Cross-Platform Mobile Gaming Puts iPhone in Android Crosshairs

Last Updated Aug 17, 2010 5:32 PM EDT

The walls between phone platforms are falling. Game publisher SGN released Skies of Glory, the first major mobile game allowing online play between Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (APPL) iPhone users. The fast-paced World War II dogfight game represents not only a conquering of technical issues, but how loyalty to a particular mobile platform are going to be a thing of the past.

I talked with SGN CEO Randy Breen about the impact his game could have on the market. The complete Randy Breen interview is here, but there are several effects with Skies of Glory's crossplatform success.

  • Android as a viable gaming platform: A year ago, veteran game developer John Carmack said id Software was stopping Android development because "they don't have a... universal [platform], standardized multitouch, and so on... [it would require] different control schemes, different pricing for each version and, in the end, we'd probably make a lot less money." Android's Froyo and other Google software platforms are now bringing standard practices to dozens of phones, and SGN's successful crossplatform game means that companies are now taking Android gaming seriously.
  • More games available on all phones from day one: Having virtually the same title available on both Android and iPlatforms means gamers will not have to buy a particular phone. As SGN's Randy Breen notes, it is comparable to translations between the Microsoft (MSFT) XBox 360, Sony (SNE) PlayStation 3 and Nintendo (NTYDO) Wii gaming consoles:

Early in the consoles' life, it's hard to migrate between systems, so you see lots of exclusives and then translations a year later, if at all. Basically it's the same exercise. The games that have the potential on multiple mobile devices, we have to conform so they can come to the market at the same time. I think what you'll see are more products coming out simultaneously.

  • Faster translations across platforms: Successful crossplatform gaming will encourage other companies to program their games for easy translation. Third-party companies like IdeaWorks3D create a suite of tools to make one game compatible with several platforms, but more companies will be taking the route of SGN: Making in-house tools and using savvy programming to independently create crossplatform experiences. Again, it will follow the console gaming model where companies usually don't depend on a third-party tool set exclusively to translate a title to another platform, but either use in-house tools or farm out the translation completely to another development company.
  • More aggressive branding: Crossplatform games also means Android, iPlatforms and others will have to differentiate even more. Expect to see games take advantage of more unique phone features, like the iPhone 4's tilt rotoscoping mechanism, to encourage phone purchasing. In fact, it would not be shocking for Apple to employ some strong-arm tactics based on exclusivity like Amazon's (AMZN) recent all-rights gambit.
Photo courtesy of quinn.anya