Game Developer Abandons Android App Citing Unsustainability

Mike Halsey MVP
Mar 11, 2012
Updated • Sep 12, 2018
Google Android

The company behind the popular Battleheart game for Google's Android operating system are ceasing support for the platform citing that the platform is unsustainable in the long term.

In a blog post, Mika Mobile said:

 We spent about 20% of our total man-hours last year dealing with Android in one way or another - porting, platform specific bug fixes, customer service, etc.

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.

We spent thousands on various test hardware.  These are the unsung necessities of offering our apps on Android.  Meanwhile, Android sales amounted to around 5% of our revenue for the year, and continues to shrink.  Needless to say, this ratio is unsustainable.

Clearly there is an economic argument here as the company state clearly that they're not making money, at least not from this one game.

Their problem however is exacerbated by the fact that Android has become such a fractured platform for them, and updates to the OS are coming so quickly that they're spending too much time updating existing titles to keep them working.  This is cutting into the time they want to spend developing new titles instead.

This raises an interesting question as it should be a simple matter of writing an app and putting it on sale.  This, after all is what happens on iOS and what will happen for Windows 8.  These two platforms are very different from Android though for quite significant reasons.  With Windows 8 all the cross-compatibility work is done by the compiler, which is something Microsoft worked very hard on, and the main operating system itself will not be updated for another three years.  In the case of iOS very little changes and with the new iPad coming next month with it's higher resolution screen, all upscaling of apps will be handled by the operating system seamlessly in the background.

Under the hood of both of these platforms everything is stable and nothing changes.  Android however is suffering from the fragmentation that being open-source has brought to some Linux distributions with even the creator of Gnome admitting last year that each new distro of the kernel is "breaking APIs all the time".

In no small part Android is becoming a victim of its own success.  It is nowhere near as tightly controlled as either iOS or Windows 8 with individual hardware makers able to add their own elements to the OS.  This creates device-specific versions of Android, with good examples being the Amazon Kindle Fire and the HTC Flyer, that software makers have to check application compatibility with.

So is this the beginning of a slippery slope for Android?  It is possible that we could eventually find ourselves in a position where tablets begin to crash as software houses write apps that will run on one version of the OS on most tablets but not on one or two specific machines.  It is also possible that many apps will come with a list of supported devices before you buy or download them, and with advice not to update the firmware for risk of breaking the app.

It will be interesting to hear what you think on this.  Do you think Android is unsustainable or do you believe the open-source approach is simply superior to the closed-development that Apple and Microsoft bring to their platforms?  Why not tell us in the comments below.

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Game Developer Abandons Android App Citing Unsustainability
The company behind the popular Battleheart game for Google's Android operating system are ceasing support for the platform.
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  1. Anonymous said on March 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Does anyone else find it a bit suspicious and ironic that a Microsoft MVP is commenting on the fragmentation in Android?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      So they should not be allowed to voice their opinion?

  2. david b said on March 13, 2012 at 6:16 am

    They dont want to support android, fine. Making up excuses based on that predisposition however doesn’t make the case for getting out any better, it just sounds kinda petty.

    I am an android dev so I do know a decent amount about it. You CAN develop for the newest greatest update all the time, but that is just plain silly. They come out constantly. Thats why you pick the functionality you need and stick to that. Very rarely do these updates really require a full rewrite or report of your code, unless again you suddenly need that new feature.

    5% $ for 20% work. ..well those are kinda meaningless stats. How much work do they put into development overall? Did they ever finish porting it, are the other ports more complete, is this due to poor initial planning on their part? …so many variations possible making that again, fine as an opinion, but meaningless for others who structure their companies/code differently.

  3. Gonzo said on March 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Carrier specific Android OSes are destroying Androids good name. My Android phone, aside from the baseband, is identical in spec to 5 other phones sold by different carriers. Yet they cannot share kernels or roms. I’ve vowed that I’ll never by another carrier updated Android, EVER.

    That being said I love the freedom of Android and don’t like to be told what I’m allowed to do with it. I OWN my Android. WP7 and iOS users are simply leasing their devices.

  4. Brian said on March 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    It would be better if Mike stuck to what he knew best, which is Microsoft products. It seems that every time that he writes about some other technology, it is always negative and is just an advertisement for MS based alternatives. Sometimes the articles are subtly doing downing the non-MS competition, but it is still pretty obvious.

  5. Jean said on March 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Do you remember a few years ago when PC games were so hard to run? Windows did not support PC games well at all as graphics requirements leapt far ahead of what was commonly available on PCs, and hardware manufacturers scrambled to develop new capabilities.

    That confusion led to the development of specialized consoles like XBox and Playstation, which offered a superior gaming experience with virtually no technical installation or support challenges. But PCs caught up with the development of standards like Direct X.

    Apps like Braveheart are more resource-intensive. We should see new standards similar to Direct X developing within the Android OS.

    1. Jean said on March 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      And no, PCs are not the same as gaming consoles. But PCs can now run many games quite well. :-)

  6. Anders said on March 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    That has always been the problem with open source, google should have put more effort in controlling the Android platform instead of just letting it run wild. It is a shame really.

  7. Leslie said on March 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

    This is a very big problem and one that will be coming to all of us Microsoft developers soon with the Windows 8 ARM tablet. The fact that it will not run Intel windows software is a serious issue which will help undermine the credibility of Win8.

    We will not be looking at a specific ARM version of our software until we are convinced the platform will be a success. I know a number of companies who are adopting the same attitude – but therein lies the problem, Win8 ARM will fail due to the lack of apps as most informed users will go for a Win8 intel device.

    This is a real miss by Microsoft. At the very least they should supply an optional Windows On Windows emulator to allow the users the choice.

  8. Morely the IT Guy said on March 12, 2012 at 6:01 am

    I think two things: (1) Games on phones are for people with short attention spans and low expectations, and (2) an MVP might have an axe to grind when discussing a non-Windows OS.

    Developing games for any phone OS is a mug’s game. If you can’t write the game for Windows (especially Windows 8, which is clearly meant to be an OS for a games console, not a serious work PC), don’t waste time working on it at all.

  9. Morris said on March 12, 2012 at 4:50 am

    I abandoned Android myself as a consumer simply because I got sick of all the regular crashes of *inbuilt* system processes. I went to Windows Phone 7, and though it has a few glaring faults at least it is rock solid in reliability (I’ve not even had one crash – so far *crosses fingers*). It is quite a bit faster than the Android, and smooth as silk. That’s been my experience at least.

  10. mickey said on March 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    i’m not sure if it has anything to do with android being open-source per se.

    it’s the same phenomenon that is slowly killing PC gaming: it’s a lot easier to write software and know it will work if all your users have the same hardware – nothing to do with open vs closed source, but more about standardised hardware.

  11. Gizmobhai said on March 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Funny, how all bad news stack up together to hit something as high flying as Android. just the other day, i read how Apple software is wearing down the compeittion from Androids. i was about to go for an Android based phone, but i guess i will stick to my blackberry instead!

  12. kalmly said on March 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Yet another advertisement for Windows 8 – and a stretch at that. :)

  13. nexusguy said on March 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    The developer should try add based app, rather than selling it for $3.50. People love free apps.

  14. exglade said on March 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Isn’t it a better choice to compare it with Windows Phone instead of Windows 8?

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