porting: The big barrier to entry ..

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The goal of the OpenGardens blog is to discuss channels to market. And currently the marketplace is very fragmented. I found this article fascinating. It shows how fragmented the marketplace is -and how costly it is to get critical mass.

Sameer Bhatia says:

First the potential

• In China, there are 300 million mobile subscribers; this is expected to grow to 500 million within the next two years;

• Carriers such as Sprint and Vodafone report that mobile games and other data services now account for roughly 10 percent of their annual revenues;

• Industry consulting firm Ovum notes that there are now more than 450 million Java-enabled handsets globally, in addition to the 38 million and 15 million BREW- and Symbian-enabled handsets;

• Mobile-game publishers racked up $1.2 billion in global sales in 2004 and expect an even stronger year in 2005 as more and more consumers discover the tiny gaming consoles already in their pockets.

BUT then the pitfalls ..

When a mobile game is developed, it is made for one or two key handsets. In order to get that game to work on any other cell phone, the game has to be ported – adapted to work – on each and every other handset in the market. As the absolute number and type of handsets in the market grows almost exponentially, one can imagine the large-scale problem that game publishers face. The problem of disparate handset specifications is further compounded by different operating systems and programming languages, the most common of which are J2ME and BREW. The result? An overwhelming problem that renders a mobile game useless until it can work on the vast majority of handsets in the market.

Game porting generally requires developers to adapt to differences in screen resolution, processor speed, memory thresholds, and sound capabilities, all of which can vary wildly from device to device. For publishers, this can not only exponentially increase game development and asset creation time, but can also cause them to miss critical time-to-market windows in a hyper-competitive industry.

As an example, imagine that you are a mid-sized game publisher with 30 games in your portfolio. To make your games available worldwide in five languages and on only 50 devices, you would need to create 7,500 different builds. At $2,500 per build, you would require a budget of nearly $19 million simply to handle porting. Spending the money to get the ports done is normally not an issue for most publishers – a successful game will easily make them money. However, finding the time and resources to develop all of these ports is major problem.

I have heard the same feedback from many developers. Porting increases cost base BIG TIME!. But you need to port to reach a large sector of the market

This, sadly – is why I am not so optimistic about single player games. Granted that some branded games are making money – but most players are not. But very few will admit it!

source: mobenta/Sameer Bhatia

Image source: HERE