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How embattled BlackBerry intends to entice mobile game devs
How embattled BlackBerry intends to entice mobile game devs Exclusive
October 4, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

October 4, 2013 | By Christian Nutt
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

In recent weeks, BlackBerry has been slammed by bad news: the company is shedding thousands of jobs and backing away from the consumer market it was courting with its newest devices. The company is soon to be sold.

But amid all this, BlackBerry says, it still offers a dev-friendly platform for mobile developers to bring their games to. BlackBerry emphasizes that the core of its mobile game strategy is to make porting to BlackBerry as simple as possible.

Phones Need Games

After all, says Anders Jeppsson, the company's global head of games, supporting games is a give. "Gaming is the biggest category in app stores," he says. "That's something you need to cater to, regardless of how you're selling your device."

But even when BlackBerry is exiting the consumer market? "I think that people want to be productive and use their time wisely... Mobile gaming fits the definition of being able to crunch a little fun time into your day," says Sean Paul Taylor, the company's lead for gaming R&D.

In other words, BlackBerry says even with its retrenchment as a business-led platform, it still wants games to be part of that strategy.

Games Need Middleware

Taylor's team has been working to get "everything from Fmod to Unity to Marmalade to ShiVa to Ogre to Cocoas2d-x" working seamlessly on its devices, to make building games for BlackBerry easy.

"We're trying to make it zero-cost to bring your game over. I don't know how much the developer community is really aware of that," he says. "It's a no-brainer with Unity; it's just a checkbox."

When it comes to prioritizing what his team works on, Taylor puts it like this: "We're going to attend to anything that will make them money." He points out that The Bard's Tale was ported to BlackBerry in just two to three days, and made back the cost of the port in "just 26 hours."

"It doesn't cost them anything to bring it," he says, "and now they have the opportunity to grasp all these new users."

Making Money, Not Spending It

Jeppsson furthers this argument: "It's actually been quite an easy pitch for us. Fewer and fewer can make do with monetization with only one platform," he says. "There's always the top five titles in the market that generate millions a day, but for the majority of game developers, they need to be able to make money every day."

Unlike Android, BlackBerry has a small slate of devices to support -- smaller even than Apple, right now, as it just relaunched its product lines around an entirely new OS. "Blackberry has one app store and two different form factors, and that's what you really have to think about," says Jeppsson.

If anything gives faith in the company's approach, it's this: Jeppsson says that it's banking on the quality of its development environment, rather than bribes, to lure developers over.

"We're not trying to throw money at them, and as long as we throw money at them, they build for us; we're trying to lower the barrier for all developers... this will benefit us long-term, as well as the developers."

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Rodolfo Rosini
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This is like the youtube video I saw a week ago of the snake that gets beheaded and then proceed to bite and poison its own tail.

John Trauger
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Goodluck, BB. You'll need it.

Michael van Drempt
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What's funny is, the Android system is open, so they could've used it and benefited from its thriving ecosystem for no cost. That's all they would've needed to do to stay competitive.

James McWhirter
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BlackBerry 10 has a runtime environment for Jellybean apps -- Flipboard is the latest Android app to run on BlackBerry 10.

Of course it isn't as good as native apps using the Cascades interface but it's still largely helpful at lowering barriers to entry for app developers who can't yet build a native app or to gauge interest.

I can't see how BlackBerry going with Android would solve their problems. Just look at how HTC is doing, despite how their phones are good, if not better, than the massive Samsung and its unlimited marketing budget.

Paul Shirley
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HTC demonstrates Android can't magically rescue you from a well deserved bad reputation. HTC made a lot of bad phones and destroyed their own market before Samsung needed to.

RIM is in roughly the same position now, if for different reasons (not so much bad as irrelevant products). A few years back Android+BBM could have been wildly successful. Probably not now.

Harry Fields
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But everyone wants their own walled garden. No way were they going to give up BB Store sales to GPlay.

This whole article just seems to show how discombobulated their entire management structure is. They're going back to corporate. With that should come the realization that being game-dev friendly should not be their priority. Alas, RIP BB formerly known as RIM.

James McWhirter
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This is pretty good news. I recently picked up a Z10 and have been pleasantly surprised at the indie support from developers -- there's far more big name games on BlackBerry 10 than Windows Phone 8, and the majority of ports run like a dream or even better than the Android equivalent.

As such I was worried that with BlackBerry now targeting the 'prosumer' and business sectors, this chase to get indie games on the platform would be over, but alas my fears have been put to rest. Was interesting seeing the (very good) port of BADLAND hit BlackBerry 10 before Android.

There are a lot of misconceptions about BlackBerry 10 and the hardware which is a shame because it's actually very good, and I haven't used a mobile OS that fills me with joy every time I use it since webOS on my old Palm Pre.

It's just a shame BlackBerry's marketing team hasn't gotten its act together -- great features like the card-based multitasking, the best in class HTML5 browser, the BlackBerry Hub and the benefits of using QNX as a core have largely gone unadvertised.

Steve Cawood
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So, run it by me again why I should go to the trouble of porting my games to a sinking ship?

Israel Lazo
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I have published some of our games on Android and BB10 and i can say i really love all the experience of publishing in BB10, we are a really small studio and for us getting prominent on Android is nearly impossible but in blackberry they helped us by publishing tweets about our game and giving us storefront exposition. Our game got top 2 global and after that we have 8x more users and sales than our android version. They also gave us free phones for testing which was crucial to improve our game performance.

As side note our game was made with Adobe Air and it runs at 60fps on BB10 which is very important to me and to get that performance we did almost nothing.