id Software: iOS Game Development Is Addictive, But Android Isn’t Worth It

id Software: iOS Game Development Is Addictive, But Android Isn’t Worth It

id software is a game developing company known for pushing the hardware of any platform they embrace, starting from their earliest triumphs on the PC with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake and continuing last year with Rage HD on iOS.

Don’t expect to see id software release their games on Android any time soon, though. It’s just not worth their effort, and it’s all about the benjamins… or at least jacksons.

According to lead programmer and co-founder John Carmack, “Every six months I’d take a look at the scope of the Android, and decide if it was time to start really looking at it… At the last Quakecon I took a show of hands poll, and it was interesting to see how almost as many people there had an Android device as an iOS device. But when I asked how many people had spent 20 bucks on a game in the Android store, there was a big difference.

“You’re just not making money in the Android space as you are in the iOS space,” Carmack concluded.

In the same interview, Carmack went on to describe just how much easier and how much more fun it was to make games for iOS.

“We made more money than people may expect on the Doom RPG stuff. It’s just fun to develop on iOS. We’d show people what we were working on and they’d go ‘Oh, when are you going to ship that? And I’d say “next month” and they’d go ‘Aww, I wanna work on an iPhone title.’ It’s hard to make a rational business decision to say I want to take resources from something else and put them on this. We did actually hire a person to be our Android guy, but it looks like he’s going to get stuck on iOS development!”

It seems fitting to me that a company that got its start in the halcyon days of PC shareware game development — churning out games in six month intervals for years at a time, only to be bogged down by the exponentially increasing resource demands of making a modern game — is now finding a return to its roots in iOS gaming, don’t you think?

  • Vorsos

    It’s funny how some people can support a platform on ideological grounds, but won’t put their money where their mouth is. Android’s target audience, tragically, is tinkerers who build or steal rather than pay. This makes it doubly unprofitable for 3rd party developers, who I would guess must spend over half their time on ensuring compatibility with the wide range of no-standards hardware.

    Ironic, then, that Droid ads appear to require an enormous special effects budget just to make it look halfway appealing. Apple knows they make insanely great products in comparison, so all they need to do for ads is say, “Hey, come over to the camera and use this product.”

  • mlahero

    Yeah I dont think its a secret that Android is for the person who doesn’t really want to pay for anything (which is fair enough), whereas iPhone owners don’t mind dropping a few dollars every now and then on apps or games.

    The process to get to a point where you can buy an app is kinda crazy. Buy a phone, lock yourself into a contract, buy a phone plan, a data plan and THEN you can fork over more money for an app or game. I totally sympathise with the person who thinks that that is just too much.

  • awperk

    I understand this is an apple blog but everybody seems to be rather misinformed about android.

    First of all, the “poll” he took is a poor indicator of a group’s willingness to pay for a $20 app. 2 out of every 3 apps on the android market are free, the average cost is much lower than on iOS and the most expensive apps out there are specialized ones.

    Second, most iphone owners don’t have a reasonable concept of the value of a dollar.

    Third and finally, I laugh at people when they say android is unprofitable for developers when android’s worldwide user base is growing exponentially and the profitability of ad-supported apps grows exponentially as a function of said user base growth.

  • Mile L.

    The problem is, the typical Android owner has less disposable income, so that’s why developers are largely ignoring the Android platform. In many ways, it’s similar to the Linux market, the users typically don’t have much money, plus they expect everything to be free, thus you don’t get much development.

    Lastly, the Android user base doesn’t use many Apps, so ad revenue doen’t correlate to the iPhone user base. So while the iOS market is around 40% larger than Android, you’re always going to see 90% of ad revenue generated by iOS. It’s simple economics of having a more wealthy installed base.

  • ??????? ???????

    1.) The “poll” he took (on a small group admittedly with high statistical risk) is a poor indicator, but your personal judgement that “most iphone owners don’t have a reasonable concept of the value of a dollar” is a good one?
    2.) Even if “android’s worldwide user base is growing exponentially” (mathematically wrong, cause the progress isn’t even geometrical, let alone expotential. Take a look at the graphs), the willingness of android users to pay (either for apps or for advertised products) may decrease logarithmically, thus neutralizing the (supposedly) expotential growth in user base.

  • Javier

    Apple’s marketing is a lot more complex and sophisticated than you make it out to be. For instance, Apple claims that the graphics on the iPad 2 are nine (9) times faster. To prove it, they develop Photo Booth, which performs nine (9) separate special effects in real time. The user sees that the graphics are fast, but the association between 9 and 9 is almost subliminal.

    Apple also developed Garageband in response to the critics that claim that you can’t create content on an iPad. The iPad version doesn’t match the Mac version; instead, it includes features that can’t easily be duplicated on a Mac – like bending guitar strings.

    While the competition creates ads to demo their products, Apple creates apps to demo their products, and then creates ads to demo those apps. Not only that, Apple creates REAL apps to demo their products, rather than special purpose demos. That was the key difference between Balmer at the Computer Electronics Show in 2010, and Jobs iPad announcement a week later. Balmer was showing a demo, while Jobs was showing real apps.

  • awperk

    I can see that you aren’t a user of android, linux, or any other sort of open source software because it is highly incorrect to assume we are generally a poorer group. Most people that i know who use open source software do it based on the principle of shared code and open access. They also have more disposable income and more free time to explore these alternate means of enjoying the harmony of software and hardware.

    Have a good weekend.

  • kgelner

    You have got to be kidding. There is no way the majority, even close to the majority of people who run Android do so because it’s open source. They do so because it’s cheap since there are many subsidizes Android handsets. So what do you get when you have a ton of cheap users? Users who also generally will not pay much for apps. That is the simple truth of the matter, as Carmack is saying.

  • awperk

    Unfortunately for you, I am not kidding but I would like you to read next time you decide to reply to a comment . I said that most people I know use android AND linux because it’s open source. Which is the 100% truth.

  • Mile L.

    But remember Android is “not” open source, each manufacturer builds their own version to fit the requirements of their hardware, so it’s similar to Apple’s open source version of iOS. You cannot go and get a “distro” of Android and run it on any smartphone. It doesn’t follow the Linux model.

    Apple has the right approach, they allow anyone to download OSX or iOS for free, then you can contribute back changes. It’s all right here:

    opensource. apple. com/

    The reason Android failed is because there are too many cooks in the kitchen. So everything is half baked, the food (Apps) are stale, unappealing and the service is horrendous.

  • awperk

    Please don’t reply if you are going to choose to live in ignorance. Some manufacturers add proprietary code as stand alone modules that are incorporated into the builds they distribute with phones. The core functioning OS is still open source and is widely used on all manner of platforms, not just smartphones. Basically, you have it completely backwards. Go to source .android .com and view the fully functioning software stacks that they make available to anyone that wants them.

    The full functioning OSX or iOS source code are, in fact, not available to download because they contain proprietary code that is legally forbidden from open distribution and use on unauthorized devices. The libraries on apple’s open source portal are open source because nobody “owns” them and in order for apple to use them, they must make them available in accordance with the GPL.

    Finally, if you consider android a failure, why is it beating iOS and taking market share? I guess by the transitive property that would make iOS a bigger failure than android, which we both know isn’t true.

    (bear in mind i am writing this from my macbook while i have my ipod and android phone both sitting next to me)

  • awperk

    Good job, you used 3 math terms in one post! However I am baffled that you don’t consider consecutive year-over-year growth of 20%, 200%, and 850% to be exponential increases. I am a mathematician but that is generally obvious to the average educated individual. You also make a broad assumption that “willingness” “may decrease” but those are broad statements, of which you have no data to support. Also of note, ad revenue is based on click through rates, not on purchasing rates of products in ads.

  • Oscar Gutierrez

    Well… Linux is cool, and a great OS, the people who use it are the people who defend the open source software. (as you said) BUT, with Android (upper case) I THINK, Android is different:

    Reason: The people who cares about the open source is a minority. (the geeks like me, and maybe you). So they don’t buy an Android smartphone to encourage the use of open source.

    Also think this: the market share isn’t that important, the companies like Google and Apple are interested in PROFITS not in market shere. Google can have a Huge MShare but Apple owns the Profits. (In fact, recently was posted that Apple make more money with iPhones, than the total income of Google). So the developers known that, and they understand that the Apple user is MORE willing to pay 10 bucks for a great game. There is, also, the costs of production of the games, ’cause in iOS there 1 game but in Android are so much compatibility issues because of the variety of terminals…

    MY simple thoughts. :)

  • awperk

    valid points

  • Mile L.

    Problem is, there is no such thing as an “open source” Android phone. They have to deal with a very big roadblock: the carriers. Android is just like iOS, you need to accept that. Unless you want to unlock and root an Android phone, you’re stuck with what the carrier sells you.

    And what? the iOS is growing far faster than Android, some say it’s over 30% faster. You are only talking about “phones”… but are not adding in the iOS based iPad, iPod Touch, AppleTV, to your numbers. (a common tactic of Android fanbois, all 30 of them :)

  • awperk

    First you say we are talking about phones and not a platform and then you say in the next paragraph we’re talking about a platform and not a phone…you’re losing track of your argument. iOS is not growing faster than android. Growth is a rate of change and many sources quote android’s year-over-year growth as anywhere from 600-900%

    The only indisputable fact is that android is an open source platform and iOS is not.

  • Mile L.

    I’m saying people confuse “Android” with phones… mainly since not much else uses it.

    But iOS is known as more of a “platform” since many more devices use it (iOS about 230 million / android about 80 million).

    And yes, it’s just as open source as Android, you can download it right here, customize it, create your own builds.

    opensource. apple. com

  • Wirehedd

    I have no opinion one way or the other whether or not android is or will increase its user base by any degree of mathematical designated factor and I’m willing to see both android and iphone succeed.

    I do take a slight umbrage at the statement of “…most iphone owners don’t have a reasonable concept of the value of a dollar.” as I am an iphone user and I certainly DO have a reasonable concept of the value of a dollar and would think that as an analytical person you would be more careful about making such broad yet completely illogical and flatly incorrect statements.

    I find it much better and effective in discussing technology, or most anything else, to try and leave my personal opinion out of the conversation as far as what others, who may be different from myself, may think or be aware of.

    This would be no different than me stating “android users have no concept of what a really well built or functional phone is capable of” while having no definitive or reliable methodology of determining the veracity of such a statement.

    Wide and wild generalizations only serve to diminish the degree of respect an opinion can be worthy of.

    Just my 1/50th of a dollar. :)

  • Judas

    When I’m on the train and see people playing with their Android phones I smirk. The OS is unpolished and that’s obvious from a metre away. Poor mans iPhone. The truth hurts

  • Guest

    Here we have a man whose living is made from shipping games on mobile devices. With all due respect to commentators here who disagree with him, what credentials do they have to claim their opinion is more valid than his? It’s the difference between being ‘involved’ and being ‘committed’ (think about your eggs and bacon breakfast.. the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed). This man is committed: if he could make money off Android, do you think he wouldn’t try?

    He’s not the only mainstream games developer to say that the money is to be made on iOS, not Android. The Rovio man (Angry Birds) said the same thing. There has to be a reason for this, it’s not an accident.

    I think Android supporters miss essential differences between iOS and Android, which I believe translate into a different developer experience between the platforms. Android is FREE software (forget the moniker ‘open source’, that’s not really relevant) given away by Google to ANYONE who wants to make some sort of a smartphone. The important words here are FREE and ANYONE. At one end of the spectrum we have high quality manufacturers like HTC who nonetheless don’t have the smarts or experience to develop their own OS, so they take the free code from Google, add some custom code to achieve some sort of differentiation and then integrate the result with good hardware. There are only a few Android-based manufacturers in this category. At the other end of the spectrum are the Mama San Smartphone Company (with extra noodles) making junk hardware who slap on as much Android as they need to get something out onto the market. The idea a games developer can utilize everything Android makes possible and make a single game that will run unchanged across the spectrum of Android devices is simply wrong, and this fact presents significant challenges for the developer in terms of customer satisfaction.

    So on the one hand we have this array of hardware manufacturers using as much of the free software from Google as they can, but seeking to differentiate themselves through custom code and User Interfaces, which leads to fragmentation and confusion and incompatibilities. And on the other hand we have Google: why are they giving this stuff away for FREE? There is a single answer to this: Android is their vehicle for polluting the mobile space with advertising. That is ALL they are interested in, selling advertising (Google makes 97% of its revenue through advertising, it’s an advertising company). If the mobile space fails to deliver advertising dollars in enough volume, expect Google to drop Android and move onto their next great idea.

    Now iOS is something completely different. It is the foundation for a major portion of Apple’s entire revenue stream. Apple seeks to make iOS deliver the finest user experience possible so folks keep coming back to buy more hardware and services. Apple simply cannot afford to get this wrong. This is why, so far, they have succeeded in delivering the absolute best developer infrastructure, and the most secure and reliable and functionally rich user experience in the market, an experience that stretches over their entire mobile product line and on which developers can rely: make once, deploy everywhere. This is why, for example, whilst the Android space is now riddled with malware, trojans and virus problems by the bucketload, iOS has proven to be MUCH more resistant with the consequence that the iOS platform is significantly more secure for the user. Anything less would sink Apple.

  • FenTiger

    Yeah, but you know this is just a bunch of 14 year old shut-ins with nothing better to do, arguing the toss to justify the purchase they have made. In fact why the hell have I bothered reading this far?

    Hey my football team is better than your football team, or my Dad’s harder than your Dad… I

  • Wirehedd

    Sad but most likely true. :)

    …and my dad’s ‘arder than yours is and Man U is going all the way this year. :)

    Sounds about right.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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