The Hills Are Greener: Why Has Google Lost Control of Controllers?

The Hills Are Greener: Why Has Google Lost Control of Controllers?

Aug 19, 2013

If there is one thing that I do not understand, it is how Google could get gamepads so right, and then so wrong.

The thing they did right was exactly what Apple is doing: creating a standard HID protocol that controllers could use. It’s something where any Xbox controller can be used by an Android device. And anyone could make a contorller that could be supported by games.

Yet, there are still many alternate APIs in place and the Android gamepad market is still a mess. MOGA supports HID on one controller but they also are pushing their own API. Green Throttle’s off pushing multiplayer-focused games. There’s others out there too.

So where did Google go wrong? Simple. They didn’t do enough to push their own controller API that’s built-in.


Good luck trying to find HID-controller-compatible games on Google Play. Heck, good luck knowing that you could just plug an Xbox controller into your Android device. It’s a somewhat-undocumented feature. Well, that and the whole USB host functionality through micro-USB ports is a bit of a mystery too. But Bluetooth gamepads? That problem should be solved. Not so fast, my friend. Because everyone’s looking out for themselves, the push has been for companies to make their own controllers instead of adhering to the standard.

Now, Apple’s creating a standard with MFi gamepads, and not making their own, but the big difference is this: their walled garden. Because they can effectively shut down any other protocols, or make discoverability for them a challenge (iCade games on the App Store can’t mention in their descriptions), they can make their MFi protocol the go-to one. As well, they’re specifying particular protocols for how the hardware should work and be laid out. And again, because they have the force of the walled garden behind them, they can ensure that this will be ultimately the only gamepad protocol.

Google can’t necessarily do this in a fair way because there’s already games on the store, and shutting down competitors abruptly because they don’t like them seems like bad poker. But they can do a lot to make their protocol attractive. They can feature HID-enabled games. They could make an interface for Android unconsoles to use. They could make an official Bluetooth controller. Really, they could do anything more than install the protocol that Nvidia helped to develop in Android and leave it out there to flounder. Because Android, despite having a two-year head start with gamepads, is still floundering in that aspect and now Apple’s catching up.

Seriously, they could do anything more than they’ve already done.

The Hills Are Greener: DRM and Piracy Still Aren’t Dead on Mobile, Even in 2013

The Hills Are Greener: DRM and Piracy Still Aren’t Dead on Mobile, Even in 2013

Jul 15, 2013

Piracy in the mobile space is a story that has remained latent over the past couple years, what with free-to-play making the issue moot, largely. But it hasn’t gone away entirely, as seen by Deus Ex: The Fall’s release this past week on iOS. Namely, the game made it initially so that users with jailbroken devices couldn’t fire their weapons at all. Which, of course, is a slight problem in a first-person shooter.

Now, on iOS, jailbreaking is a direct precursor to piracy at this point: you need to do it in order to pirate apps, but all jailbreakers are not necessarily pirates. It’s a square and rectangle thing. As well, there’s a real problem with giving legitimate purchasers of a game the shaft just because they’re jailbroken. Thankfully, Square Enix seems to have recognized that this is a problem and is going to correct it.


However, it shows how DRM continues to create problems: it’s possible to use it in an unobtrusive way that doesn’t hurt those who legitimately purchase a game. Too many systems are being built that hurt legitimate users. And they exist on Android too. The license activation on apps that requires an internet connection before launching is something that has affected me. Namely, one time when I was playing Towelfight 2: The Monocle of Destiny from Butterscotch Shenanigans. I wanted to play the game on my Nexus 7 after having legitimately purchasing it, and I suddenly discovered that I had to connect to the internet in order to play it. Just one problem: I was on an airplane without wi-fi. I was left without playing their game because I couldn’t confirm that I actually bought it.

While this sort of DRM is annoying, I totally understand why Butterscotch Shenanigans did it, in part because they eventually released the numbers on it: 34,091 Android pirates to 1538 sales of Towelfight 2, which is a much higher ratio than iOS, which was close to 1:1 with purchases just outweighing sales. They actually decided to go free-to-play with their next game Quadropus Rampage, which has at least left the company in a much better position financially going forward.

And in many ways, it’s hard not to see this sort of thing as a microcosm of the industry at large: players rejecting paid apps to the point of piracy has created this market where free-to-play is seemingly required to draw players in and make money off of them. The market gets what it asks for, which is free games. Of course, for those who like paid experiences, they’re getting somewhat hosed by the pirates. But that’s such how the DRM dance goes: those who play by the rules wind up getting the short shrift when the rules change against their favor by those who would break them anyway.

So, while I wish that DRM would go away, and abusive free-to-play disappear, especially in the mobile space, when people still refuse to pay for content, it’s hard to be critical of those who decide to play by the new rulles. I just sigh because there’s a better way.

The Hills Are Greener: Is a Fresh Coat of Paint Really Innovating?

The Hills Are Greener: Is a Fresh Coat of Paint Really Innovating?

Jun 17, 2013

Last week at WWDC, Apple made their big reveal of iOS 7, the massive visual overhaul spearheaded by Jony Ive. Most notably, the OS has been flattened like a steamroller. There’s definitely still some three-dimensional elements and hints of skeuomorphism, but this is a fresh new coat of paint for the OS. But really, in comparison to Android, that’s largely all it is: a new coat of paint. The core product underneath is still the same, and still lacking in certain areas.

It’s easy to accuse Apple on a macro level of stealing ‘flat’ design from Android and Windows Phone 8, both of which used this kind of design first, and it’s right in a certain sense. Apple is playing follower here. But then again they weren’t the first with a touchscreen phone, either.

However, much like how Android and WP8 don’t really look alike, iOS still has its own individual look. It’s basically a more abstract version of iOS, with no more buttons. There’s lots of color gradients too. Looking at the OS, it still looks different. There are natural similarities, but many things that separate all three OSes still.

In fact, really, iOS 7 is so familiar because all that really appears to have changed is the look of it. It’s largely a fresh coat of paint, the structure is still largely the same. The most drastic change was gutting of Game Center into something way different. But the massive feature overhaul that iOS 7 could really use at this point just isn’t there.

iOS7 Game CenteriOS7 Home Center

Customization is still largely left to just wallpapers. All apps still clutter the homescreen, and default apps can’t be hidden away from view, like how Android allows for users to choose what they want on homescreens. Widgets are still not an option, though I personally am not the biggest proponent of them. Most of the changes are minor feature tweaks. It’s still largely the same OS that it was back in 2007. Sure, it’s a lot better now with the added features, and I still overall like my iPhone (reviewing a lot of iOS games will make you go down crazy paths like that) but it just still doesn’t feel like the ideal mobile OS experience.

Google has been far less conservative, having overhauled Android not just visually but also making major feature changes with Ice Cream Sandwich and later Jelly Bean. The spirit of the OS has remained the same, but stock Android proves that there doesn’t have to be a compromise between design and functionality. And I believe that more changes will be on the way with the next big Android update.

Microsoft can’t be accused of resting on their laurels with Windows Phone, either. These operating systems just feel more…modern. iOS looks more modern, but at the end of the day, it’s still a closed and cluttered OS. There are advantages to Apple’s approach, but their strength remains as much the developer community around iOS as much as the OS itself. A new coat of paint can’t really change that.

The Hills Are Greener: Android the Solution to Windows’ Tablet Problems?

The Hills Are Greener: Android the Solution to Windows’ Tablet Problems?

Jun 3, 2013

While Android has largely been the domain of phones and tablets, its open source nature is leading it to expand out to other devices, be it game consoles, appliances, or even…PCs? Well, that seems to be the start.

Companies are starting to bring Android to new places. Acer makes a monitor that runs Android. Asus is making PCs that run both Windows and Android simultaneously. There’s the Transformer AiO P1801, an 18.4″ tablet with dock that runs both Windows 8 on an Intel Core processor, and Android on a Tegra 3 also in there. Both operating systems can be used simultaneously, and swapped with the press of a button. More realistic is the Asus Transformer Book Trio which features a similar setup, but in an 11.6″ device.

These companies may be on to something by using Android as a complement to their Windows PCs. I have a Surface Pro, and while I really like the idea of the laptop-tablet hybrid still, Windows 8 at this point is not the OS to make it work. Windows is perfectly fine as a desktop OS, but there’s a reason why Microsoft included a Wacom digitizer: the pen is needed for the desktop environment without a mouse or trackpad in use. Like, in tablet mode.


Right now, Windows lacks a lot of great tablet apps to justify ever using it in tablet mode. Oh, and there’s far too much mingling between the “Modern” interface that’s tablet-friendly and the Desktop interface to where certain settings are only in certain interfaces, and there’s visual and usability clashes.

So, why not combine the great strengths of the two operating systems? Use Windows for standard computing tasks. Then, when primarily using the touchscreen in tablet mode, have an OS there designed for it: Android.

Of course, it’s not a perfect solution, as it basically requires two different devices just in one case. Plus, it doesn’t actually address the issues of Windows being tablet-deficient and Android being perhaps desktop-deficient.

But Android’s deficiencies may be easier to address. Android is much friendlier to the PC environment with input and with file handling, so it’d just be a question of getting the kind of functionality that users have on desktop OSes, but on Android. Windows basically has to build up its own new interface and library of apps to be tablet-capable, and it’s been a slow start so far. Windows is a desktop OS, and it might not work as a tablet one. But Android can certainly work by moving up.

Certainly, it’s still something of a niche idea. Time will tell if Android actually makes headway into the desktop market. But even just as a way to make tablets actually work as tablets, while not being crippled when they need to work as full-fledged computers, Android holds a big advantage here, at least while Windows continues to flail about in the tablet market. Android could easily find a way to wedge in and make these hybrid devices a realistic possibility by solving the problems that Windows alone fails to address.

Of course, there’s also Apple to consider. They have yet to show any signs of making a hybrid device, and if Apple decides to keep OS X and iOS segregated on the iPad side of things, Android could have room to create a market if done well here.

The Hills Are Greener: Why Maybe the Latest Android Version Isn’t Necessary, But Then Again…

The Hills Are Greener: Why Maybe the Latest Android Version Isn’t Necessary, But Then Again…

Apr 30, 2013

Google Glass running Android should surprise no one – after all, if you’re building a piece of hardware that you want developers to test on, and if you’re spending a lot of money to build an OS, why not make it run Android? The reasons are just too obvious.

What should be surprising is that Google isn’t running the latest version of Android on it – it’s running a build of Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean. Google is usually the company that pushes out the latest and greatest Android versions to their devices, so for them to be 2 versions behind (if you count Jelly Bean 4.1 and 4.2) is a bit shocking.

But is it really necessary? Is there some Jelly Bean feature that Google Glass would be tremendously improved by? For limited-purpose devices such as this, does it really just need a functional version of Android in order to work properly, as opposed to the latest and greatest? Your Android-powered oven doesn’t really need Project Butter, does it? For phones and tablets, user-facing devices, yes, having the latest version should be a goal. But for limited-use devices, is it such a big deal?

Jelly Bean LogoThere is just one problem: Android updates include fixes for security holes. For devices like phones and tablets that have users installing third-party software that can potentially contain malware that exploits these holes, this is why they need updated system software. Right now, holes go unpatched for long periods of time while manufacturers wait to get updates ready, or if they never get them ready at all. Thus, bugs can be fixed quickly, but never actually reach the users who need the protection.

For devices like Google Glass and ovens where their purposes might be more limited, there’s still a potential issue because of the fact that they are still connecting to networks, and with Android’s open source nature, it seems like breaking in would be within the realm of possibility, if not likely.

Now, Google Glass is still a product only for a limited market of developers and early adopters, and as such, probably doesn’t need the kind of security that consumer models will need. But still, to see that even Google doesn’t necessarily care about always getting the latest version of Android out there is a bit distressing.

The Hills Are Greener: One Way That Google Needs to Make Google Play More Appealing for Developers

The Hills Are Greener: One Way That Google Needs to Make Google Play More Appealing for Developers

Apr 22, 2013

Google has been slowly rolling out version 4.0 of Google Play, with a redesigned user experience. Google is far more willing to tinker with Google Play than Apple with the App Store, who have made only one major change since launching the store in 2008. Plus, Google’s store is actually a native app as opposed to the embedded web views that Apple uses with the App Store. It’s just a better experience, one definite advantage for Google Play over the App Store.

But there’s one area where Google Play continues to lag behind the App Store, and it’s something that consumers aren’t directly touched by, though they play a role in it: taxes.

See, Apple, for apps sold on the App Store, they’ll handle paying taxes to the various local and national governments that demand a cut. It’s essentially part of the 30% fee that Apple takes from developers, that Apple will handle that.

Play Books Home - Tablet

Play Home - Phone

Play Home - TabletNow, Google takes that same 30% cut, but that’s basically just to get on the store – by default, they don’t do the kind of tax handling that Apple does. Essentially, 30% gets you distribution on Google Play, and that’s it. Individual developers have to give their cut to governments on their own – and considering that there’s 50 states and many countries on Google Play, it’s difficult for small firms.

I’ve spoken to developers who have been nervous about this – going legal would be nearly impossible for a small team. One such solution has been to just make their apps ad-supported on Google Play, which solves that problem by only having to report revenue from the ad provider, seemingly, but limits apps’ revenue opportunities, especially with in-app purchases, and limits premium apps. It’s something that Google should make easy for developers, and yet it remains a difficult experience.

Developers have it hard enough on Android, what with all the hardware permuatations to support. Google needs to make it as easy as possible to be on Android for developers. It has a direct consumer impact too: if developers are more willing to make software available for Android, then there’s more reasons for people to come to the platform (or remain on it) and to spend money. In the world of iOS and Android, Google is not doing the job they could be at making Android the attractive choice that it should be.

The Hills Are Greener: AppGratis, Saga, and Why Google Play is Still Way Different Than the App Store

The Hills Are Greener: AppGratis, Saga, and Why Google Play is Still Way Different Than the App Store

Apr 15, 2013

There’s plenty of reasons for Android supporters to be feeling smug with how Google runs Android and its store versus what Apple has been doing.

First, there’s the content concerns that Apple has. This has come to a head this week with the comic Saga and its 12th issue, which was supposedly banned from the App Store due to images of sex between two men; it turned out Apple didn’t have a direct say in what happened, but that Comixology didn’t believe that they could sell it on the iOS issue due to the content, eventually making it available only through the workaround of buying it outside of the iOS app, then making it available in the library. Apple didn’t have a direct say in banning it, but their policies were at least partially at fault.

More seriously, Apple has pulled the plug suddenly on AppGratis seemingly because they’ve figured out how to do their job too well at promoting the apps they feature for free; basically any app featured was pretty much an instant top 10, and Apple wants to keep the list organic (and possibly to keep some value in their weekly free app promotion), so they’re willing to try and harm if not outright destroy a 40-plus-employee company seemingly instantaneously. They’ll probably find a new way to keep their business going, but it definitely has had an effect.

Google may be more lax on content, short of the standard "no pornography or illegal content’ warnings that really don’t mean too much since Google Play doesn’t have a dedicated review team, but the store and company are unafraid to shut down what they see as undesirable. See the ad blocking removal – apps that seemed to violate "guidelines" more so than actual rules. However, the difference there is clear: Google makes its money from ads. Shutting down ad blockers on their store is definitely justifiable. As well, there’s a huge philosophical difference: if Apple shuts down an app, it requires hacking the device in order to get apps from outside the store, a process that is getting harder to do for the hackers. Google shuts down an app and it’s still available through other sources for all users.

These policies are definitely subject to change, however – see the article about how it’s easier to discover content on Google Play because they display so many more listings; then the news breaks that Google’s redesigning the store again, and the number of listings per page is reduced. Things can change with Google at any time, so don’t assume any moral superiority can or will last forever. But yes, for now, Google’s decisions seem far more defensible than what Apple continues to do.

The Hills Are Greener: The Next Nexus 7, and Why Google May Be Unwilling to Prevent Hardware Fragmentation

The Hills Are Greener: The Next Nexus 7, and Why Google May Be Unwilling to Prevent Hardware Fragmentation

Apr 8, 2013

While rumors and speculation are certainly going to spread like wildfire, because a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth can even put its pants on, the rumor that Google is changing up processors on the Nexus 7’s successor from the Tegra 3 to the Qualcomm Snapdragon is certainly a curious one. The reason given is power consumption is better on the Snapdragon, which is certainly important on a phone, but on a tablet, it’s less of a concern. Since tablets have evolved to have the same power as phones just with larger screens and batteries, the power consumption problem is often just solved by having a whopper of a battery. There seems to be only a marginal benefit of having an increase in battery life for a device that’s going to last a long time anyway just based on the nature of a tablet.

tegra4-processorConsider why the Nexus 7 was such a great device: it became the reference standard for the Tegra processor, created by Nvidia. Now, for gamers this has been a good decision as the company has used its chops as a gaming company to get more gaming content – not to mention exclusive deals. Also, it’s made the device a reference one for developers, and several gaming-focused machines have used the processor in their specifications, especially the OUYA.

But as well, there comes the challenge for developers: after having one processor to be optimized for, now a new processor is coming along to add a new wrench to development? Sure, that sounds lovely. Just more fragmentation, more weird errors that will be caused for developers. Because it isn’t hard enough as it is.

The argument with this is that Google could be moving to what they find is best at the time, which rapidly changes with Android, but even then, there’s something to be said for consistency. As well, the idea of limiting power consumption on a device built for entertainment, instead of using what could be the best processor for gaming and entertainment, seems silly. Perhaps I’m wrong here, but it just seems silly to switch.

Even considering that the US Samsung Galaxy S IV will have a Snapdragon processor, and the Nexus 4 boasts a Snapdragon as well, this is still a problem for a worldwide market. Google should be fostering consistency with their devices. Maybe this is where it starts, but there’s hardly any guarantee of that, now is there?

Say what you will about Apple: they’ve at least been a lot more consistent than Google has with their own Nexus devices. Google wants to have a line of flagship devices? Well, they need to stop changing course every year. Perhaps it’s time to actually use that Motorola partnership and have them making Nexus devices.

So, until some consistency does get developed, the fragmentation problem for developers will continue because even Google isn’t willing to put their best foot forward to prevent it. There will always be different form factors and resolutions, but with many differences still popping up, is Google even trying to solve this problem?

The Hills Are Greener: Is This Finally the Time of Controllers?

The Hills Are Greener: Is This Finally the Time of Controllers?

Apr 1, 2013

If there was one recurring theme with Android games at Game Developers Conference 2013, it was certainly about controllers. Ouya had its uneviling for the product that will get into Kickstarter backers’ hands. Green Throttle had a presence around the show, demoing its controller to devs, press and to attendees at the Pocket Gamer party, showing off its multiplayer functions. MOGA wanted to go with a professional, highly-playable controller, that they demoed with their Pro controller. Nyko was still around, reminding folks that their HID-compatible gamepad was still being updated. Project Shield, Nvidia’s high-profile controller-with-a-5-inch-screen was a major part of the Nvidia booth. I even saw something else controller-related that will be public on Tuesday. All in all, there was a big market for controllers at GDC, and they were presented in the guise of various goals: to enable console-quality games on Android. To make tablets more versatile. To bring people together. Or possibly, in the most interesting and valid reason initially given to me by MOGA: in order to get people playing games longer, which can definitely be a welcome thing in free-to-play titles.

Yet, I was bothered by the number of proprietary APIs in use – most of the companies I talked to were supporting the built-in HID protocol as well, but Green Throttle did not support it at this moment. HID support can be wacky, but it’s still something that can futureproof and improve the support for controllers, something I was glad to see the MOGA Pro support.

Overall, I think these companies are on the right track. TV gaming is bound to break through eventually in some capacity. Getting gamers to play for longer amounts of time may help drive adoption of some of these controllers. They could be a useful promo gimmick for some as well.

But most importantly, if Apple is introducing a controller as well-connected rumors are indicating, then it’s a game changer. Unless their controller is wildly different from standard ones, there’s still that legitimization of controller-based gaming that will lead more developers to consider controller support, because with iOS still being the lead platform for the overwhelming majority of developers, there hasn’t been much forethought given to games with complex controls. Now not only can they exist on Android alongside iOS, but they can thrive because there will be more support from developers, and possibly even expectation from players, for control support in games that use it.

I am skeptical about any external accessory’s chances for success, at least in mass market terms, but if there’s this much support behind the controller movement, maybe it is time after all.

The Hills Are Greener: The Dream of the Catch-All Device Deferred

The Hills Are Greener: The Dream of the Catch-All Device Deferred

Mar 18, 2013

There’s all this talk that the web and HTML5 are the future, that theoretically everything could someday just take place in the browser, which could theoretically make anything with decent hardware and a capable browser a catch-all machine. Well, the state of web apps is terrible, and no one seems to have figured out how to combine the convenience of mobile with the productive power of the desktop.

Oh, not all of the web apps are terrible: Google’s Drive-based ones are generally really good, and were especially handy back in college when it came time to print out files; no need to fiddle around with thumb drives when I could just print out my file from Google’s servers. Simple as that.

However, there lies the problem: Google has the resources to develop web apps that work across a litany of browsers. For smaller developers, it’s a bigger problem. Consider how many browsers there are, with the many operating systems that are out there. Now try to make something that works in all of them, all coded in languages that seemingly aren’t able to get the kind of efficiency that native apps are able to get. Oh, and try to use a web app on mobile, it’s usually a mess. Seriously, there’s even occasionally frustratingly big differences between the way that Android and iOS work with websites and they both are based on WebKit tchnology!

A web app’s main advantage is convenience, the ability to be everywhere; a native app’s main advantage is that it actually works, and it can do the job much better than a web app can.

Google is trying to push web apps with their Chrome OS devices like Chromebooks, which come not only in bargain-basement versions but as premium products. They’re great for browsing and using the web, as I discovered when I bought one. But as I also discovered, while they can do 90% of what I need, and for casual use will fit the bill, the little things that they can’t do – or at least can’t do well – will drive a person to madness.

Case in point, I bought a Surface Pro to fill in those gaps. It browses Chrome just as well (though it needs good high-DPI support) and can do everything else I need. It’s just that Windows 8 is a very awkward OS, a collision course of the desktop and a tablet interface, never quite agreeing on what exactly it really is.

The suggestion that perhaps Android and Chrome are on a collision course as operating systems seems like it’s perhaps a bit of too-wild speculation despite the head of Chrome now heading up Android efforts. After all, Android can theoretically do anything Chrome OS can, especially as Chrome OS is nothing more than a shell for Chrome – even the more traditional experiences for file handling and whatnot are still just webpage views, as exposed when they crash. Android could definitely come to the laptop, but I doubt it will replace Chrome OS any time soon, lest Google not help perpetuate the spread of web apps with it.

And even then, mobile operating systems lack some of the functionality that PCs have, thanks in part to different processor architectures and just the “little brother” nature of mobile devices: they’ve always been meant to do less and so apps have been set up for just that. They’re usually less-featured, and so using Android as a PC, while easier than an iOS device thanks to its file handling, is more possible. But it’s still difficult.

The ultimate point is that the catch-all device does not quite exist yet. The web is not yet there to handle everything. Desktop operating systems don’t do mobile efficiently yet. Mobile operating systems still lack much of the full functionality that desktops have. It seems to be the ultimate goal: Windows 8 is something of a franken-OS right now with the disparate Modern UI and desktop views co-mingling, but it’s trying to make one OS for tablets and for traditional computers. Ubuntu is trying to make an adaptable OS for all four screens: phone, tablet, desktop, and TV. Apple seems content to let OS X and iOS be different products, but little iOS elements are coming to OS X.

That catch-all device is still far away, it seems.

The Hills Are Greener: Concerns Raised by Always-Online Games and DRM

The Hills Are Greener: Concerns Raised by Always-Online Games and DRM

Mar 11, 2013

The rise of the internet has done wonders for gaming, but there’s been plenty of new annoyances thanks to digital distribution and internet connectivity. No one who got a Sega Genesis for Christmas had to worry about updating the firmware before playing the new Sonic game. And in modern times, forced online connectivity is having an impact on our games. Look at EA’s SimCity. Or don’t, because all you’ll get is the inability to login.

For anyone making online-focused games, the rule is to always have servers ready. Have many of them ready. Do not let people who want to play be turned away due to technical reasons. Especially for major companies like EA, who have major marketing campaigns behind their titles, the fact that they have let SimCity become a server debacle is embarrassing. However, there wasn’t a lot in the way of positive harbingers for EA, as they took months to get The Simpsons: Tapped Out back on the App Store. The game now does extremely well, so there’s no telling just how much revenue they realistically lost by not keeping that game up and running. And with SimCity sales shutting down at some retailers like Amazon, they could be missing out on more money. Plus, people that want to play the game cannot because EA could not provide the experience they advertised.

However, there’s a secondary component to fearing online-only games, and that is digital archiving. Digital distribution is fantastic and convenient, but DRM makes it harder to preserve these games. We can easily go back and play Super Mario Bros. but how will we play games like Temple Run in a decade or two? Android is better for this because it’s easy to get APKs for games without DRM, but Google Play’s billing services and license confirmation could be an issue. Still, Apple’s DRM, especially for games, has been cracked in the past. In a way, while piracy can have an effect on the sales of games, it’s also doing a great job at preserving games, because those files may exist in a freely-accessible form somewhere. Pirates are doing good things in a way! But still, for other technical reasons ,we are at risk of someday losing access to the kinds of experiences that have defined a generation of gaming. Digital should not mean that we lose what we have.

I’m not saying that digital distribution is evil, because it is not. Digital can provide tremendous access that physical distribution fails at. But just because we can distribute games (and other forms of media) digitally, it does not mean that we should lose the physical aspect of it, because we should lose a generation our culture due to technological advances over the long-term. And in the short-term, the digital revolution is causing new problems that should not exist. Developers and gamers should consider how the games they make and support respectively have an impact on the culture, not just if they are playable.

The Hills Are Greener: Are Cross-Platform Releases Improving?

The Hills Are Greener: Are Cross-Platform Releases Improving?

Mar 4, 2013

Usually, when it comes to Android releases, I’m subject to at least a little bit of disappointment that games don’t work as well on Android as they do on iOS, or that the game doesn’t release on time, or whatever issues may pop up. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

One of the biggest things that impressed me about Real Racing 3’s release on Android was both that they managed to push it out at about the same time, and that they got the game working about as fluidly as it does on iOS devices. The game on Nexus 7 doesn’t look as good as the iPhone 5 version, but that’s to be expected based on the ages of the hardware. Still, it’s absolutely and perfectly playable without any of the hitches that sometimes come with major Android releases. I honestly expected something to go wrong, especially since it requires a 1.7 GB download, but no, right at launch it all downloaded and installed properly.

As well, Zen Pinball released Star Wars Pinball as a standalone app for Android recently, and not only does it work very well, but it also boasts the fact that it has actually released where the iOS version has not. While there could be approval issues in play, usually it’s Android versions of games that wind up getting delayed, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, or Temple Run 2.

What’s the reason for this? Well, Android is becoming a bigger player in the mobile gaming world just based on its size. There’s too many devices to ignore. And while EA/Firemonkeys and Zen Studios are both big players, what both of these apps show is that there are developers taking things seriously on this OS. More tools are being developed with both iOS and Android in mind. Unity is still huge and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

It may even be an on-the-ground perspective that some indie devs might bring to the table. When I was at a Chicago indie developer meeting recently with Julie Uhrman of OUYA, she asked the crowd how many people used Android phones, and how many people used iPhones. There were more hands raised for Android. While developers will try to go where the money is in order to succeed, there’s certainly interest from those who make these devices.

Granted, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to make Android a quality gaming contender. Issues still exist. But they’re definitely shrinking in number, which is miraculous for an OS known to have problems with its releases.