little or no chance of creating appropriate software for a specific platform.
Android has the largest market share for mobile devices, thanks to its flexible SDK, which allows developers to get their games out to a bigger audience on a wide variety of devices. Developers can also work with manufacturers (as Gameloft is with Qualcomm) to take full advantage of the latest and greatest hardware for their games.
The Xperia Play, for example, will be among the many future Gingerbread devices that support the Havok physics engine. Havok will permit richer 3D experiences and is already well known in the gaming world. The Xperia Play (and other Tegra 2 devices) will be able to take advantage of the benefits of the Havok engine through the PlayStation Suite.
Having a free, open SDK is one of Android's greatest strengths. Anyone can download the SDK and create an app--an opportunity that many computer programming courses take advantage of. Developers can submit their apps directly to Google's Android Market, or they can try third-party sites such as GetJar or even Amazon's App Store. The developer can customize the SDK to suit specific needs or wants.
Immersion, a company that develops haptic feedback for various devices, including phones, recently released its Motiv haptic SDKfor Android. This SDK enables developers to create tactile feedback within their applications. Haptic feedback can be used in many application scenarios, but we think its best use is for gaming.
When we met with Immersion, they showed us a demo of a pinball game developed with Motiv. The gameplay was fantastic: The vibration of the ball hitting the sides of the "machine," made the game feel as though we were playing it on a real pinball machine. This SDK opens up lots of exciting opportunities for game developers and gives them the opportunity to make their Android game do something iOS games can't. Why? Because iOS and the iPhone don't support haptic feedback.
Better Money in Android
Aside from the hardware considerations, game developers have other incentives to go with the green robot. Spacetime Studios, creators of the popular Pocket Legends 3D MMORPG on both iOS and Android, has said that Android users are approximately three times more active than their Apple counterparts. Pocket Legends is free to play and is primarily supported by in-app purchases, so much more revenue is coming from Android users than from iOS users. Spacetime has found that, even though in-app purchases are more streamlined on iOS, Android users buy more things. Likewise, Android users are more likely to click ads, thus bringing in even more revenue.
Jean-Francois Greyelin, developer of the game PewPew, agrees: "For starters, the market share of Android is very big, so you have a lot of potential customers. In my case, PewPew has been more downloaded and in less time on Android than on the iOS."
iOS developers looking to jump ship to Android have some help in the form of the social gaming platform Openfeint and Chinese developer The9. The9 wants to invest $100 million in various projects and (together with Openfeint) plans to scour the App Store looking for good candidates for funding. As a result, Android is likely to host quite a few iOS ports; but once developers are accustomed to the platform, we may begin to see a lot more original content on Android devices.
With new game developers looking at Android as a viable gaming platform and with MLG pushing the Xperia Play as their official handset, Android is on its way in becoming the mobile gamers' OS. At the very least, we'll see a slew of excellent games beyond cheap iOS rip-offs.