Barry O’Neil missing the mark on the Android market
Via Slashdot, a mobile gaming executive Barry O’Neil blasts the Android ecosystem, calling it fragmented, hard to use, and bound to fail by drawing analogies to the feature phone Java mobile games market. About the only thing I agree with him on is the usability of the Android market, which is terrible. There’s no way to sort a search that’s made. The only way I install apps these days is searching them on Cryket or AndroidZoom, then using the QR code.
O’Neil is a veteran of the Java mobile games market back when J2ME was popular and smartphones like we know them today did not exist. He blames the stalling of the Java games market on:
Poor content discovery, billing fraud, fragmentation, and poor marketing
Yeah, I agree. I had a feature phone that ran J2ME and I played and paid for one game on it, called Zuma. But I think he misses out on one key failing of the market, that the J2ME phones simply did not enable content discovery and consumption like smartphones do and that the games available were limited, expensive, and not very interesting (likely because the hardware was so weak).
His most infuriating point is this:
If Google is to present a threat to the Apple App Store ecosystem, it needs to address discovery and purchasing as a matter of urgency, or abandon control and hand over the entire management of the Android Market to carriers, OEMs and trusted publishers
The bolded part is exactly the wrong way to go. We’ve seen in the J2ME market the effect of these massive bureaucratic gatekeepers on smartphone applications: A lack of interesting and compelling games or applications. Mobile companies were slow to add applications, effectively killing any small game shops that could not keep the doors open through the slow approval process. Mobile companies refused to spend money to support games that dared to push the envelope, leading to boring games like Zuma, several poker derivatives, and Tetrises.
Where was the World of Warcraft, Half-Life, Portal, and Farmville of the mobile market? These were the killer apps of their respective platforms. These games all developed on relatively open platforms from companies that did not own the platform. These games succeeded because there was no onerous approval process to go through Microsoft or Facebook. These games succeeded because they delivered an engrossing story combined with effective gameplay. These games were risky bets, involving millions of dollars for development without certain payoff.
Would the mobile carriers have made these bets? Based on their history with the J2ME market, I think not.