There’s been a lot of noise about Android’s skyrocketing market share recently. I think that people might be reading a little too much “Android Market share = a lifelong bond between consumers and the Android OS”. I recently helped out some family and friends with their Android phones and most of them hadn’t gotten beyond “making phone calls and SMS” (several weren’t even aware you could put a facebook on them (though given the quality of the Android Facebook app …)).
Unlike Eric Schmidt, who seems to be willing to comment on Windows 8 and Windows RT without having actually used it, I decided earlier in the year that if I was going to talk about Android, I better have an Android device to talk about. So I got myself the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity. Which, if you were going to compare Android devices to cars, is up towards the Maserati end of the scale as opposed to the Corolla end.
With that in mind, let me detour. I’m an avid gamer on iPad and because of that I’ve developed certain expectations about mobile games. While there is a lot of crap published in the stores, if you’re willing to fork over the bucks, you can get a premium gaming experience. Some of my favorite iOS games include
That’s not all of them – but these are the ones that I know I can blow a few hours on and have some fun. What really surprised me when I fired up the Google Play store was that very few of these excellent iOS games seem to have made it across to Android. Perhaps it’s because I’m in Australia, but I was really surprised that games like Civilization Revolution (which you can get on Windows Phone) didn’t appear to be published on Android.
It was Civilization Revolution that got me thinking this way. My 10 year old son was playing with his friend. The friend had a “hand-me-down” Galaxy SII and my son had my old HD7. My son’s friend was upset that he couldn’t play Civilization Revolution and another game (Fusion Sentient) on his Android phone. When I asked him about it he said that other kids at school had said of Android that “it’s not very good at games”.
If kids consider android “not very good at games” this is probably something that Microsoft can exploit.
I’ve read some speculation that the reason most premium games don’t transition to Android is that the piracy rate is so high on the platform that the chances of a premium developer recouping their costs are slim to non-existent – the idea that if you are going to create games for Android, a safer strategy is to create ones that don’t require much investment rather than anything in the premium category. The meandering point I’m trying to get to is that while there are a lot of apps available on Android, for some reason very few developers seem to be developing high-quality apps for the platform.
Back to Windows Phone. When the Xbox came into a market that was dominated by Nintendo, Sony, and to an extent Sega – a lot of commentators suggested that Microsoft was going to take a bath. The way that Microsoft seemed to deal with this was to go and acquire developers and properties. They released games that were great and which you couldn’t get on other platforms.
Microsoft needs to do this with Windows Phone. The mobile gaming market is in transition. Kids in my son’s schoolyard are a lot less interested in the Nintendo 3DS/Playstation Vita type devices than they are in gaming on iOS devices. They don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about gaming on Android devices.
If Microsoft started leveraging its own properties to create some great platform exclusive mobile games it would create a positive feedback loop where other premium developers would start developing for the platform. An isometric version of Gears of War or Halo in the mold of the hidden gem Fusion Sentient (why Fusion Sentient wasn’t branded MechWarrior is one of life’s mysteries) would be great.
Microsoft has a 3 screens strategy. They *own* the PC gaming space. The Xbox 360 is very strong (Nintendo might have sold more consoles, but more Xbox 360 games were sold). It’s time for gaming to make a concerted push into the third pillar in that 3 screen strategy.
Make great games for Windows Phone (don’t wait for others to do it) and the market share will follow.