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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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  • by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:44PM (#39314457) Homepage

    For these devices (mobile devices) though the problem is that

    1) you have to go pretty deep into the guts of these devices to get the performance required. I would compare it to some of the tricks that were used in the first 3D shooters like Doom etc. in order to render properly.
    2) Not all device support the whole subset of whatever environment you may want to use. I think that was the main problem here is that you program a specific shader through eg. the OpenGL interface (is that even available on Android?) and then device x comes along and the manufacturer decided to either drop or not implement that feature in their GPU in order to save costs, brainpower etc.

  • Re:Horrible Code (Score:5, Informative)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:59PM (#39314565)

    This article would be less FUD if it actually went into the reasons why the Android platform is unsustainable.

    How about "sales are significantly lower"? They say they're making about 5% of their income from Android with the remaining 95% presumably from iOS (I doubt that Windows Phone is a factor). That would mean iOS gets 19 sales for every 1 sale Android gets. If this applies to more than this developer then it's a real reason to make iOS software instead of Android software.

  • Re:What is (Score:3, Informative)

    by flowwolf (1824892) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:18PM (#39314685)
    The problem is shitty port's don't sell.
  • by l00sr (266426) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:26PM (#39314747)

    The problem was having to support different hardware platforms, not different OS versions:

    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.

  • by TodLiebeck (633704) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:44PM (#39314865) Homepage

    And so far it's been a very profitable investment.

    I am writing applications that require extensive hardware-specific testing (file manager, network-based stuff, system tools). I certainly have plenty of complaints about Android with regard to cross-device compatibility, and I've even found plenty of egregious omissions in the API (e.g., how do you find all user-writable storage without going down to /proc/mounts). That said, I find it to be an overall excellent platform. And it seems to pay the bills.

    My only real complaint with the investment in devices is that I would love for cell carriers and/or Motorola/HTC/Samsung/etc to respond to my requests to have even slightly early access (or guaranteed release day access) to new devices. I'm sick and tired of visiting random cell phone stores who won't reserve product and lie about availability. And I'm tired of explaining that yes I want to pay full retail and no I do not want a contract no matter how much of a better deal it is.

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

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:58PM (#39314961) Journal

    Android has what, four versions in the wild?

    No, they have dozens. You can't just look at the OS version, you have to look at the hardware, and the manufacturer modifications. As an example, the Kyocera Milano has a weird hardware bug where sometimes the clock goes backwards. Really tough bug to find. A lot of the Tegra devices have unusual graphics problems where only one process can open the framebuffer at a time. There is a lot of variation in the video hardware, actually.

    Now, if you stay in the Dalvik VM, you don't have to worry about most of that. You only have to worry about different screen sizes and API versions (and you never know what weird thing will pop up.....for example, on the Xoom, gradient-buttons default to white text, whereas on most other phones they default to black text. Then if you have a mostly white gradient, you might be left wondering what happened to your text). But if you are writing graphics applications, you leave the VM, and then you have to deal with hardware issues.

    Note, Apple has exactly the same issues. There are some things that are inexplicably different between the Verizon and AT&T versions of the same phone model, same OS. But Apple only has a few devices, whereas Android has dozens. Which is what makes Android more difficult to support.

  • by uberjack (1311219) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:03PM (#39315011)
    No, it's an unfortunate choice. As a hobbyist dev, I find Android difficult to follow. Since I started adding tablet support to my app (which included, among other things moving from SDK 4 to 10), my app's stability has considerably worsened, with various problems in Android's core that often make no sense. The SDK change introduced problems with about 10 different types of hardware that required painstaking, slow fixes, which are difficult for anyone but a company with a dedicated test team. Some of the changes in ICS completely hosed parts of code (including services), and required considerable rewrites. Apple's not without its quirks - changes in Xcode are ridiculously capricious, and not always for the best (e.g. storyboards). That said, supporting only 3 -4 types of hardware, instead of thousands, is considerably more predictable. Android's in a unique situation - it's attempting to be everything to everyone, which ultimately puts the strain on the devs. For people like me (who aren't even mobile devs by profession), this is extremely taxing. However, for companies that have staff dedicated to exactly this type of thing, this should be a non-issue.
  • Re:What is (Score:5, Informative)

    by Svartalf (2997) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:16PM (#39315095) Homepage

    If you need anything beyond the currently supported standards, Microsoft and Apple are surprisingly easy to work with.

    Really? REALLY?!?

    You've got to be kidding me, right?

    Considering it took pretty much EVERYONE reading Apple the riot act over the scripting language thing... [gamepolitics.com] I'd say that this was an example that negates your take on Apple. They're NOT surprisingly easy to work with.

    Considering that Microsoft had TIGHT restrictions until recently on Indie titles... [twinfinite.net] I'd say this was an example that negates your take on Microsoft. They're NOT surprisingly easy to work with.

    If you're outside their parameters or standards, they're going to flip you the bird like you accused Google of doing- unless you're big or you've got damned near everyone bitching at them. Much like Google's situation.

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

    by MrHanky (141717) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:20PM (#39315113) Homepage Journal

    Originality has very little to nothing to do with success, in apps as in music and movies. E.g. Zynga.

  • Re:What is (Score:3, Informative)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:25PM (#39315135)

    No wonder you never heard of it. It never had a free lite version to begin with.

    This is an iPhone developer who thinks he can sell an Android app just like he can sell an iPhone one.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:36PM (#39315199) Homepage

    you have to go pretty deep into the guts of these devices to get the performance required. I would compare it to some of the tricks that were used in the first 3D shooters like Doom etc. in order to render properly.

    So the problem is them trying to get console like performance out of a large variety of phones? Sounds like they just need to accept that their game won't run on the low end.

    I think that was the main problem here is that you program a specific shader through eg. the OpenGL interface (is that even available on Android?) and then device x comes along and the manufacturer decided to either drop or not implement that feature in their GPU in order to save costs, brainpower etc.

    Yes, Android uses OpenGL. You query it to see if the GPU supports the stuff you want, just like most platforms. If it doesn't support what you want then you either degrade the graphics gracefully or device not to run. There are thousands of Android games that manage to do that, I don't know why this guy is struggling.

  • Sad but true (Score:5, Informative)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:40PM (#39315211) Homepage

    All of you who are saying this developer and their code just sucks, you've never written any significant mobile apps, have you ?

    I work with IOS, Android, Blackberry, WinPhone7. IOS and Win7 are a walk in the park, compared to the other two. IOS, specifically, has stellar compatibility across all devices. I only encounted a single issue with one of my apps, when upgrading to IOS 5, and it had to do with some marginal code I was using, whose undocumented functionality had finally been obsoleted. The fix took all of 15 minutes to research and implement. Most importantly, I only need to design for two sizes: phone, and tablet. If I'm lazy, I can skip the tablet, and let it scale things proportionally. This isn't optimal, but for some apps it's sufficient.

    On Android and BB, there are as many display sizes and feature sets as there are devices. Your app might look fine on your emulator and personal device, but be completely out of whack on another, so you end up having to collect numerous devices and installing a dozen emulators to cover any significant portion of the user base. Let's not forget that these emulators are horribly slow and unstable, so if I have to test and debug a build in 10+ different environments, there goes my afternoon. That's for one build! It's quite simple: for Android or BB, I typically take the IOS budget and double it. If I were writing 3D games, I would probably quadruple it because now there are countless GPUs to target and no good middleware available to abstract away those differences. Android and BB development is at least 10 years behind, in terms of comfort and convenience. It often reminds me of writing DOS software.

    Windows Phone 7 is actually not too bad. For anyone experienced with Visual Studio, it's a very familiar workflow and has much commonality with IOS development. It's extremely fast to work with, and you can get a good sense of how your app will scale, just by resizing the workspace as you're designing it. I don't care much for the platform itself, but I don't mind developing for it - I find the toolset quite pleasant.

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

    by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:41PM (#39315213)

    I know OpenGL isn't made of magic, but isn't the idea of OpenGL that it's supposed to work over multiple platforms?

    The point (and it was a good one) is that for iPhone he only has to do his shaders once. Bam, done. For Android, not only is he doing them again, but multiple times for different devices. His development cost to bring his app to iPhone is one set of shaders for a great return. What do you think his return is after he spends the time to fix his shaders for an obscure device that a few dozen people will likely purchase his game on? He either fixes it and takes a loss. Or he doesn't fix it, let the people deal with a buggy implementation, and then have people like you come along accusing his app of being buggy. It's a lose/lose, which is exactly why he said he's leaving Android.

    Not only that, but a mature platform doesn't have issues like shader disparities. If you're a game developer, that's a huge problem you should not have to deal with across the same platform. Desktop games got over that years ago with standardized shaders for each platform. I'd forgive Android if Android had it's own shader platform, but shader differences per device? Not cool.

  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by chrb (1083577) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:42PM (#39315219)

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

    Are they? How much money are they making on the Apple market? How much of their time is spent supporting the Apple platform? How are other developers able to make money selling Android games if the platform is "unsustainable"? TFS says:

    it spent about 20 percent of its time supporting the platform but only ever made five percent or less of the company's revenue

    Why didn't they just reduce the amount of time they spent supporting the platform? What other platforms do they sell on? Why are Android users 5% of revenue? Why are they having these random issues that other developers don't seem to be having? Why do they claim to be "modifying shaders and texture formats to work on different GPUs" instead of using the standard APIs? Why are they walking users through failed installs instead of fixing the bugs in their installer? Why did they architect their game so that a 50MB download wasn't enough? Why do they insist that they can't modify their software to support more than that, even when Google is offering 4GB of free hosting? How come they claim that Android takes up 20% of their time, when in their own words "Battleheart was an effortless port (to Android)". Why does he diss Android when in an earlier blog post he said, "Being featured on the Android Market is similarly lucrative to being featured on iTunes: we saw almost a 300% sales increase this past weekend thanks to the feature on the store.... We're currently #16 on the top paid list for android. Assuming the charts are based strictly on volume, the same volume of sales roughly equates to the top 80-100 on iTunes's iPhone chart. Not bad..... Daily revenue from Battleheart on Android is fairly close, within 80%, of it's iOS counterpart at the moment. "..

    How did this even make it to Slashdot? This blog (yes, blog) has 17 posts - ever! A blog with 17 posts in two years! Wow. And yet this is supposed to be some important, significant information source, which we can base our future decisions on. Yeah.

    One last quote from the blog... "Edit: Just to be clear (since I'm getting more traffic than expected), my experience with Android has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have every intention of continuing to support the platform. " Hmmm.

  • by guidryp (702488) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @09:27PM (#39315393)

    Sounds like pretty clear case of a fragmentation issue.
    From TFA:
    '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.

    It isn't a case of poorly skilled devs either; this is backed up by other Game developers like Epic and id that are avoiding the platform as well:
    Carmack(id):
    http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/15/john-carmack-ios-still-better-than-android-for-mobile-game-development/ [techcrunch.com]
    "Android is far too fragmented to develop for, both from a hardware and software point of view. "
    Sweeny(Epic):
    http://actionatadistance.net/post/4386288135/sweeney-android-fragmentation [actionatadistance.net]
    Says Sweeney, "When a consumer gets the phone and they wanna play a game that uses our technology, it's got to be a consistent experience, and we can't guarantee that [on Android]. That's what held us off of Android."

    Fragmentation is a real issue. Less so when you developing a web type, text app with some 2d bitmaps, but when you are developing more complex games and you are trying squeeze performance from the platform, fragmentation has a significant negative effect.

  • by Roogna (9643) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:07PM (#39315545)

    It may surprise people, but larger market share of the target platform doesn't always make for better sales. It's not just a marketing thing either. Much like Windows vs Mac vs Linux. While all three are simply operating systems. The reality is that the users behind them made their choice of OS for various different reasons. Just because Windows has a larger market share on the desktop doesn't mean it's a good target for every product. Same of course goes the other way as well.

    A great example of this is movies. Where sometimes a movie will do horribly here and great in Europe, or a movie might be a blockbuster here but no one in Asian would bother to see it if you paid them. Larger population doesn't always provide any correlation to sales.

  • What? (Score:1, Informative)

    by manekineko2 (1052430) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:08PM (#39315553)

    What are you talking about?

    My conclusion that Angry Birds makes more money on iOS than Android is directly from the article's title (hint the paid ones referred to in the title are clarified in the body to refer to "selling the game like on the iPhone").

    What you call "speculation" that predicts they will make $1m in ad revenue per month is directly from the CEO of Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds. I quote: "The Android version of the game has been downloaded 5 million times and Rovio is on track to generate $1 million in revenue per month by the end of the year, according Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka."

  • by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:20PM (#39315593)

    I think you don't remember the early days of gaming on the PC. Diversity of product, thousands of different combinations of software/hardware, etc. It wasn't until well into the lifecycle of Windows that gaming got a boost with APIs, then even longer than that when video cards and other hardware got compliant with those APIs so that the only thing a gamer would have to worry about was how fast his/her GPU/CPU was. Youngsters probably don't even remember when PC games had beeps and boops coming from the mono speaker in the front of their machines, while C64 gamers listened to lush sound effects and music, thanks to the SID chip. Time marches on, and mobile gaming isn't old enough to declare a winner yet.

    Mobile gaming is too young to call iOS the "mature" place to develop games. People laughed at users who wanted to play games on those PCs... and now who's laughing? People are laughing at android users who want to play games... only time will tell if Google has the stones to do what Microsoft did and turn the platform into a one-size-fits-all garden...

    Not a walled garden where Apple employees tell you what is appropriate for you to see on your phone (in terms of games/apps.)

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:30PM (#39315623) Journal

    Here is exactly where your theory went 'splat': You're operating under the assumption that the iOS version of Angry Birds is only available as a paid app (hint: your assumption is bad - the numbers presented bear me out on that). There is zero mention of the revenue made in ad revenue from the iOS ad-supported version (if you assume that the purported $1m/mo. is all from Android ad-supported apps - any other alternative doesn't help you either).

    The author's theory is that ad-supported makes more money than paid versions, but makes zero distinctions as to whether the Android version of the ad-supported app makes more money than the iOS version of the ad-supported app.

    QED: You screwed up in choosing your cite, because it doesn't support your conclusion at all.

  • by tftp (111690) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @10:46PM (#39315693) Homepage

    That didn't stop Windows.

    As far as I know, MS never gave the sources of Windows to likes of Packard Bell and Compaq and then told them to go ahead and compile their own Windows as they like and sell the result as Windows.

    Windows was always compiled by MS, had the same Windows API and the same UI. Only drivers were hardware-specific ... and who haven't had problems with them?

    Coding for Windows was doable because you didn't need to test on every PC in existence. Video cards were the hardest nut to crack, and some games did fail on this or that card (I recall something about Far Cry and ATI, for example.) But then the game vendor dealt not with a computer but with a video card - and the number of GPU vendors was still manageable.

    Even that was only a concern when low level access to the video hardware is needed. If all you care about is BitBlt then if Windows runs on the box then your software will run as well. DirectX and OpenGL are also convenient abstraction layers that a video card can be tested against.

  • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:12PM (#39315779)

    Got a lot of flack from people for the quality of the article and arguments over the nuances of the words of the article that are completely throwing the discussion off-track.

    Here is a much more recent, much more professional article on the subject of Angry Birds revenue:
    http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2011/04/features/how-rovio-made-angry-birds-a-winner?page=all [wired.co.uk]

    Let's discuss this one instead:

    Rovio has had 20 million paid downloads for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and 20 million ad-supported downloads on Android. Ville Heijari, Rovio's spokesperson (the "bird whisperer") says both generate similar revenues.

    One of the top-selling apps ever on the iPhone generates similar revenues on Android. Here, the wording is vaguer so maybe the iPhone is making slightly more, maybe Android is making slightly more, but with regards to my conclusions these tiny ticky-tack details doesn't matter.

    I maintain my original conclusion, which is that while Battleheart's developer could not make their business model work on Android, some people are making tons of money by switching to different business models in a changed environment. In light of this, I state again, it's not Android that's unsustainable, it's their business model on Android that appears to be unsustainable.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @11:13PM (#39315783)

    One last quote from the blog... "Edit: Just to be clear (since I'm getting more traffic than expected), my experience with Android has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have every intention of continuing to support the platform. " Hmmm.

    Yes, that quote is from 9 months ago when he started:

    http://mikamobile.blogspot.com/2011/06/android.html [blogspot.com]

    Since then, he's learned more about what it takes to support an Android app.

  • by AmazingRuss (555076) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @01:07AM (#39316153)

    As a developer, I can verify this. Some of them will send us phones, some won't. The cost of the phone isn't the big thing, the time involved in testing on each and every one is. Not to mention dealing with the enraged fanboids that raise hell about bugs in the app they pirated to begin with.

    Android just isn't worth the effort. Your work is rewarded by getting ripped off and abused.

  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @01:10AM (#39316161)

    [quote]You don't know that. And your wild exaggerations do not help you make your point, if indeed you have one.[/quote]

    No, I can confirm that. I worked for a fairly major provider of white-label VOIP software, and we where mostly hired by telcos to produce VOIP apps branded to the telco.

    In hundreds of those contracts I can not remember a single instance where the manufacturers of the handsets provided us with free handsets. Sometimes the *client* would provide one or two,

    But considering that early Android versions had a very difficult hardware API (We could not use the old bridge-back-to-java trick because it introduced terrible latency) for audio that introduced subtle variations per model.

    In the end all we could do was guarantee our work for a certain select range of handsets.

    And the support calls would always be for some mysterious handset model we'd never heard of produced by some obscure chinese manufacturer that no, they would not give us a free handset.

    If we couldn't get the freebies, and remember with android we are talking *hundreds* of variations here, sure as hell the obscure basement game devs wouldn't be.

    And we'd still get paid more for the iphone apps anyway. And the only substantial differences we ever saw was that the older ones where a bit slow for certain codecs.

  • Re:Sad but true (Score:4, Informative)

    by JAlexoi (1085785) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @02:21AM (#39316443) Homepage
    Really? Are you using absolute positioning on Android? It seems that you got into mobile development via iOS, where you always know the pixel width an height of your screen. You would not be the first to say that. I tend to hear it from die-hard iOS devs. And since I come into layout development from the web, where relative positioning is used for years, I don't find it harder to develop and think the right way for Android layout development. iOS development is very much a pixel precision affair.
  • by sitkill (893183) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:40AM (#39316651)
    I can tell you don't work in the mobile sector. From my own company, we do heavy mobile development and we litterally have cabinets FULL of mobile phones. Not just one of each, we generally have the same phone with multiple versions on it as well. It's the nature of the beast. We've found issues that for device specific reasons need to be worked around. We catch a lot of the issues in our automated testing, but we do a sanity test on all major devices and revisions. Any that come up later on, we need a real world testing environment. I have no idea how you think Google can fix this, unless you thing Google is going to come around and start telling mobile handset developers to use X cpu, Y gpu, with no additional mods), with Z version. Good luck with that.

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