Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mobile Phone Game Development

I realise that I haven't made that many game development-related posts in a while so here's one.

According to wikipedia there are about 3.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world. Of course there are people with multiple subscriptions, just like in our wonderful country where people have up to four or five lines, but even if half of that figure is the real number of handsets in the world, that is still 1/6th of the world's population. That's a number that cannot be ignored. Now, of course, I am only advocating that we should start developing for a subset of that group. Mainly, the group that has iPhones, and the group that has and will have phones powered by the Google Android OS like the T-Mobile G1.

The sales of powerful, media savvy phones has risen tremendously in the last couple of years. Just recently the Apple iPhone overtook sales of RIMs blackberry with a total of 6.9 million phones sold this year and I am sure that that number will increase. The G1 also saw pre-sale figures of 1.5 million and definitely that figure will rise once the phone is released around the world. All this figure crunching means is that there is a huge market out there, and with the availability of easy-to-browse application stores for both the iPhone and Android OS, there is a huge opportunity for Nigerian developers to sell their wares to the world. 

But first we have to build them, and build them well.

When I first returned to the country in 2004, I spoke with a few people who were into software development about whether or not they would be interested in developing games for consoles or the PC. Without exception, all of them told me that even though they might be interested, that they didn't feel there was a big enough market for games in Nigeria for it to be worthwhile. I tried explaining to them that they didn't have to limit themselves to only Nigerian consumers, but most of them wouldn't listen. The ones who did just thought that they didn't have the skillsets and that no publisher or investor would be interested in financing such a venture.

Well, here I am now hoping that this should be a lot easier to get into.

The Android OS is java based and I believe that most Nigerian developers picked up java at some point, and the SDK and in fact the entire OS are available for download from the Android Homepage. There are also loads of tutorials with advice and techniques for building Android apps, and more pertinently, there are quite a few forums springing up for Android game development.

Making games for the iPhone is a bit more difficult, but the rewards are potentially a lot greater as the phone has a huge fan base at the moment and has success stories for games that can be used to sway potential investors. I believe you need to work on a Mac, and you have to program in Objective C which is developed by Apple and used on the Mac OS X. There are loads of tutorials on the net for learning it though, and from what I understand, if you know C, it is not much of a leap to learn it. Once you can overcome these hurdles you can then get to the hard work of making a game and ensuring that it sells. You can get Apple Macs in Lagos at very good prices from Superior Equipment and they offer a full bevy of services to go with that as they are an official Apple reseller.

Of course, this is not to say that once you choose your platform or even decide to code for both that your game will automatically be successful. A whole slew of challenges await you. Assuming you have a kickass game on your hands and there are no bugs at all, it will still have to find the audience. You have to remember that there are loads of people from all over the world jumping on these platforms, so it is important to be able to market your game effectively over the internet via gaming sites, and so on. There is also the problem of actually being from Nigeria which could make it difficult to collect payments and so on, but I am sure that all these things are surmountable. 

So, go out and make some games so that we can get on the map for something other than the usual. I would do it myself, but for now I am too busy working on PC games via Game Maker 7 and Inform 7 and writing comic books!

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Hendricks said...

In addition to your statistics on the number of world mobile phone subscriptions, I think it is also amazing that Apple recently passed the 10 billion threshold in terms of app sales. that's nearly 2 apps for every person on earth. It's no wonder that mobile game development is such a goldrush these days (at least has been for past years - may be saturated now).

Marie Weaver said...

Android and ios both are best game development platform. I agree with you about there are huge number of people who purchase mobile devices because of its applications features. Creative games is also one of the most popular app to attract users.