Epic’s Tim Sweeney on Android fragmentation
Speaking of Android, you’re probably wondering why there’s no showstopper like Infinity Blade for the platform. Well, wonder no more. Says Sweeney, “When a consumer gets the phone and they wanna play a game that uses our technology, it’s got to be a consistent experience, and we can’t guarantee that [on Android]. That’s what held us off of Android.” The problem with Android is consistency. “If you took the underlying NGP hardware and shipped Android on it, you’d find far far less performance on Android. Let’s say you took an NGP phone and made four versions of it. Each one would give you a different amount of memory and performance based on the crap [the carriers] put on their phone.” Bottom line, for Epic to do the kinds of things they do on iOS, “Google needs to be a little more evil. They need to be far more controlling.” Even so, the main reason Epic has focused on iOS? “It’s really the best place to make money.”
This would be the same Epic Games which released seminal PC game Unreal in 1999 and — with Unreal Tournament, UT2003, and UT2004 — owned one of the PC’s largest ever first-person shooter franchises? The same Epic Games who ignored consoles until 2006’s Gears of War? Seems to me they did alright working with an extremely fragmented platform back then.
Each gaming PC has different amounts of memory. Each one has wildly different performance based on the specifications of the components the user has used. Each user has a different sized monitor running at a different resolution. Everyone has different mice tuned to different sensitivity settings. In general, the performance deltas across gaming PCs are far greater than you see across Android handsets and yet Epic made that work, as have countless other games companies. I’d say that’s clear proof that even a badly fragmented platform is not an insurmountable problem — it’s just one that’s more tricky to work with than fixed-hardware platforms like games consoles and iOS devices.
So, sure, today Android is a non-existent priority for Epic (and indeed it is mostly a console game company these days; since 2006, their only PC release has been Unreal Tournament 3, which had lackluster sales). If there are less Android users or they buy less apps, there’s little reason to take the trouble. But if profitability of Android gaming increases or there’s some other good reason like, perhaps, a successful gaming phone with physical controls, expect Epic to quickly stop disregarding it and follow the money.