13 May 2012

Android Game Dev: "We Like Fragmentation"

Android game developer Animoca keeps 400 Android device models on hand for QA testing.
At Animoca, we eat fragmentation for breakfast...
That's right: at least one games developer likes Android fragmentation.

First off, let's note that the following info (and images) came from Animoca, a Hong Kong developer of mobile apps for Android, iOS and other platforms. From a look at the website, their product portfolio consists mostly of inexpensive games.
That's the 'who' in this story. But after reading the title ("We like fragmentation") and seeing our lead photo, you're probably more curious about 'why' they said it and exactly 'what' was being discussed. Let's start with the rest of that quote...
We like fragmentation as users prefer choice. We are not big believers that one size fits all.” -- Yat Sui, CEO Outblaze (Animoca's parent company)
When it comes to the subject of 'fragmentation', that's a bold statement.

It certainly is a refreshing change from the cynical hand-wringing we get from our tech press as well as the whinging we hear from a few (typically unsuccessful) devs. But the best part is that Animoca happily posted that photo to their corporate blog; it's not like Google dispatched Andy Rubin to squeeze a happy-talk press blurb out of them. So you have to wonder, what makes these guys so different?

tl;dr: Animoca embrace Android fragmentation because it plays to their strengths, providing an edge over the competition and a steep barrier-to-entry for smaller firms.

Like any games house, device compatibility is one of Animoca's biggest concerns. To that end, their QA department -- known to insiders as the "Bucket o' Droids" room -- tests (and re-re-tests) each product on a wide assortment of Android phones and tablets; some 400 different models, at last count. You're seeing a part of that stash in the title photo, carefully laid out across their conference room table.

So, which of these in most popular with Animoca's customers? Among brand-names, Samsung is the clear winner.:
Chart: Device brands of Android users playing Animoca games from Android Market..
Click for larger version
...and when we delve into more granular statistics, it becomes clear that Samsung holds a commanding lead, having placed a dozen or so devices among the Top 20 in each of the past two years' tallies. (MobilePhonesFan also wishes to note how Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet came from nowhere, grabbing the current #2 spot among all device manufacturers represented in Animoca's user-records.):
Chart: Top 20 Android devices used to play Animoca games from Google's Play STore.
Click for larger version
Seems to us the folks at Animoca are well atop the devices issue. Instead of complaining about the dreaded F-word, they figure out what has to be done...and then do it. Remember the 400 test-units they keep on hand for Quality Assurance? They note how their collection is missing some 200 further models -- these devices turned up in app activation records, but Animoca can't find examples to buy.

Of course, Animoca isn't representative of all Android developers. They have manpower and money for scrupulously rigorous testing that would drive smaller devs into receivership. But their example does prove that 'fragmentation' is both a curse and a blessing on the House of Android. It's part of the apps game; just one of many challenges to be overcome in the pursuit of mobile sector success.

Images courtesy Animoca

via: Animoca; TechCrunch

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