Creator of Battleheart says Android revenue too low to continue development, cites support costs

Daniel Bader

March 10, 2012 11:17am


Mika Mobile, the creators of Battleheart, say that Android game development is too difficult to continue in the face of rising support costs and low revenue. The game, which was first established as a hit on iOS, was ported to Android last year to great fanfare and relative success. In the early days it was cited as one of the success stories for game developers porting their apps to Google’s platform and actually making some decent coin from the effort.

But a year later the developers have changed their tune, and will not continue to support the game on Android. The game, which costs $2.99 but has been often been put on sale for 99c, became a headache for the developers, as the multitude of Android hardware and software created a perfect storm of support problems. “There’s a big difference between generating revenue, and ‘making money’ – It’s not that they haven’t generated income, but that income is offset by the additional support costs the platform has demanded,” said Mika Mobile in a blog post earlier this week. In a frank explanation of why sustained support for the game is untenable, the team 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.

Considering the installed user base for Android is higher worldwide than iOS, it’s surprising to hear that Mika Mobile made nearly all of its money from Apple’s App Store. With only 5% of total revenue coming from Android, it’s understandable why the team couldn’t justify continuing to support the game. It also presents a quandary for any new development house who wants to port existing games, or build new ones, for Android: instead of buying a couple iPhones, iPods Touch and iPads to test on different OS versions, Android developers must often by all manner of hardware from different manufacturers, and install varying versions of Android in order to ensure stability, performance and overall experience.

While there are Android developers who have been able to earn money on the newly-refurbished Google Play Store, doing so does not come without its risks. Certainly the same can be said of developing for iOS, but one has to wonder if more Android devs will be singing the same tune as fragmentation continues over time.

Source: Mika Mobile Blog
Via: Daring Fireball

  • JR

    This is the price of a free and open system like Android. Multiple handsets from multiple manufacturers means an inconsistancy of product. Also, the OS is updated WAY too often, Google should just concentrate on major updates about twice a year and make sure that when they do release them that they are debugged and ready to roll out. Also, the various providers need to get on board with allowing and authorizing the updates more quickly so that everyone is up to date on the current OS before it becomes outdated and people find themselves left behind. I LOVE the platform, but one thing that Apple has over Android is the ease with which manufacturers of accessories as well as game development because the standard is always the same. Not sure how Google can address this, but it could continue to hamper the platform in the future.

    • bob

      It’s not because of the handset diversity that they don’t make any money. They don’t because their app suck and Android users aren’t stupid enough to buy it.

    • tbr

      Or it just may mean that anyone dumb enough to spend to much money on a phone is also dumb enough to spend money on stupid games.

    • Me Ted

      Quitting on the platform is a stupid idea. Windows is essentially the same thing. There are limitless configurations that software developers must take into account and do so all the time. To blame the platform for being to “open” is f*****g lazy in my books. Anyway, bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Bilal Akhtar

    Puts ads on the app, and make it free. See the revenue shoot up.

    At least that’s what helped me for my apps. Paid apps don’t sell well, but ads are the main source of revenue.

    • Cecil

      Perhaps, but I (personally) hate advertisement banners on my ads.

    • Bon

      the issue is not the sales.. but the support. they can no longer support it, specially in different and updated platforms, if they make it free, still they need to support it..

  • Dimitri.k

    Agreed. Paid apps are not going to get far seeing as if you charger $1.99 or even $0.99 not a lot of people will buy it. People want free games / apps not paid ones. Like Bilal said. Put adds on the app & make it free & see how many people will go for it then. Once it becomes popular start making another app.

    • Jesse

      This right here is what is wrong with Android development. 90% of the people with Android phones somehow think that people should put hundreds of hours of development into games and apps just for the good of the Android community. These are the same people who piss and moan when a developer tries to recoup some of their time and money by putting ads in the preference page of an app only to have the comments explode with 1* reviews about how they ruined the app with their greed.

  • Someguy

    All the quad cores ain’t going to help Android on this one

  • bob

    cry me a river

  • hello

    Wouldn’t have this problem if you built the app for Android from the start. The problem is in porting it from iOS and iOS sucks.

  • Fred

    Never heard of Battleheart before…

  • Justin

    I understand where they’re coming from. So many apps that are out there that may or may not work on my specific android phone. But, when an app is announced for iOS I know my iPhone was work.

  • Tom

    Requiring an extra 20% effort to support the wide range of Android devices and manufacturers sounds reasonable and acceptable to me!

    Revenue that is about 1/20th of what they make on iOS (assuming the other 95% comes from their) is obviously totally unacceptable.

    So, while this will be played in the media as a failure caused by ‘fragmentation’, this is clearly a revenue issue.

    • Jon Fingas

      No, I’d say fragmentation is half of the issue.

      Part of it is that Google has encouraged an Android culture that hates actually paying for anything. It’s pretty telling when Rovio would only go ad-supported with Angry Birds, because it knew most would either refuse to pay or just bootleg a copy. There’s a much higher ratio of free app downloads on Android versus iOS.

      Fragmentation does matter. If it was easy to support Android, support would continue. But I’ve talked personally to id Software and seen interviews with Epic. Both of these are experienced game developers, but they so far refuse to support Android because of how splintered it is.

      Having to support devices that refuse to run a game a particular way even though other, slower devices run it perfectly? That’s Android. Knowing that a newer OS version brings in a feature you need for your game, but that most of your users are on a year-old OS and will never get that needed update because their OEMs quickly abandoned support? That’s Android.

      If you truly like gaming on a smartphone or a tablet, let’s face it: you want an iPhone or an iPad.

    • bummy

      More likely, ad supported apps generate more revenue in the long run.

      Revenue of ad supported apps increase as user spends more time in app.

      Pay-once apps basically discourages developers to continue the support of the app once its been sold. Why support an app if it no longer makes money from existing users?

  • MXM4K

    Simple economics makes this an easy decision for this developer. This is the curse of an open ecosystem, where you have a ton of different potential hardware running the Android platform.

    I think the main issue with high-end games on Android is the massive differences you have with CPU/GPU/Screen size from device to device.

    I feel like designing games on iOS is akin to designing games on a consoles (ie Xbox or PS3), where the hardware is identical for everyone. While designing for Android is akin to the PC gaming market, except add the complexity of different hardware (most importantly the CPU and GPU).

    However it’s easier for the PC gaming market, because you’re likely to be running either nVidia or AMD/ATI graphics on a Windows OS machine. The Android ecosystem, if it ever wants to get serious with games, would need to narrow down it’s list of potential GPU chipsets in order to appease developers.

  • Xaroc

    Boohoo…
    Clearly these are people who are in it just for the money and not for the pleasure.
    I understand payment is a factor for your work, but marketing and value are also factors.

    You can’t expect to hit it big with big cash payouts and minimal work, these things take time, patients and a lot of work.

    Lots of people have never really heard of this game, maybe next time they will do a better job throwing the word out there. Quitting your job because you don’t get enough money and too much work, Seems like 80% of the Canadian and American population are in same position. Should they all quit?

  • Patrick

    thats too bad for Android

  • Scott Palmer

    Google should choose a platform (cpu, gpu, ram, resolution) and make it the Google certified yearly gaming standard. Hardware manufacturers can choose to build a device with those specs if they wish. If they choose not to, they can expect to suffer from support and or sales issues. I very much dislike Apple as a company, but they seem to have a product that works. Google has a product that works sometimes. I am on my 3rd Android phone and am considering iPhone because of the terrible update procedure (Galaxy Nexus is just starting to get 4.02 up here in Canada… 4.03 was realeased a while ago) Fragmentation is terrible for developers which means it is bad for users as well.

  • Wayne

    This sounds about as stupid as a pc developer giving up on pc games due to the thousands of combinations of hardware configurations… lol

    Maybe its because your game is s**t and cost too much. Other games seem to do fine and make money, especially free ones with ads.

  • RICO

    They should port their apps to BlackBerry. Their apps are known to make substantial revenue than iOS and Android combined. Perhaps it’s because BlackBerry fans are in such dire of devs to bring quality apps to their platform that they are more supportive of their apps, idk.

  • JohnB

    I’ve been in the software development all my life. 20% towards maintenance isn’t high. The problem here is the revenue. They really should look further into why the game isn’t generating more.

  • jon_d0e

    i downloaded the .apk file from appbucket.net and had no issues thus far. why are they crying? I pay $20/year for android apps.. im doing my part to help the developers.. what YOU guys doing???

  • Lance W

    It’s much different than developing for the PC. For starters Windows has what, 85% market share? Plus there are basically only two CPU manufacturers, three GPU manufacturers, and a handful of audio chip manufacturers, plus it’s easier to scale to different resolutions.

    • Me Ted

      “It’s much different than developing for the PC. For starters Windows has what, 85% market share? Plus there are basically only two CPU manufacturers, three GPU manufacturers, and a handful of audio chip manufacturers, plus it’s easier to scale to different resolutions.”

      You don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about do you?

  • Tails

    It’s a shame, Battlehearts was one of the best examples of a game combining the accessibility of touch screen controls with the added depth classic gaming mechanics bring. Absolutely brilliant game.

    I really can’t blame them for not wanting to spend 20% of their time chasing 5% of their revenue when that time could be better spent developing a new game for the other 95% of their customer base. I’m sad to see them go, this was one of my favourite games on my Galaxy S2.

  • Sub-Joker

    If you look ingo professional game developers like game loft and EA,they have their games supporting a batch of hardware. I had an HTC Raider and I couldnt download many of the games I purchased which a Moto RAZR or even an LG Optimus 3D are “compatible” with.
    The solution is easy, limit the phones that are “compatible ” with a device and you won’t get into this problem.

  • hateads

    I never ever ever download apps that are free and ad supported. If there was an app I like, I will ALWAYS find if there was a paid version. If there’s only free with ads, then I will not put it on my device.

  • Alex K

    This is exactly what Nintendo CEO was warning about. Cheap games on smartphones will destroy value in the gaming industry. They pretty much committing industry suicide by pumping cheap games on smartphones. In turn, customers looking at these games, and expect them to be even cheaper or free and download 15 other competing games, play for a few mins then dump it for the next flavor of the week, all to make a few bucks. In the end, labor is never free, so developers will in the end pay the price not google, apple, microsoft or rim.

    It’s amazing how these companies were able to create an environment where developers can w***e themselves for the lowest bidder.

  • Nick

    If Android means losing cartoony games for $3 a pop that get boring after half an hour, I’m OK with that.

  • CrazyHammer

    Port it to Playbook, It’s free and it just works. Port it and I will buy hands down, I bet most other PB owners will.

  • stylinred

    They should port it over to Symbian using the QT SDK to port android apps over

    studies have shown that developers make more profit per app on the Nokia Store than the competitors

    you might be shocked and say IMPOSSIBLE, but because there’s far less apps on the nokia store (over 100k) compared with android/ios (300-500k?) so each app is actually downloaded/bought more as the store isnt saturated

    or even port it to the N9 since the OS’ are similar

  • Jesso2k

    This is my favorite mobile title to this day. I’m a guy who tries to keep up with every major release on every platform (consoles, iOS, 3ds, android) and this stings a little as a new android owner. I’m still waiting for gameloft to come through with an update that allows me to play nova 2 and modern whatever 3 on my gnote.

  • pasuljko

    Android is increasingly becoming not worth it for a smaller developers without a big publicity machine. There is almost no way for people to discover new apps, search is broken, “Free/Ad supported” mentality completely took over Android Market.
    On top of everything, Google is taking same 30% cut as Apple or RIM for a way less effort to manage the market or actually help developers.

  • John

    All Google need to do is implement something similar to DirectX, and these problems will be solved.

    Honestly, this dev is moaning like he’s never developed for PC before.

  • Eluder

    I could care less about gaming on Android. This is why I’m on Android, it provides way more than just games like iOS. It has creative apps since it’s an open ecosystem, much better than the millions of games you see on iOS.

  • dfsd

    I hear that its the same case for PC as well what with different screen resoltuions, OS, Graphics etc. No wonder PC is a dead platform..NO

  • zzZZzz

    @dfsd, PC dead platform eh? That’s why console fans are moaning about how Skyrim is only bringing modding tools and mods to PC and not their precious console (to give you an example).

    Those moaning about PC or Android need to approach the situation differently. Like someone above said, it is a console/PC analogy between Android and iOS.

    if 500 people dwl your 3$ app on iOS you get 1500$ – that’s it.
    if 500 people dwl your ad-supported app on Android you get say 1c for every time they pay (1c is a random, though probably true value) – thus 5$ … but let’s say they play every day ..35$/week. In a year, you get close to 1500$. The main idea is to make your game interesting enough to be worth playing and always have updates every once in a while to keep them coming.

    PC is same thing, make your game stand out, remove DRM crap that hurts legit consumers and see your game sell. Keep bringing day 1 DLC for an unfinished game, keep bringing game breaking bugs to the game to make it unplayable, and you’ll not make money.

    It’s all about consumer mentality and market research.

  • asdfas

    As a developer I get much, much more from ads than from sells. Supporting all Android devices is also not a problem – because I use a library that solves compatibility issues for me – the library is libGDX, very good, has great support and box2D.

  • rob

    Well I guess that u will just uninstall their game then, wish I could get my money back to to show them how Android users feel about their decision. Too bad it worked flawlessly on all my devices

  • Anirask

    Microsoft used to have this problem. Then they created DirectX. Google may have to take the bull by the horns and create it’s own Hardware Abstraction Layer for games.

  • Zeake

    Android users are just CHEAP! plain and simple, all they do is ***** about something that they are getting for FREE! When i download an app and i see in the comments all the other users that are bi***ing at the dev for something that they are getting for free it pisses me off.

    Google is basically running a pyramid scheme that will crumble and fall very soon.

    Most of the ads that Google runs on android devices are from other app developers looking to have people download their games/apps. So they throw all their money at google in hopes that people would see their ads and download their free apps with comes filled with banners as well.

    Think about it people, google and a few big app devs are making all their money from the poor little guys that are paying crazy money to have their ads displayed on other devices. It’s a ponzie scheme. Shame on you google for encouraging this.

    At some point i hope the little guys realize that google is stealing all their money an move to ios.

    • Yeria

      Since you decided to be stereotypical, I’ll be just the same.

      iPhone users are empty-headed and only seek peer approvals because that’s all they need. They need to tank $800 on crappy devices because you think it’s “hip” to own a device that looks identical to the model released a year before while justifying they’re innovative.

      You’re the prime example that proves my theory. You think Apple AppStore model is THE only way to be successful. If anything the dev here was an i***t for taking the same approach they took on iOS with Android. The ecosystem is completely different. You need to adapt to survive and clearly this dev is not skilled enough to support multiple hardwaree configurations.

      As an application developer myself, no hardware configuration is too difficult to support UNLESS your software model was a piece of s**t.

  • Rice Protein

    I have apps in both the Google Market/Store/Whatever and Amazon App Store and I get double the amount of downloads in the Amazon App Store than I do in the Market/Store. This is partly because Amazon’s store is organized alot better (more categories) and it’s easier to pay for apps in the Amazon App Store (most people already have their credit cards hooked up to Amazon).

    If Google cleaned up the Market (better categories, more curating) and offered gift cards and gifting apps to friends, it would go along way to generating revenue for devs and Google itself.

    It seems Google cares only about working on their brand and failing at social media.

  • John

    Android is more headache than it’s worth for users too. My Captivate gave me headaches from day one.

  • chris

    The developers quitting are fine, but at least have the courtesy to actually INFORM the customers, under the descriptions of the game(s), that there won’t be any more updates if they do not plan to remove the apps completely from the Play Store.

    The developers leaving out this critical detail shows just what kind of individuals they are. I know that they don’t have to, but here’s where the concept of moral ethics comes in. Act in the best interest of the customers instead of trying to squeeze every last drop from your unaware preys. >:(