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Games still top Android platform despite growing developer issues

by Kristen Nicole

Games continue to attract millions of downloads on Android’s platform and spur innovation around mobile marketing. Games has been the top app category for the past two years, according to Millennial Media’s Year in Review report. Gaming apps grew 16 percent year-over-year, with popular publishers like Zynga and Rovio heavily contributing to the growth in this sector throughout 2011.

Games were also used as promotional tools for building brand awareness and loyalty, Millennial cite Modern Warfare 3 as an example of how a cross-media strategy works for the mobile sector, starting with the goal of driving pre-orders for the console/PC game. Coupling video trailers, a store-locator and the ability to pre-order the game directly from your mobile device, the campaign around Modern Warfare 3 saw great success across all major platforms, including Android.

Marketplace issues for game developers

But being such an exploratory sector also means the mobile game industry faces growing pains in a young market. It wasn’t a good look for Android when game developer Mika Mobile announced they’ll no longer support Android, as the platform isn’t lucrative enough to justify the costs for game development and support. The team behind Zombieville USA and Battleheart, Mika Mobile said it spent approximately 20 percent of its time in 2011 dealing with “porting, platform-specific bug fixes [and] customer service,” while Android sales reached just 5 percent of its revenue.

As dismal as that ratio is for Mika Mobile, other game developers in Europe haven’t received any revenue at all for the month of February. According to the Google Product Forums, many developers in Europe reported no income from their games and/or apps sold on Google Play last month, marking a regional phenomenon that highlights Google’s lack of control over a global software market. Google is hoping to centralize more of the monetization structure for Android games through Google Wallet, but much more needs to be done to really solidify Android’s widespread ecosystem.

Gaming beyond Android

And for many mobile game developers, Android’s platform isn’t the last stop on their journey to success. OMGPOP, the New York-based gaming company behind Draw Something, is even eyeing a television program based on the Pictionary-like game. They’re not the first game publisher to seek mainstream appeal beyond mobile, as Rovio was quick to roll out plans for plush toys and a feature film due to the success of Angry Birds, and Outfit7 intends to create a line of merchandise as well to tie-in with the Talking Friends series