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Google's Buckshot Approach to Mobile Turning Off Game Developers

Google has more than a dozen phones on deck through 2010, all with different software platforms, but game developers are already balking at the prospect of multiple platforms. Stability, not variety, is what has courted tens of thousands of game companies to the iPhone/iPod Touch in just over a year. At this rate, the Android will never pick up steam.

When I interviewed Doom and Quake game creator John Carmack earlier this month, he said id Software has no further interest in developing for the Android:

The issue is more Android versus iPhone. Android really has the support and the flexibility, but I've been talking with the Electronics Arts people about Android, and many folks are saying the money isn't there. Also, with games, 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.
Just last week, mobile game powerhouse Gameloft told Reuters, "We have significantly cut our investment in Android platform... [the store] 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."

It's been argued that mobile customers want variety, which is true with many tech devices, but the sudden popularity of smartphones is because the iPhone stabilized the process. Touchscreen aside, advanced, iPhone-comparable smartphones have been available from Nokia and Motorola for at least five years -- and for at least double that time in Asia. Apple's two-size-fits-all mentality may be maddening to hardcore enthusiasts, but it provides a comfort to tech-challenged soccer moms, older adults, and other groups that may have felt marginalized (and confused) by the hundreds of phone models produced annually. Casual gamers are now comfortable purchasing a device and knowing exactly what software works on it.

The Google Android, with its bakers dozen of phones, disrupts the modern video game model established by best-selling consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. Instead, the Android is taking the ancient PC approach, licensing the technology to vendors and, hoping, game developers will make their software to the lowest common denominator enough to work on most of the setups -- and leaving consumers responsible for figuring out when an "Android" app actually means their Android.

Apple already has more than 100,000 apps, a large percentage of which are video games and, at this very moment, games make more than half of its top ten highest grossing apps. Google should work on a universal software platform -- immediately -- before it's totally out of the game.

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