Reining on Google’s parade

One of the advantages of Google’s Android platform is also the very same thing keeping the iPhone’s showpiece, Infinity Blade, off the Android Store. Mark Rein and Tim Sweeney, co-founders of Epic Games spoke with Gizmondo (via Gamesindustry.biz) about how Google need to make sure Android developers produce consistent results for their handhelds instead of the current hands-off approach because it’s lead to some fragmentation. The handsets that Android appears on differ in specs meaning the experience for the user simply isn’t consistent which is one of the factors Epic isn’t happy with.

“If you took the underlying NGP hardware and shipped Android on it, you’d find far far less performance on Android. Let’s say you took an NGP phone and made four versions of it. Each one would give you a different amount of memory and performance based on the crap [networks] put on their phone,” said Rein adding “Google needs to be a little more evil. They need to be far more controlling.” I’ve been called an Apple fanboy but my reasons for sticking with their devices stem from what Rein is saying. Buying an Apple product I know what I’m getting and the variations differ on a dramatically reduced scale compared to their competitors. But they’re not free from market fragmenting, with owners of the iPhone 3G unable to play some of the newer games found on the App Store.

The draw of Android is a hard one to neglect however with more and more handsets coming out with dazzling CPUs and impressive functionalities. Google do appear to be addressing the problem of quality on their operating system with the latest version, Honeycomb, only available on tablets for the moment while they figure out how to develop a standard for all others to follow. And Epic aren’t against the platform as a whole since they have made a version of Unreal Engine 3 for Android but even that comes with a few annoyances. Dungeon Defenders and Monster Madness are two games powered by UE3 sitting happily on Google’ marketplace for a number of months. However in the case of Dungeon Defenders, the game is larger than the 50MB limit Google imposes meaning the developer has to host it separately resulting in an additional bandwidth costs for them on top of paying to appear on the Android App Store. Infinity Blade is almost 1GB worth of data so imagine if millions of people suddenly tried to download it all at once.

As Rein points out to GI.biz, this only shows how young Android is and not whether it’s inferior to Apple. Comparisons can be drawn to the Xbox Live Marketplace and its original capping of games’ sizes. In the early days it too only allowed 50MB games because they had to fit on memory cards for those who didn’t own hard drives. Nowadays with that problem almost extinct, XBLA titles can be ten or twenty times that size. It’ll take time for Google to get it ‘right’ for their service but the differing handsets could still pose a problem for them. The standardisation they implement could see a number of lower spec ones to suddenly be obsolete or hinder the potential of superior machines. One thing is for sure, they’ll figure it out.

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