Indie game developers complain about Android fragmentation and lack of Google marketing support

An interesting article has emerged on Penny Arcade Report from an anonymous indie game developer decrying the state of Android gaming and impugning Google for their lack of marketing support.

The article goes into detail about how difficult it is to support the over 4000 devices found on the market, combining dozens of chips, screen sizes, resolutions, drivers and Android versions. According to the author, and the many developers he’s spoken to, it’s easier to ignore support requests than try to troubleshoot the seemingly-endless onslaught of emails, poor reviews and compatibility issues cropping up from all but the top devices.

“From my personal experience I can say that it’s roughly 10-50x more emails per download than on iOS, and I’m looking at paid downloads! For freemium apps, the numbers are far worse. The situation is entirely unmanageable.”

For bigger companies like Gameloft and EA, who hire dedicated support staff, this isn’t as big an issue, but for indie developers it’s much easier, and more profitable, to build a game for iOS, with only a handful of chips, screen sizes and resolution.

To further the anguish, according to the article, Google is no longer courting indie developers unless they’re willing to launch their games on Android simultaneously with iOS, or bring them to the platform first. Google will support developers for a launch, giving them a space on the Play Store front page, but once launched the support is reportedly pulled.

“It can be difficult for indies to even find the right person to be talking to at Google amid a sea of disconnected reps. Even if they are able to find that person and fix all the necessary issues they’ll often disappear when release time comes.”

The Play Store is certainly a thriving market, certainly more so than a year ago, and far better than when Battleheart developers pulled out for similar reasons as stated above. But there persists an understanding, both among users, developers and analysts, that Android is a more formidable prospect for a game launch, even if tools like Unity exist to make actual cross-platform development far easier than it used to.

“Apple has a huge PR team that regularly showcases applications, dozens of high-traffic categories in their app store every week where old apps are re-featured, awards shows that people care about, well publicized keynotes that often display quality apps…”

Big-name developers have already established relationships with Google, and are pleased to co-release their games across iOS and Android. But there are holdouts, even within EA, that preference iOS; massive hit Plants vs. Zombies 2 is still an iOS exclusive, and Epic’s Infinity Blade series has yet to come to Android. My favourite mobile game, Letterpress, is not available on Android and likely never will be. Smash freemium hit Clash of Clans has yet to hit Android, too, and developer Supercell says a growing Asian market is the only reason to consider porting it.

Still, there are thousands of quality games on Android, ones that work without (too many) issues across thousands of screen sizes. It’s far better to be a gamer on Google’s platform today than it was a year ago, and despite the declaration of one independent developer, better-quality titles are coming sooner, and with fewer issues, than ever before.

How do you feel about Android gaming? Do you miss certain iOS-only titles, or get buy with what’s available?

[source]Penny Arcade Report[/source]