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Seven reasons why you will develop for Android (and three reasons why it will be challenging)

By on January 31, 2012

At the Mobile Games Forum this year, it was clear that the landscape of platforms for games development had changed dramatically in the past year. One year ago, feature phones were still relevant in the US and EU, but now smartphones dominate, making up 59% of new mobile phone sales according to Jeremy Copp at CommScore. Developers have until now been focused on iOS as the primary mobile platform, but Laurence Aderemi from Google argued that Android has grown rapidly, and looks like an increasingly promising prospect for game developers. Here’s why.

  1. Jeremy Copp showed that Android’s market share in the EU has grown from 8.3% to 26.2%, while Apple’s share has stayed fairly constant at around 20%.
  2. Laurence Aderemi pointed out that the varying price points of Android handsets will lead to considerably more rapid growth in Android’s market share than other platforms.
  3. Aderemi also reported that more than 50% of the top Android apps are games.
  4. iOS users present double the average engagement rate – 14.7 compared to 7.8 – but Android is also higher than average at 9.3, according to Aderemi
  5. Android users play games briefly in the morning and at lunchtime, but the most heavy use is in the late evening, indicating that mobile gameplay is eating into console gameplay times.
  6. The dominance of evening use means that mobile devices are being used in the household, supporting the idea that people are sharing devices with their families, which creates a more diverse market, according to Ross Sleight at Somo.
  7. Perhaps responding to some of the concerns raised at the Social Games Summit last autumn, Aderemi insisted that payments are getting easier on Android, with direct carrier billing integration now announced with 19 carriers.

However, Android brings its own challenges that have many developers concerned.

  1. Hardware – developing an app for all Android devices is unrealistic. Developers have to choose which hardware to support, balancing higher capabilities against greater market share.
  2. Fragmentation – since users can buy apps for Android from more than one store, finding your customers is more difficult. Oscar Clark from Papaya advised that developers use social networks to market their game directly to their audience, rather than relying on storefronts for promotion. The Spilt Milk Studios posts offer first-hand advice on selling a mobile game.
  3. Lower price points – freemium games dominate on Android devices – they consitute 65% of all revenues, compared to 50% on iOS (Rob Unsworth, Digital Chocolate, citing Distimo report on 26/01/12).
    This shouldn’t worry Gamesbrief readers, though – use our online games spreadsheet to learn how to make money from freemium content.

About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at Pocketgamer.biz and The Borderhouse.