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Super Hexagon: An example of why you shouldn't ignore Android Exclusive
 Super Hexagon : An example of why you shouldn't ignore Android
January 23, 2013 | By Mike Rose

January 23, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

It isn't really worth launching your mobile game for Android. Thanks to fragmentation and piracy, the Google Play store is a minefield -- you might as well stick to iOS.

That's what some developers believe, and Android is regularly snubbed in favor of an iOS-only release, even at a time when the number of Android devices out there is surging rapidly.

Terry Cavanagh launched Super Hexagon on iOS several months ago, and sold more than 10,000 copies in its first three days on sale on Apple's App Store. Since then he's been slowly but surely, piecing together an Android version, with hardware fragmentation issues holding it back consistently.

But Cavanagh battled through all of this, and finally released the game via the Google Play store earlier this week. And to his surprise, it was most definitely worth the effort -- the game has now sold more than 25,000 copies on Android in just the first four days on sale, easily besting the initial days of the iOS version.

"I'd heard from other developers that Android is a much smaller market than iOS, so yeah, its success has been quite a surprise!" he tells us. "It's not really fair to make a direct comparison, because nobody had heard of the game when it launched on iOS - but so far, the Android launch has been bigger than the iOS launch, which I would never have expected."

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Anyone who follows Cavanagh on Twitter will know that he's had numerous problems with getting Super Hexagon to play nicely on every Android device, with the Google Nexus 7 tablet in particular causing such deep problems that he was eventually forced to say that the device would be incompatible with the game.

"I think developing for Android is basically a lot like developing for PC," he notes. "Even if you can get things working nicely on 99 percent of devices out there, there's still a good possibility you'll encounter problems with odd devices, just because of how many different types of Androids are out there."

Yet despite these issues, the VVVVVV developer hasn't been put off the platform. "It hasn't been too bad though, considering," he adds. "We've already managed to fix most of the main device specific issues since launching a few days ago."

As for Cavanagh's mobile future, there's no doubt in his mind that he'll be aiming for both iOS and Android releases for his next games.

"I think it was well worth the effort," he says. "I'll definitely be bringing any future mobile games I make to Android."

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Ryan Creighton
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Where did Terry get his hands on all the devices to test the game, i wonder? Loaners from manufacturers? From friends? What was the specific Nexus 7 problem? What was the cost of testing in time spent * Terry's hourly wage? Inquiring minds.

David Amador
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probaby beta testers who own such devices

Mike Rose
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Hey Ryan,

afaik, Terry asked for beta testers on Twitter, and got results back from people with as many Android devices as possible. I'm sure he had several Android devices to hand himself too.

As for the Nexus 7 problem, you can find the details here:


Wasin Thonkaew
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My thought is that he has user base willing to test the game as he's quite popular with previous games, it's not that hard to send builds to friends.

Joe E
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This is a great data point. However, it still stands (and this article confirms as well) that releasing for iOS has a much lower barrier of entry, so doing what he did is probably the smartest plan: release it first on the most cost-effective platform to develop for, and _if_ the game does well enough, then of course it would warrant the effort to jump through the hoops to port it.

R. Hunter Gough
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It's funny to see you say that iOS has a lower barrier of entry; I released "Slider" -- my first mobile game -- on Android specifically because Android had a lower barrier to entry for me than iOS. I had a Windows PC, could get the Android Basic plugin for Unity for $400, could get a used Android phone capable of running the game for $50, and it cost $25 to become a Google Play developer for life, for a total cost of $475 to develop an Android game.

If I'd wanted to make it for iOS, even if I'd already owned a Mac, the cost would've been $400 for Unity iOS Basic, $150 for a used iPod Touch 4, and $100 (per year!) to become a licensed iOS Developer, for a total cost of $650 (plus the cost of a Mac, because I didn't have one).

Chris Melby
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@R. Hunter Gough,

Another cost to factor in on iOS development, is the cost of upgrading your OS every 7 months; at least going by Apple's recent actions.

In order to target the latest iOS SDK, you have to have the latest version of XCode, which requires the latest version of OS X.

Joe E
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article: "Anyone who follows Cavanagh on Twitter will know that he's had numerous problems with getting Super Hexagon to play nicely on every Android device"

you: "could get a used Android phone capable of running the game for $50"

Evidently you're not doing a thorough test. Just "hoping" it works on most devices because it works on _one_ device is pretty blind-sided to the very real issues of fragmentation (again, ^article).

My point stands: to get a product through any kind of QA process (even if you do it yourself) is cheaper on iOS than Android.

Chris Melby
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@ Joaquin

Until you get your feet wet, the fear of developing for Android is mostly superficial and if I were a betting man, I'd say you're absolute set in not supporting it and just looking for any excuse/reason not to do so; which is fine, it's your choice.

I support both platforms for enterprise, and I do not agree with your one sided assessment. Android has a way lower entry point from where I stand.

Target the devices that sell well -- which it's pretty obvious -- and ignore the configurations you don't want to support; Google makes it easy to exclue the vomit. This will keep your QA inline/manageable.

Arnaud Clermonté
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The sales at launch don't say much.
The reason it had a slower start on iOS is that the success is based on word-of-mouth.
That doesn't mean the total Android sales will be worth the effort in the long term.

Groove Stomp
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Well, he's already said the Android release was worth the effort, so it's very unlikely that it will become "not worth the effort" beyond this point. My mind boggles trying to come up with such a scenario!

Alejandro Valenzuela
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25,000 USD, that's 1/3 an average programmer's annual wage in the US, in just four days. If it took him less than 4 months to port it to Android, to me it already looks like good business.

Josh Riley
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That's 25000 copies, not dollars. I can't remember the exact cost, but I'm fairly certain its well above a dollar.

Joe E
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I'm not set in not supporting it, in fact my original comment is that it makes sense to support it, but iOS has lower entry so it makes sense to do what Cavanagh did, one first then the other. I hope you're not a betting man, indeed :) I run a business, I'm not a fanboy. I take a look at costs and effort involved in any decision, and recommend courses of action based on what has the better chance of return of investment.

When you say Android has "way lower" entry cost, would you care to elaborate? Above you say the OS upgrade cost is one of those. That's $29/yr. Add that to the $175 that R. Hunter calls. You have a whooping $204 of difference. If you're calling this "way lower", then we're clearly not talking about the same ballpark, and I will concede: if $200 (or $500) makes a difference to your operating costs, then by all means Android is cheaper and you should stick with it.

Your advice is good - "stick with the ones that sell", but you can't deny the fragmentation even there. And I'm not saying it's impossible to have a manageable QA pipeline with Android. I'm just saying having with iOS is cheaper (in operating cost, not only out of pocket expense).

Chris Melby
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This is why I'm not a betting man. :)

Sorry, this is long and there's always more to both sides...

I'm still not in aggreeance on iOS having a lower entry, which when I say way lower 'entry,' I mean exactly that, not maintance -- which on Android can be no additional cost; so technically it's still way lower. ;)

Android's SDK is free to download for anyone with no fee to Google, nor approval process. One can develop on Android on pretty much any computer / desktop OS, so a $50 PC -- which Microcenter sells, or something fancy like a $99 netbook.

The most popular Android tablet at the moment is a Nexus 7 -- which has a $199 entry point for a new one, so IMO, a no brainer for any new developer looking for a good device to target -- ignore the vomit is my modo and going by sells, consumers are doing the same; people buy what's safe.

Outside of the cost of the equipment -- which has so many options for price points, which IMO is a good thing -- there's no additional cost like iOS. The $30 one-time-fee to Google is optional and only required if one wants to submit an app to Google's Play Store.

Andd Q&A is subjective to what you want to support, which I choose not to make my life hell and it puts me in a price pointe lower than keeping up with Apple's new hardware. I have a Tegra 2 and Exnyos tablet and I've found what works on one works on the other along with the other devices I have access to. I've not had any messed up hardware specific issues for what I do; overall things are controlled now days and predictable. I spend more time on art assets and programming, than Q&A, because I know what I can get away with.

*** rant *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
And $29 a year for an OS update, yeah, its price is a drop in the bucket and way less than what I've spent in the past. Now if I were lucky, which I guess I'm not, I'd be OK with grabbing Apple's latest OS on day one, but as noted, I'm not lucky...

When I moved from OS 9 to 10.2, Photoshop crashed on me on a constant basis and my Wacom didn't even work -- by 10.3, most of this was finally resolved. When I moved from 10.3 to 10.4, two of my three volumes on my G5 would not load -- I lost a days work getting this resolved. When I moved from 10.4 to 10.6.3, Photoshop started crashing on me 'again' and lucky me, I experienced Apple's black screen until they fixed this buggy OS -- which later builds were stable. When I moved from 10.6 to 10.7, my install drive in my MacBook Pro failed on me; this could be coincidence, but regardless, I lost a weeks work not including the time waiting for a drive replacment.

I've been buying Macs since the System OS days and Apple has rarely released a stable update on anything, so having to update my OS every year( 7 months? ), just to target the latest SDK is absolute CRAP IMO; It has always taken longer than that just for Apple to fix the bugs the introduced in their last OS update. Upgarding an OS requires time, the chance of compatibility issues, and the chance of problems; and going by my experience, that chance is pretty high and rarely worth the headache. I'm not on 10.8 yet and have no plans anytime soon -- maybe never.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Anyways, since Android's operating cost is $0 beyond the initial price to entry -- which can just be the cost of hardware, iOS does have a higher operating cost. Now if Android were a fragmented nightmare -- of which some claim to be the case, generally those that never spent any real time on Android if any -- then I'd be in agreeance with your points, but my own experience speaks other wise and I have little issues for what I do.

Jeff Zugale
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I think the best way to reframe this is to add the following to the headline:

"Super Hexagon: An example of why you shouldn't ignore Android - assuming you've already made a great, fun, popular, successful and profitable game for iOS."