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Android vs iOS Game Myths

I was hoping Chris Pruett would post a version of his talk, “Fact and Fiction: Lessons From Wind-Up Knight and Rise Of The Blobs” but he has not done so yet. The talk is available on the GDC Vault so if you attended GDC you can watch it there. It’s only 23 minutes.

In it he attempted to break some common myths about iOS vs Android games. Of course this is just his experience but he made the point that most of the myths of iOS vs Android are not backed up by any data so he brought all his data.

I’m kind of hoping if I post this he’ll feel compelled to post a version of his talk in his own words instead of mine. Hey Chris. Post your talk! In the meantime here’s my summary of his talk

Chris said when we started his company, Robot Invader, he read everything he could about mobile development and all the collected wisdom. In fall 2011 they released Wind-up Knight, and in 2013 they released Rise of the Blobs. He read a lot of advice but none of them were backed up with data. So here’s his data.

Myth #1: You should develop for iOS and maybe if it does really well on iOS you should consider porting to Android

The theory being that iOS is where you make all your money and if it does really well you might be able to make a few extra bucks on an Android port.

Their experience was, Wind-up Knight is highly rated on all platforms they are on. So first off, this applies only to highly rated games. If your game is not highly rated maybe this won’t fit. Second they decided to ship on Android first to do experiments, make sure they’d addressed user complaints before they ship on iOS. Also based on the advice from the net they thought iOS players are more likely to buy a paid game so they shipped free-to-play on Android but $0.99 on iOS.

What happened was they shipped in November 2011 on Android and it did amazingly well. They were featured by Google which was really awesome. They fixed a few issues and shipped the iOS version 1 month later. They were super lucky there too as they were featured by Apple. Not only that they were featured multiple times by both companies but on iOS they were featured during the Christmas Holiday season when Apple goes on vacation meaning their featured status says up for 2 weeks.

Looking at their data you can see as a paid app on iOS it didn’t do well, even being featured. They made it free in February for a Free App a Day promotion and got over a million downloads but after that growth on iOS was never close to growth on Android. At the time of the talk they had 8 million players the vast majority on Android.

So what could they learn from that? Well one, they probably can’t treat Android as a test platform to prep for iOS. On the other hand the apps were treated differently, one launched as free to play, the other has paid, so they couldn’t really compare them.

On their second app, Rise of the Blobs, they did a simultaneous launch. They made it free-to-play on both platforms with in app purchases and it was highly rated on both platforms. On top of that, for the iOS version only they spent around $100k in advertising. The app was featured on both the Google Play store and the iOS App store for the same duration

The result: They still did way better on Android in terms of user install numbers.

So in their opinion Myth #1 is is busted. It might have been true at one point but it’s not true today.

Myth #2: You should translate your game to as many languages as possible.

Wind-up Knight shipped with English and Japanese only and here’s how it did

The majority of players were from the USA, Japan, and China and as for revenue almost all of it came from the USA and Japan. After Japan the next biggest was the UK and it was 4%

So, they thought maybe that was because they only localized for Japan as that’s the only other country they made any good money from and if they localized to more languages they’d do way better in other countries.

So for Rise of the Blobs they localized to 7 languages and here’s the result

It’s almost the same as it was before. A few counties came on. One thing to notice is they localized for Korean and yet Korea isn’t even on the chart.

Looking at revenue it was still the same as before. All the money came from Japan and the USA. No other country accounted for more than 4%

So, from their POV this myth is busted. Apparently you only need to localize to Japanese. The other languages don’t matter.

Myth #3: iOS users spend more money than Android users

There could be many reasons for this. iOS is more expensive so those users have more money. Or maybe because you have to put your credit card into the iOS App Store it’s easier to buy. Or maybe because there are extremely cheap Android phones those people don’t have money to spend. These all reasons seem to make intuitive sense.

Looking at their iOS Chart ranking they had the same experience they’ve seen several other developers have which is that while they were featured their rank stayed high but as soon as it stopped being featured the ranking fell off a cliff. They feel like paid apps never did well on Android and their era on iOS may also be over. Once you fall off the ranking you’re done unless you can spend $$$$$$ to bring it back up. The point here is that paid apps didn’t make money on iOS so that’s not a way to get more revenue vs Android.

People believe that iOS users will still spend more than Android users if the app is free-to-play with in app purchases but that’s not what they found.

The rates are basically the same for both platforms. Behavior of users on both platforms for the same game is the same. Clearly since they have more users on Android their making more money on Android.

Myth busted

Myth #4: iPad user behavior is different from other users

Trying to figure out if this myth is true they looked at session length. For Rise of the Blobs iOS users play about twice as long as Android users. Not just iPad users but all iOS users.

For Wind-up Knight iOS users play almost 3x Android users

Even stranger, when it was a paid app iOS users played for an AVERAGE of hour per session.

That’s AVERAGE session! WTF! He thought maybe that’s because a lot of iOS users were on iPad but that’s not the case

iPhone users play longer than iPad users. So, I guess the Myth, that iPad users play different, is true but not in the way most people think.

Myth #5: Android fragmentation is a nightmare

They develop in Unity3D and had almost zero problems. Of 1970 devices they only had trouble with 3 devices. 2 of which were a market issue they couldn’t work around but that were solved by a Google Play update so they only had to make a special workaround for 1 device that had a GPU driver issue.

So in their opinion this Myth is busted.

But, they did want to mention that it’s more a of a pain to support Android users because of the way the markets are set up. On iOS if you want a refund you talk to Apple. On Android if you want a refund you talk to the developer. Over their entire life so far they’ve had 316 support requests from iOS and 4170 Android requests. Things like “my kid bought $300 of stuff in your game and I didn’t know there was a parental lock built into the phone”.

Myth #6: Mobile users don’t want hard games

They were told their games would fail because they are hard.

They don’t believe this is true. They have super fans that have cleared their games and they post screenshots and become their biggest promoters.

They’re not saying a more casual game won’t get more users. Just that there is a market for hard games.

So that’s my summary of Chris’s talk.

My 2 cents:

I think #5, fragmentation, might have been a much bigger problem 3+ years ago. At that time there were devices with single touch, devices with a trackball, devices with keyboards, etc… Now pretty much all devices are a single multi-touch screen with no extras. On top of that, at least for Rise of the Blobs, it’s a 1 finger game and it doesn’t matter where you put your finger. That would seem to have at least a minor influence. Wind-up Knight is a 2 button game. I’m only guessing that games with virtual joypads might have more issues but then I have no idea since I haven’t made a game.

The fact that iOS users are playing 2-3x more than Android players suggests a place for more data. Do they actually play different or is there a bug in the tracking? Android’s are multi-tasking so maybe users switch in and out of a game and something that looks like 2 sessions is actually 1? Does Chris’s metrics merge sessions that are under a say 15 minutes apart? On other hand, if iOS users do play more you’d expect them to spend more on the types of games that have consumables since more play equals consuming more consumables so YMMV.

I’m sure you might have opinions on this as well. I think rather than argue about it it’s just good to see this counter example to the common wisdom. Maybe if you’re getting different results you’re not doing something that Robot Invader is and you could do much better if you were or visa-versa, maybe if they were doing something similar to you they’d get results similar to yours.

  • Celz

    That was a pretty good breakdown.. I’m impressed!

  • mundas88
  • Renaud Lepage

    At scale, Android is pretty equal.

    So what’s your point?

  • rayan tahir

    ios sucks

  • mundas88

    App Downloads: Android 50%, Apple 40%
    Smartphone Shipments: Android 70%, Apple 20%

    App Revenue: Android 20%, Apple 75%

    Wonder what scale youre talking about.

  • Tim Stakland

    Interesting, though Android fragmentation definitely IS a nightmare depending on the type of app you’re developing. If it relies on heavy integration with native functionality, such as the native calendar or mail, then you will have device- and version-specific bugs all over the place. I have a lot of first hand experience with that :)

  • Jeff D

    Does App Revenue include revenue from in-app ads or just revenue from the sale of apps?

  • ck

    That’s one easy shortcut!
    Making statement out of two examples? You are missing the whole picture here.
    Btw fragmentation is a real nightmare…

  • Johan van der Merwe

    it also says that “Apple was seen as earning $3 out of every $4 made by top app stores” so is that App revenue for google and apple or for the developers? I can see it being true that Apple makes more money from apps then google does, but that developers make more money from apps on the google play store then on apple store.

  • http://greggman.com greggman

    Where are these numbers coming from. They aren’t in the article linked. That article is for the entire market, not specific apps so while there’s more overall money being made on iOS that says nothing about whether individual apps are doing better on one platform vs another.

  • SteveBoobs

    That is pure BS. It is extremely easy to communicate with other apps in android, inclusive the google stuff thanks to the power of Intents.

  • SteveBoobs

    Here is another interesting questions:

    how much does Google make from iOS games that are free with ads?

  • Sim Kern Cheh

    Fragmentation problems are pretty much predictable if you developed on Android for some time. And almost every time it is because the developer falsely made assumptions when dealing with layouts.

  • Tim Stakland

    Thanks for the thought Steve Boobs, and I am not contesting that it’s easy to communicate with other apps in android. I am speaking from development experience using the Active Sync protocol to use smart phone’s native mail, calendar and contact features. We rolled out the functionality to tens of thousands of corporate customers, and I was responsible for leading the test effort including dozens of engineers testing Android, iOS, WinMobile, Windows Phone and even other mobile operating systems such as Maemo and Palm.

    When integrating with such native functionality on a small-scale, you might not have much trouble, but when developing a more complex application with such high usage, we had dozens of device- and version-specific bugs on Android. We had similar issues with different versions of iOS too.

    I imagine that your rash and impolite response was an attempt to defend your Android (and perhaps, anti-Apple) pride, which is OK (I also have my own inclinations), but this article certainly oversimplifies some of the challenges Android poses. That isn’t saying that iOS doesn’t have its own unique challenges either.

  • Halo

    Bullshit article. Comparing things when advertising budget is 100 fucking k…. And both get featured on stores…. If you want real comparison put up stats with no advertising Nd default boost of an app…on both stores. Something which an indie developer can understand. If you are writing shit for companies with huge pockets then they actually don’t need this shitty article to know how markets work.

  • SteveBoobs

    No Tim, I am actually a WP developer.

    I don’t want to sound rash again, but the explanation you gave makes it even more obvious that you don’t know what you are talking about (using a Microsoft technology that was dropped several years before the first iphone appeared?? One that was used for very small scale operation?? If this really happened then someone should be fired).

    Anyway, talking to the android calendar app is extremly easy. I suggest you read the documentation:

    http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/providers/calendar-provider.html

  • solotc

    I don’t see the point of your argument. The advertising was heavily skewed towards iOS. So if there was a large difference in the advertising money, you would think iOS would have more sales. Also, what does featuring in the store have to do with anything? Isn’t the comparison fair if they both are featured? All things being equal this comparison is skewed in iOS’s favor but the numbers show that in this case Android got more installs and therefore generated more revenue.

    No one is saying that this case is the same for everyone. Just saying in the case of a high production game, most of the preconceived notions have reason to be reconsidered.

  • Jeff Rasmussen

    Android didn’t really support ActiveSync until 4.0 Honeycomb. Prior to that version, some manufacturer’s would attempt to strap on ActiveSync into their handsets to claim “ActiveSync Compatibility”. This created a bad memory for Android among IT crowds that only understood that it worked 3+ different ways on Android. Samsung’s methods were drastically different than HTC’s which was different than Motorola’s efforts.

  • http://greggman.com greggman

    Good point. Obviously every app is going to be different. Is it a high quality app or a simple rip off? Is it a game or something else? Maybe most of iOS’s app money comes from stickers in Line or from buying filters in the 50 camera apps that have paid filters? Or as another example, maybe 10k developers are making $1 each vs $2 developers making $2.50 each. That would still show iOS’s overall money as more but per developer per app as less.

    I’m not saying any of those are true.

    The point of the article, for at least 1 developer, is iOS is not making more than Android, in fact they are making exactly the same as in the same percent of players is paying on both platform. The question is what are they doing right (so that they make money on Android) or wrong (in that they aren’t making more on iOS).

  • mundas88

    I think you misunderstood that line. It means that 3$ out of 4$ made in ALL APPSTORES comes from the Apple App Store. That fits nicely with the 75% i quoted above.

    According to Wikipedia the current Apple/Developer Ratio for both iAds and App Purchases is 30/70.

  • mundas88

    There are always exceptions to the rule. Especially on the scale of the billions of apps that exist today. One possible reason for this particular example? There might simply be *better games* on iOS than Android (read: competition).

    I’m gaming quite a bit on both iPhone and iPad and never even heard of the apps mentioned in the article (and even now, they dont seem very interesting to me).

  • the sausage

    Good breakdown but only in these instances probably relevant, most apps have much more revenue on iOS. About 75% of everything spent in either App Store or Google Play comes from iOS. Not that this is such a sacred number, just that its much more viable source of income for developers. I think also this has to do with the fact that simple pre paid gift cards are not available for Google Play store outside of U.S. After these come available its better to compare the stores. But even then its difficult because there are so much more Android devices out there than iOS. But its certainly so that these iOS owners spend more and download more per user than the average Android user.

  • http://greggman.com greggman

    Can you post some links to actual data? That IOS App Store is making more money than Google Play is not disputed. But there could be many reasons for that number that has nothing to do with revenue of individual games or in this case Free-2-Play games.

    As an example, it could be that most iOS App Store money comes from non-games (as I write this 8 of the top 10 paid iOS apps are not games). Or it could be because there are more games on iOS. If all games make similar income but there are more games on iOS for example.

    I’m not saying any of those are true nor am I saying that iOS games don’t make more than Android games. All I’m saying is without actual data, only generalities about the entire market, there’s no way to draw any conclusions. Post your data.

  • George_Cliff

    Really don’t think you can extrapolate from these two games. I would speculate that the better performance on in the Google Play ecosystem is probably due to the fact that these games are pretty lame by iOS standards. There are far better games on iOS so why would iOS users waste their time with these games whereas the games in the Google Play market just aren’t as good on average so the these games (mediocre by iOS standards) stick out in the Android universe.

  • http://greggman.com greggman

    You might be right. Post some data.

  • RCollins

    I just did a quick glance through both the Google Play and iTunes stores and both platforms rate the games roughly the same (with possible skewing to higher ratings on iOS!). The question of “quality” might be a perception one though so it would be important to know the average game rating across each platform. Even that might not be so important when you factor in weighting game ratings versus game installation rates or game ratings versus money spent in-game.

    Either way, my expectation if I assume your suggestion is true would be that the Android versions would be rated MUCH higher given the differences in installations.

  • RCollins

    And Calendaring was a nightmare prior to 4.x as well. I think anyone with a background in enterprise is justified in fearing Android fragmentation. That being said, I’m not sure Google cared about enterprise that much in the first place and GAMES certainly are an orthogonal concern. It is hard to imagine much overlap between Unity and Enterprise considerations when it comes to the platform though. Touchscreen tech is fairly ubiquitous and nearly all Android phones support OpenGL 2.0.

    @timstakland:disqus: I too work across multiple platforms on consumer and enterprise apps but in my experience Android fragmentation is now a monster under the bed rather than a real threat.

  • Micheal Marke

    Today people like Smartphone due to its most amazing features and unique applications. There are number of mobile apps available, some of apps are free as others are paid. Among all Smartphone Android OS based phone is most favorite device in all over the world. Because of increasing use of Android phones. Android Game Development is becoming fastest growing field in game development market.

  • banananaaaaa

    This was a poorly written article based on 2 games.
    one was released on android first ( so it will obviously have more users on android) the other was pure coincidence.
    The only actually myth you busted was myth 6.

  • banananaaaaa

    typical fandroid statement.
    insulting statement with no argument or point.

  • David Miller

    For android apps,Games and Softwares please visit http://www.appshah.com/

  • William J. Monson

    There are many myths around the two development programs but I think it is best to work on both if you have the resources
    william Monson from
    iPhone app