This is the latest of a series of articles from MoMinis to coincide with the launch of its $15,000 Mobile Game Development Contest – GameCast 2011. Find out more about the contest here.
There’s no shortage of information about the mobile fragmentation problem occurring in today’s mobile market.
Just plug the keyword into Google, and you’ll find pages of tips, discussions, blog posts and analyst reports about the current and future implications of this subject for mobile developers, manufacturers and end-users.
Historically, mobile fragmentation addressed only technological complexities and discrepancies among devices and operating systems.
But now the problem is entering the realm of distribution too, with a multitude of options available to developers.
Here's a summary of the key development challenges when it comes to fragmentation:
The first decision that mobile game developers make is which mobile platform and OS they will build their games for (such as Symbian, BlackBerry, iPhone, J2ME, Android, Windows Mobile or others). Should they attempt to become an expert in one OS or try to tackle all of them, including all their sub-variant OSs?
Device Hardware Decisions
Even after selecting a platform, developers are still required to create numerous versions of games that can support different device hardware specifications within each phone. They should decide among supporting multi touch or single touch keypads, pointing devices, track balls, QWERTY keyboards, various keypads and even joystick controls.
They are sometimes even required to make game editions that adapt to various screen resolutions from the highest end devices with HD screens (480x800px) to the lowest-end devices with low screen resolutions (128x128px). Additional parameters that should be taken into account are the processing power, hard disc space and memory capacities of the individual phones.
Learning Curve and Time Constraints
Becoming fluent in each individual platform’s programming language is a process that usually takes many months to years. Research has shown that Symbian, which currently has the largest global device market share, takes 15 months or more to learn while Android, which is predicted to surpass Symbian in market share, takes a reported average of five months or more to learn.
Completing a high quality game and targeting single or multiple platforms is an operation that requires skilled programmers or teams of programmers. There are major barriers of entry into the mobile sphere for developers having less mobile expertise such as flash developers and regular PC game developers.
As upgrades and new versions of devices and OSs emerge, developers need to make sure their applications are compatible with all new and old versions of handsets in the market and update their code accordingly. This upkeep requires intense time allocation, expertise and attentiveness to market shifts.
Many risks are involved in embarking on a mobile game development project including making a bad platform choice, having slow or no market penetration, and receiving low or no return on investment.
There's more on the pressing issue of fragmentation in a new whitepaper from Mominis called ‘platform agnostic development and distribution ecosystems’.
The document also shows how developers can bypass pervasive fragmentation problems using a 'develop once deploy anywhere' system that is adaptable to all mobile device variations while attaining instant entrance to all distribution channels.
You can download the whitepaper for free here.