Ticket to Ride on Android? Days of Wonder CEO explains why you shouldn’t hold your breath
The first comment on stories about popular iOS games is invariably the question about Android availability. Is the game coming to Android? Why isn’t the game already on Android? Doesn’t the developer know that they’re losing money by not being on Android, with its huge installed base?
Days of Wonder is the company behind the physical and electronic games Ticket to Ride and Small World, among others, and I’ve written about their business savvy in the digital world before. Eric Hautemont, Days of Wonder’s CEO, tackled the issue of Android ports in a recent conversation with the Penny Arcade Report, and I’m sorry to give Android fans the bad news: Don’t hold your breath for an Android port of Ticket to Ride.
“I don’t have anything against Android. The thing that’s frustrating is that every time we announce a new game or a new version on a new platform, the first thing people ask is when we’re going to have an Android version,” Hautemont said. “The problem is what they’re really asking isn’t when we’re going to have an Android version, but when they’re going to have an Android version for their specific device. That’s a very different question.”
Hautemont joked that Google created a platform so open that it’s barely a platform anymore. The physical versions of Ticket to Ride are a specific size, and it takes a non-trivial amount of work to make that game fit well on digital devices with comparatively small screens. The good news is that with the iOS platform you need only aim for two screen sizes to hit 100 percent of all devices.
Things are not nearly as simple when you look at Android as a whole. “When you take [a game] to a platform that has dozens of different form factors, screen ratios, and so on, the work is not quite as simple. The question for us, it’s not that I don’t like Android… the question is how could we do that in a way that is satisfactory, and that’s when things start falling apart.”
Everyone wants a version of Ticket to Ride that plays at least as well as the iPhone or iPad version, and they want it to run perfectly on their own phone or tablet, running their own version of Android. Trying to deliver the quality Days of Wonder is known for across all the variables of Android is simply cost prohibitive, and Hautemont has no interest in lazy ports. Besides, there’s also the issue of customers paying for the game.
Android as a storefront
I’ve often heard that consumers with Android devices are either less willing to pay for games and apps, or that they’re more comfortable with piracy. Hautemont disagrees with that conclusion. “I don’t know that they’re less willing to pay, I do believe that it’s much harder for them to pay.”
According to Hautemont, payment options on Android devices are both more difficult to use and fragmented from the consumer side of things. “On the iOS side you have an iTunes account and a single password and that’s it and I don’t have to worry about anything else,” he explained. No matter how many games or deals a company runs through Apple, consumers already have an iTunes account to make purchases and companies get paid a single check from the company for all their sales.
On Android, there are multiple ways to pay for games, multiple app stores, and anyone selling their product has to keep up with each one or deal with a fragmented business. It’s not easy, and dealing with different payment options eats into your profits.
Of course, there is the Kindle Fire. “So you have some people who have a real customer platform, and that’s the case at Amazon. I think the Kindle Fire in that regard is really interesting, because there you have a payment platform that’s equal if not better than the Apple platform,” Hautemot said. “But if you ask the guys at Android what they think about the Kindle Fire, I’m not sure they want to push that as an example of a successful Android device.”
Still, from a business perspective Hautemont seems to be enamored with the Fire. “People don’t think of it as an Android platform, but the Kindle Fire is the one interesting Android platform at this stage,” he said. He also claimed that there are some things Amazon is doing better than iTunes, including cloud integration.
Amazon gives consumers a way to buy books, music, and games through their Fire, and it’s all taken care of through a single platform. Outside of successes like the Fire, Hautemont isn’t impressed by pundits claiming Android is taking over the world.
“Samsung seems to be getting momentum right now, but the question isn’t what money can we make in the next year, but where will we be five years from now,” he said. “The number of activated devices does not matter. What matters is what people are doing with those devices. Nokia is activating a large number of tiny phones, but no one cares about it, and probably rightfully so from a software development standpoint.”
Android support means you must deal with multiple formfactors on multiple devices running multiple versions of the software and your game being sold in multiple storefronts. Dealing with that mess while creating a universally positive experience for consumers is a hard sell for many developers.
“I think there are some islands of of opportunity on Android,” Hautemont said, “but whether a small company like us can exploit them to profit, I’d say that’s up in the air.”