SAN FRANCISCO -- Developers and publishers discussed the opportunities and challenges of creating apps for mobile devices during several sessions at a one-day conference here Wednesday.
Many of the panelists here at the Smartphone & Tablets Games Summit have products on both mobile device platforms, but some said they’re placing a bigger bet on tablets, and for now that usually means the iPad.
“We have a ‘tablet first” strategy, that’s our primary platform,” said Greg Harper, general manager of North America for Supercell, a game developer based in Finland. “We support smartphones but we optimize for them later. We believe tablets are the ultimate game platform that combines the best of all worlds and we’re already seeing the next generation of gamers being raised on those devices.”
Doug Renert, co-founder of Tandem Capital said his company’s “accelerator seed fund” only backs mobile startups and says the rapid adoption of tablets is driving investment.
“The smartphone was a great transition, but we believe the tablet will dwarf it because it changes user behavior, and how users work and play,” said Renert. “That forces every company to consider how to serve those users and we expect a lot of big brands to emerge from that over the next five years.”
Renert also pointed to the clear advantage designers have in developing for the larger tablet screens versus the limits inherent in smaller smartphone displays. “The tablet platform opens up game design and there’s higher engagement, better retention and higher monetization,” he said. “Intuitively, this all made sense and now that we’ve done it, we’re seeing the data to prove it. There’s isn’t the broad penetration yet that there will be, but there’s a pretty broad range of users.”
Scott Prather, senior director of of business development at playphone said smartphones and tablets are “wildly different animals,” especially in the way users consume data and play games.
“Phones are used more on-the-go and for shorter sessions versus tablets where you see more people sitting down to play,” said Prather. He also said developers focused on games for tablets should assume a Wi-Fi connection and longer sessions of game play consumed more frequently versus smartphones.
Waiting for a hit Android tablet
Echoing comments by other speakers, he said the tablet market for game companies is largely focused on the iPad. “We’re still waiting for the hit Android tablet,” he said.
When asked about the Kindle Fire, which runs a custom version of Android, Prather said Amazon’s device “is fantastic, but the numbers of people who have it is no where near iPad.”
TabTimes founding editor and columnist George Jones said there’s no question the iPad is where the best revenue opportunity for publishers is today. But Jones said he thinks alternative platforms like Microsoft’s forthcoming Surface Tablet and HTML5 could chip away at the leading position Apple’s iOS operating system has today in attracting mobile developers.
In an earlier session, Steve Felter, CEO of GameSalad, said “HTML5 is interesting, but I’m not sure anyone is monetizing it yet.”
As for competition from Android, several speakers said fragmentation is a challenge for developers who have to support multiple versions of Google’s mobile operating system software on a variety of devices. Some said the revenue opportunity for games and in-app purchases is reaching parity between Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but that view was challenged by Shawn Foust, VP of business development at PlayMesh, who’s company has focused on “hardcore games” for Apple devices.
“”We’re early in Android, but I’m skeptical there’s parity in what you can get per customer versus Apple,” said Foust. “Google Checkout is good, but Apple has everyone’s credit card on file so there just isn’t the same level of penetration on the credit card side.”
As for the oft-criticized fragmentation among Android devices, a solution may be close at hand. One rumor leading up to the Google I/O conference that starts Wednesday is that Google will announce plans to streamline OS upgrades in a way that will get a far greater number of users all on the latest version of Android.