I have posted in the past just how compelling a platform iPhone has become for mobile gaming development and gamers themselves, posing a pretty significant competitive threat to the likes of Nintendo and Sony.
I have spent some time on this topic with Electronic Arts' CEO John Riccitiello who tells me the iPhone platform represents enormous opportunity, and that he's been thrilled and surprised at just how big a deal it's all been for his company.
All of that has been Apple and iPhone specific. Until now.
With the release recently of the Droid phone from Motorola, Verizon and Google, there's been enormous press attention paid to Google's momentum. There's been enormous attention paid to just how intriguing the software is, and how it will be a sizeable player in smart phones. Which all indeed might be true as long as it continues to hold developer's interest.
Which might be a problem if French mobile game developer Gameloft is any kind of canary in a coal mine. The company's executives, speaking at a mobile phone conference in Barcelona, is sending shockwaves through the industry today, claiming "We have significantly cut our investment in Android platform" and, wait for it: "…Just like many others."
Finance Director Alexandre de Rochefort says his company has cut back because of the "weaknesses" of Android's apps store. Keep in mind, with 12,000 apps, the store is no slouch, but against the well over 100,000 on Apple's App Store, it is, well, a slouch! Says de Rochefort: "It is not as neatly done as on the iPhone. Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android, nobody is making significant revenue." Oh, and, wait for it: "We are selling 400 times more games on iPhone than on Android."
The gaming industry might be under some pressure, with Electronic Arts and Activision and Sony and Nintendo and Microsoft all feeling the effects of a slowing industry. But when it comes to mobile game development it's quite a different story. Robust growth there to say the least.
I don't argue that Android has some compelling features, but it'll need to overcome a critical headstart by the Apple App Store, and while developers might be interested in tinkering with Android, they are absolutely compelled to create for iPhone. Android might be an "option" for developers; Apple is an absolute necessity. It's quite simple: You go where the market is going; you follow your customers; you try to tap the richest possible potential for a return on your investment. Apple is it; Android, not so much.
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