Three-quarters of all mobile devices sold in 2013 utilize the Android operating system, considering the global market as a whole;
Android by the Numbers
Though Android users are far more numerous than Apple users, and they download far more apps as a result, their share of the paid app market is considerably lower. Canalys, a research company, gives concrete figures for comparison between the two sets of potential game customers. Apple apps accounted for 74% of total app sales in 2013’s first three months, while Android apps amounted to just 20%. Though this study did not distinguish between game and non-game sales, it is still taken as solid, objective proof that game profits are higher when the programs are written for iOS.
The Secondary OS
Apple is the platform that got into the mobile game “the firstest with the mostest,” to quote American Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest, and it simply difficult for Android to pull design efforts away from such an entrenched competitor. It is only natural for designers to make games for the most popular and widespread operating system first, and that happens to be iOS. Telltale Games, for example, has released both The Walking Dead and Poker Night 2 solely for Apple devices, because, according to Steve Allison (vice-president of publishing) when talking to IGN, “Google Play … [is] still an ecosystem of many stores and a little harder to know what to expect on a game-by-game basis.”
A Fragmented Platform
Perhaps more than 4,000 devices currently run on the Android OS, creating a chaotic jumble of systems that often have little compatibility with one another. Games made for one Android device may fail to work on hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of others. Many devices are engineered without gaming in mind at all, making Android games useless for their owners. This is especially true now that these games are often made with detailed play and rich graphics.
Another force holding back Android developers is the threat of game piracy. There’s no solid evidence to back up the claims, but high piracy rates are reported by Butterscotch Shenanigans, one notable Android game designer. Piracy varies hugely by platform according to this company, as witnessed by the game “Towelfight 2.” 5% of iOS users ran pirated versions of the game, while 95% of Android users allegedly did the same. The feeble, almost nonexistent profits of Android developers back up the claim that pirated copies of Android games are used 1,400% more often than their iOS counterparts.
Thankfully, There’s Still Hope
Though a number of obstacles clearly exist to Android game success, there’s also a rising tide of positive developments that suggest a happier outcome is just around the corner. The Google Play store continues to be improved, with support for cross-platform multiplayer action and achievements being one of the most encouraging features. Despite the wide range of different Android devices being marketed, manufacturers are switching rapidly to systems that support high quality 3D gaming.
Finally, highly popular mobile games are being released with both iOS and Android versions more and more often, boosting interest in making more games and improving the platform’s performance.