The Droid, Verizon's soon-to-be-released Android Phone, will run with the same chip that the iPhone runs on, which should give the device great 3D support. However, developers may have to decide which phones to support. Likely, the lowest common denominator will be supported (the phones released earlier). The Droid has the potential of not only splitting the user base for Android, but also adding the complexity of "system requirements" to your gaming. This makes me a bit nervous.
The Android Market really shines when you look more carefully at what's offered. Classic game emulation is one of the things that Android does the best, which is not available on iPhone, because of Apple's store policies. NES games run nearly full speed with full sound, Genesis runs near full speed without sound, and there are also emulators available for GBA, SNES, and more. The developer community has done a great job porting these things over, and it really does stand tall when compared to other devices.
So, back to the questions that I asked at the top of the article:
How does Android stack up for gaming?
Depends on your point of view. Although The Droid may change things in the near future, 3D gaming is worse on Android than on the iPhone / iTouch. Android is more capable as the DS, however, and that's good news. The Market is younger than the App Store, so there are a bunch of "quick" games in that marketplace, rather than full blown experiences. That said, a few major players have entered the scene, and as Android gains marketshare, this is likely to change rapidly. In the meantime, emulation is a perfectly good excuse for gaming on Android, and offers hundreds / thousands of games that other platforms don't have.
Android gaming gets a thumbs up from me, but just barely. There's great potential, especially in the 3D games space, but there's just not a lot there yet. Emulation and quirky developers will keep me entertained for quite some time though.
What's the furture of gaming on Android?
The future of gaming on Android is very bright. The Droid and Asus' nettop computer will bring high quality graphics to the scene. Over the next few years, at least till Apple's contract with AT&T expires, the platform is nearly garaunteed to grow in marketshare. At a minimum, I expect that Android will take some share from Windows Mobile (if not those stubborn BlackBerry users!).
Right now, Android just needs to hit that critical mass that iPhone developers didn't wait for. Because Apple had an almost garaunteed winner on their hands, everyone leapt on the platform instantly. It'll take a while for Google to convince big corporate developers that their OS is going to have enough momentum to invest effort into creating games for the system. Or maybe the developers just need to convince themselves - relative to Apple, the Android Market's policies are incredibly loose (some apps have been pulled from the Android Market, but not on nearly the same level as Apple).
Will Android serve to unify the mobile gaming market, or bring additional confusion?
This is the clincher. What will happen when The Droid hits? What happens when Asus brings their Android nettop and their 1Ghz phone to market? Until now, we've had several devices with roughly the same specs. Will developers continue to push games to the lowest spec device? I think that they will, at least for the next year or two. At a minimum, someone with vision needs to step in and start creating experiences similar to either the iPhone or the Nintendo DS for Android. There really needs to be a defining experience or moment for Google's little OS, and that simply hasn't happened yet.
Without an "oh wow" moment for Android, I'm not sure that gaming will gain or retain focus.
But that might be OK. Android does turn "just a phone" into "one hell of a phone". If that's good enough to gain marketshare, the rest will likely follow.
Some other places Doom has appeared: Doom (32X) | Doom (3DO) | Doom 64 (64) | The Depths of Doom Trilogy (PC) |
More about Blaster Master: Blaster Master 2 (Genesis) | Blaster Master (NES) |
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