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Battleheart Developer Drops Android As 'Unsustainable' 649

Posted by timothy
from the unsung-is-an-odd-word-there dept.
mr100percent writes with this excerpt from Electronista: "Battleheart's creator Mika Mobile in an update explained that it was dropping Android support. Google's platform was losing money for the company, since it spent about 20 percent of its time supporting the platform but only ever made five percent or less of the company's revenue. Much of the effort was spent on issues specific to Android, where the diversity was only creating problems rather than helping. '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,' one half of the husband and wife duo said. 'We spent thousands on various test hardware. These are the unsung necessities of offering our apps on Android.'"
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Battleheart Developer Drops Android As 'Unsustainable'

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  • Sounds fair enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:39PM (#39314437) Homepage

    But I can't help wondering if there is something wrong with the code that it struggled with different GPUs or crashes on new devices without special patches. Most code seems pretty robust to such things.

  • He's wrong. (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:41PM (#39314441)

    I'm sorry, but this is just complaining from an Apple Fanboy. He's wrong on several points, and it's easy to see with a little thinking.

    Android has what, four versions in the wild? iOS has 3, 4 and 5 taking up something like 15, 20, and 65% roughly. Not a great deal of difference there.

    As for crashing, has he ever used an iOS device? Apps and the OS crash about equally to android.

    And if your app is approaching Android's 4GB limit, then I'm sorry, but you're doing something REALLY wrong and should step back and take a look at efficiency,

    This sounds like a complaint from a guy who is basically saying "Development is hard, and I don't want to work to make things good". Just as well he's calling it quits, shape up or ship out I say.

  • Seems to be common (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trawg (308495) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:42PM (#39314447) Homepage

    Just spent the week at the Game Developers Conference in SF and this seemed to be a bit of a recurring theme from having conversations with a couple mobile developers. The cost of supporting Android is too high in many cases and not worth the effort.

    Once of the sessions I sat in on (can't remember who it was now, embarrassingly - I think it was PopCap talking about Bejeweled - not a bit player) pointed out that Android has many many variants on many different handsets. Even though the market size is roughly the same as iOS (his numbers were around ~250m each), iOS has way fewer variants to deal with, whereas Android had many. So you get to spend a lot of time messing around trying to make sure it's working on all platforms.

    I've noticed from flicking through app reviews in the Market, it's not uncommon to see people with complaints about it not working on their particular handset. I haven't had this problem with anything I've tried so it's hard to tell how big a deal it is, but I don't use many apps.

    The general feeling I got from speaking to a few indie developers was that they wouldn't bother doing an Android version unless their title turned out to be a big hit on iPhone.

  • Frag smag (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:59PM (#39314569)

    This is the kind of BS that was stated when Windows was competing with Apple, and yet Windows won. I'm not a big Windows fan, but paying attention to history has it's advantages. I have to wonder if the frag whiners are all inexperienced brats who weren't around during the Windows/Mac wars?

  • Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:00PM (#39314571)

    And I thought Apple fanboys were bad. Android seems to be garnering its own set of rabid followers who disregard reality in favor of their favorite.

  • by bobby1234 (860820) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:01PM (#39314575)

    I think you will find his complaint was that he was spending all his time making up for androids fragmentation and thus not producing content.

    He uses Unity which is a great tool for doing much of the underlying work so the developer can focus more on the game. But if android is dragging him back to messing around with boring details (platform specific and multiple variation for that platform) then the cost/fun/productivity balance gets all wonky.

  • Re:What is (Score:2, Interesting)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:12PM (#39314639) Homepage Journal
    I've never heard of it either. That so I of course don't know how badly or well the app is written. The developer says it came down to the bottom line, the android version was a money loser.I'm not going to argue with him. But plenty of other developers seem to be ok with android, so I dunno. Weather or not the not the code was good, I think there is a point to be made the android's hard abstraction layer might need some work. Or perhaps the 3rd party hardware companies are not following their guidlines closely enough.
  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:14PM (#39314661) Homepage Journal
    it's Google Play now. Get with it.
  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:16PM (#39314675)

    All mobile development is platform specific, whether you like it or not. Apple in particular always has an interest in making you develop for their platform only. The fragmentation of the market is deliberate and always occurs in the current *innovation space*. Same thing happened with web 'standards' (ECMAscript and W3C standards), same thing happened with 'operating systems' (until Java came and levelled most of the differences for the developers interested in doing cross-platform stuff), same thing happened in hardware.

    At the mobile development is balkanized while the big players fight for turf. Who suffers? developers. It would have been nice to have proper Java work on the mobiles too (funny thing is, the early Apple devices actually had hardware JVM support, which Apple did not use) - that way developers would get a benefit of 'write once run everywhere, test everywhere' (which your JUnit and Continuous Integration environments help with - if you are smart enough to use them). However, every hardware manufacturer wants to do their own thing (just like sound, CPUs, disk drives, networking etc etc all used to have non-standardized interfaces in the past). The current mess on mobiles is Apple's fault as much as it is Google's. Face it, they just don't give a sh!t about developer needs, they just want to rule the mobile world and feel that trying to capture the market with non-standard interfaces helps themselves.

  • by Karlt1 (231423) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:41PM (#39314849)

    Angry Birds is a bad example. When Angry Birds first came out, there was an official list of 20 Android phones that it wouldn't support, including some then current phones.

    Right now they claim there are some Android phones that it doesn't support.

    http://www.rovio.com/en/support/faq&support_device=Android [rovio.com]

  • by rhysweatherley (193588) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:50PM (#39314901)
    ... but instead I was thanklessly modifying shaders and texture formats to work on different GPUs,

    OpenGL has become a joke under Khronos. More and more of the work needed to render scenes is pushed back onto the application developer. Once upon a time you could specify the material, texture, and light parameters and IT WOULD JUST FIGURE IT OUT! The responsibility for making it run fast was up to the OpenGL implementer, not the application writer. Now you cannot draw a single triangle without a month's worth of effort to implement matrix math, texture uploading, and material lighting from first principles. And then do it all over again on the next device because the stupid chipset vendor decided that they couldn't be bothered making simple color interpolation work fast (I'm looking at you ImgTech).

    The problem is not handset fragmentation. The problem is that the OpenGL API provides no guarantees about what will actually work and work well. It's all thrown back onto the application and the chipset vendors can then brush off bugs in their design with "our examples work great - obviously you don't know how to write shaders".

    It's time the application (not chipset) developer community smacked Khronos upside the head and made them specify a USEFUL rendering API that guarantees good performance for application-level tasks, and decertify chipset vendors who are too lazy to do their damn jobs.

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:52PM (#39314923)

    Quite right. They're clearly not cut out for the software business. They probably bought into the infamous lie that "anyone can take on a multinational corporation on the Internet." No, they can't. And these guys aren't going to make it either. It's not Android that's unsustainable. It's their business that's unsustainable.

    Whoa, it seems you got hit by some driveby spinmodding.

  • by dinther (738910) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:53PM (#39314935) Homepage

    But the proliferation of so many different devices is not only causing problems for this particular software developer. The so called cross platform web-application is getting harder to test as well.

    Windows (Various versions), Linux (Various versions), OSX (Various versions), Android (Various versions)

    each running

    MSIE (Various versions), Firefox (Various versions), Chrome (Various versions), Opera, Safari and many other browsers

    And somehow developers are to write an application that runs on all these combinations. It is a bloody nightmare. I long to the days there was only windows with the Win32 API to write for. Good debuggers, great IDE's and mature software dev tools. At the moment it is one steaming pile of disjointed crap.

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:56PM (#39314953)

    Which is why they're making good money on the Apple market, right?

    They don't come right out and say that, in fact it seems unlikely given their great concern over investing "a few thousand" in test hardware. Which seems like a dubious claim anyway, because it probably costs them little more than an email to get sample equipment from any given manufacturer. In fact, the whole story smacks of spintroll to me. After all, who except Apple cares about what a boutique game shop does not attempt?

  • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:58PM (#39314967)

    It's not Android that's unsustainable. It's their business that's unsustainable.

    Which is why they're making good money on the Apple market, right?

    Of course, other developers have had the opposite experience. For example, Angry Birds makes more money from Android than iOS:
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Angry-Birds-Makes-More-Money-from-the-Free-Android-Version-than-from-Paid-Ones-170596.shtml [softpedia.com]

    While their business model may work fine on Apple market, sometimes it takes changes to make money in a different environment.

    It's not Android that's unsustainable, it's their business model on Android that appears to be unsustainable.

  • Re:What is (Score:2, Interesting)

    by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:59PM (#39314975)

    If you need anything beyond the currently supported standards, Microsoft and Apple are surprisingly easy to work with. Google just flips you the finger. That alone is driving programmers and companies away already, including one of the biggest companies in the world. Google needs to get its act together and listen better to the community. Especially if said customers have the backing of a huge multinational and are pissed off at the support it's (not) getting.

  • Re:He's wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alex Zepeda (10955) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:11PM (#39315065)

    I was about to ask if you were thinking of the TabHost bug where clearAllTabs() [google.com] will randomly provoke a crash. But a quick DuckDuckGo search turned up a bunch of other mysterious bugs with the Android tab bits. My favorite was issue #12359 [google.com] where the fix is a couple of lines, and it would be an easy fix were Google to not mark their classes as final (thus preventing you from subclassing them). Unfortunately the proper fix is to roll your own copies. The official Google response was to ignore the problem and tell everyone to stop using ActivityGroups (which are useful in tabs) and start using Fragments (introduced in Android 3.0).

    Google applies their hands off approach to updates and support to both hardware (as evidenced by all the fairly new phones that don't ever get updates) and software. I'm pretty sure Google never fixed the broken widgets [google.com] in Android 2.3, leaving developers to completely reinvent even rudimentary pieces of the Android framework.

    QA in Android is a freaking mess, I'm not surprised that the Battleheart team gave up on it.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:19PM (#39315109) Homepage Journal

    Yes IOS can be a nightmare. When an IOS update came out all of a sudden my code stopped working. I had checked the changes to IOS and nothing should have caused a problem. I was doing everything the "safe" documented apple way and it still blew up. I got a fix uploaded and then Apple had the app store shutdown for the holidays!!!! My update was uploaded to the store days before the shutdown but did they clear the backlog? Not a freaking chance they shut it down and we had to wait for weeks with upset customers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:19PM (#39315111)

    It's funny that that article makes the same point, that selling things through the Android Market doesn't really work well for developers, leading to them relying on the ad-supported model. I guess if you want ads, Android is the place to be.

  • Re:Wah wah wah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dhalka226 (559740) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:27PM (#39315149)

    That may or may not be true, but I honestly have seen nothing to suggest any deep thought or analysis went into it. It sounds a lot like he went "herp derp, 20% is greater than 5% so I'll stop doing Android." There are a lot of questions one needs to ask beyond that to understand what's going on and if it was ultimately a good decision.

    The first and simplest is where is the growth? If sales for Android are growing while sales for iPhone are plateauing, he has probably made a bad decision. Relatedly, does having that extra 20% of his time allow him to make up the lost sales revenue? In other words, can he get more iPhone sales or more money out of existing iPhone sales or is he essentially saturated?

    The second question I would ask myself is why. Is it just that iPhone users are more likely to buy than Android users? Is it that he has obviously been developing for iPhone longer and sales have established themselves? Is he advertising for one and not the other?

    In other words, 20% of your time for 5% of your profits is only bad if you can put the time to better use (or would just rather have the free time based on the ROI). We don't have enough information to make that call and I don't know that he bothered to get enough either.

  • Re:Wah wah wah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Americano (920576) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:52PM (#39315271)

    What they ended up porting to Android was such a bug-ridden POS that it didn't seel at all.

    Battleheart's Google Play page [google.com] indicates that it's been downloaded 50,000 - 100,000 times. It has an average rating of 4.7/5 stars, based on 5,374 user ratings, and the overwhelming majority of those reviews are 5-star reviews.

    And if you sort reviews by latest, you can see that at least a couple dozen of those 1-star ratings were given today, in an apparent fit of "sour grapes" where users are giving the app a 1-star review with comments like, "The developer will no longer update this app. They stated that Android development is too hard for them and will no longer update their apps. Since when is objective C easier to write than java? Disgusting and Lazy!"

    Yep, sounds like a poorly written, buggy piece of shit to me. I'm sure the developer is just lazy, incompetent, and shilling for Apple. It couldn't be that Android has legitimate shortcomings that Android device manufacturers could learn from to improve their platform.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @09:20PM (#39315377) Homepage

    The exact same argument is often made for "real" programs being windows-only.

    If that's the kind of world you support, then of course you're right.

    You can also see that Google is doing what it can to fix this, and so there's a good chance this will get fixed, even if maybe not tomorrow. You want perfect google support, it's clear which devices to buy. This year's model is the galaxy nexus. It's a great phone.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @09:22PM (#39315385) Homepage

    And yet, the PC (intel/amd + windows) is the only platform "serious" games are getting developed for. I think you're missing something.

  • What happens when a Windows PC gamer doesn't have the latest video card to play a triple-A game with? Either the developer offers crippled code for low end systems or they get told to upgrade their hardware.

    Why isn't this true on Android? Because people have different expectations of phones than of PCs still. I see it changing, and its not far away. It won't be long before people say "I need a new phone to play X, Y and Z" instead of "your app sux0rz it doesnt work on my fone".

  • by Microlith (54737) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @09:52PM (#39315489)

    So life is hard for developers, but in exchange the world gets a diversity of platforms and competition.

    I long to the days there was only windows with the Win32 API to write for.

    I don't. Nothing worse than a monopoly dictating the course of technology and allowing innovation to proceed only when they see fit.

  • by crutchy (1949900) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:09PM (#39315557)
    actually, i have an android phone (s2) so i'm definitely no i-slave, and the only game worth installing is angry birds (see below), and even that is only while waiting for things when i'm out. android market is full of malware, scams and games that just wish they were even a fraction as good as the PC/PS/Xbox/etc originals they try desperately to rip off. there may be a gem, but its drowning in a festering pool of shit where it will never be found by the majority

    its pretty bad when angry birds is as good as it gets

    iphones and android phones are mainly driven by access to social media, not games
  • by Graff (532189) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:03PM (#39315749)

    The article also says "Rovio is on track to generate $1 million in revenue per month by the end of the year" and "In a few months, the 5 million downloads could prove more valuable than 5 million sales."

    No where in the article does it say (other than the misleading title) that the free version has actually made more money than the pay versions. Right now it's all speculation. It could be that the people playing Angry Birds for free will move on to something else or it could be that more people will buy the app. We just don't know at this time.

    It's a pretty badly written article with a misleading title. I wouldn't treat it as an authoritative source on the value of programming on iOS vs Android.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by codepunk (167897) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:37PM (#39315875)

    Chew on this, I have android versions of my apps, the market is so poor I will not even bother taking the time to hit compile. The app store monetization is at least 30 to one ore more.

    I am glad you love android, have fun with it.

  • by JAlexoi (1085785) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:53PM (#39315931) Homepage

    That said, supporting only 3 -4 types of hardware, instead of thousands, is considerably more predictable.

    Sorry, unless you are doing something really hardware specific, like certain OpenGL ext, you don't care about hardware. I can state out of 2 years of experience in android development. And if you're a game dev, then it's the usual "make your OpenGL code run better on a particular GPU" carried over from the desktop.
    Android isn't the easiest, not is it bug free. Otherwise, I find your comment out of sync with what me and 3 Android developer communities I participate in have encountered.

  • by Suddenly_Dead (656421) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:28AM (#39316627)

    Now you cannot draw a single triangle without a month's worth of effort to implement matrix math, texture uploading, and material lighting from first principles.

    This is complete nonsense. You're lamenting the loss of the fixed function OpenGL? This still exists if you really really want to use it, you just need to target ES 1.0.

    No one does it use it, and no one recommends that anyone use it, because it's horribly inflexible. Programming with shaders lets you do just about anything that you want, giving developers unprecedented flexibility. This push came from developers and the GPU manufacturers, not from Khronos.

    Yes, it complicates OpenGL tutorials a bit, but you can get away with using copy-pasted boilerplate when you're just starting out. Matrix math was always part of OpenGL, including the fixed function stuff, it's just a little more explicit now; that's not a bad thing, it helps make would-be OpenGL developers actually learn about matrix math instead of limping along with copy/pasted tutorial code using GLU helper functions.

  • by Analog Penguin (550933) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:30AM (#39316631)

    The really disappointing thing is that it sold GREAT when the app was new, but while the dev continued updating the iOS app with all kinds of new levels and features, he chose to abandon the Android app and bitch and moan about the ecosystem rather than keeping the Android version on par with its iOS cousin.

    Then he has the balls to wonder aloud why sales have dropped after that initial burst? Maybe if he'd updated the goddamn app anytime in the past eight months, it would have done a little better.

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:55AM (#39316683)

    So all I'd have to do get a couple of free phones is to send an email claiming I'm an Android developer?

    True. [zdnet.com] You have to claim you're a competent one, and be able to prove it.

    Well, all you Apple cultists in this thread, it moves me indeed that you hold such great concern for the welfare of Android devs, whether they can get hold of the hardware they need, whether it is free or not, and so forth. But don't get too teared up, Android devs are doing just fine judging by the number of Android apps in the market, apparently already more than Apple apps and accelerating.

    Of course, what I mainly care about is the number of free as in Freedom apps, vastly greater on Android than Apple. Because Android has free distribution whereas Apple is just one giant, shameless paywall.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @05:15AM (#39316887)

    Actually, Rovio published a lot of stuff about struggling to support all the hundreds of different devices out there, and even went as far as publishing a list that they didn't support, because they just couldn't make it work right.

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