从一开始，Android便以极快的速度朝着优秀的游戏平台这一目标而发展。谷歌在手机操作系统的首次尝试便有力地回报了那些愿意耐心克服早期缺陷的开发者们。故事开始于2003年10月，Andy Rubin带领着他的团队在加州帕洛阿尔托创建了Android, Inc.。2005年，谷歌收购了Android Inc.，2007年组建了开放手机联盟（游戏邦注：一个由65间企业组成的商业联盟，以为移动设备开发自由标准）并推出了Android Beta SDK。
我们并不清楚Android游戏是从何时发展起来，但是我们知道，谷歌在2008年8月正式宣布Android Market将面向公众开放。除此之外，2008年10月也标志着第一款Android手机G1（基于T-Mobile的GSM网络）的诞生。大约1周后，G1（也就是HTC Dream）出现在英国市场上，但是直到2009年初，其它运营商才真正开始接触这款设备。
T-Mobile用户通过支付129美元的费用而签订两年合约（或者支付399美元而无需签订任何合约）便能够在发行当天从Android Market上下载到免费的游戏。Android Market最初只支持免费应用，直到2009年2月才开始支持付费应用。G1的硬件规格，如VGA屏幕（320 x 480），528 MHz ARM11 CPU，Adreno 130 GPU，192兆的RAM以及256兆的内存都让玩家能够更好地享受早前的经典游戏。
那时候，GI的主要竞争对手便是iPhone 3G。从硬件来看，iPhone 3G拥有相同的VGA屏幕，128兆的RAM，Power VR MBX Lite GPU，较慢的412MHz ARM CPU，以及更大的8GB内存。但是基于一些额外的硬件以及更加精致的应用系统和用户体验，其价格也高于G1（售价199美元）。同时需要注意的是，iOS平台早于Android年问世，从而让苹果能够在G1到来前便吸引了上百万用户的注意。更早进入市场让iOS在手机游戏游戏领域获得了领先优势。但是随着时间的发展，Android与iOS平台之间的差距正在逐渐缩小。这时候，手机粉丝可能会指出，黑莓比Android和iOS的出现都来得早，难道不应该说它拥有比后两者更大的优势？不得不说的是，因为黑莓主要专注于商务应用，并较晚采用触屏设置，所以它早已被Android和iOS远远甩在后面了。
最初的Android游戏包括《吃豆人》（Namco），《Solitaire》，《德州扑克》，《Snake》，《Chess》以及《祖玛泡泡龙》（Glu Mobile）。在发行后的4个月内，Namco的《吃豆人》便获得了超过25万的下载量。而其它较受欢迎的游戏的下载量也均维持在5万至25万之间。相比之下，苹果的App Store也是在同时期与玩家见面（2008年7月），并在1个月时间里获得了总应用下载量为6千万的好成绩。而在这短短的时间里，Sega凭借着《超级侯子球3D》（售价9.99美元）超越了Namco的《吃豆人》，即共获得超过30万的下载量。
那一年Android游戏的发展很大程度受益于谷歌的Android Developer 2大赛，在此诞生了许多具有重大意义的游戏。RatSquare的《急速飚车3D》便在街机/行动类游戏中取得了第一名的佳绩，而开发商Che的多人游戏《What the Doodle?!》也在休闲/益智游戏类别中摘得桂冠。这里还诞生了其它著名的2D游戏，包括Hexage的《Totemo》以及Occamy Games的《Moto X Mayhem》。
iOS游戏开发者却不需要面对这些问题。尽管苹果执行的是较为严格的控制规则，但是开发者却只需要面向一种纵横比去开发游戏（至少直到现在的iPhone 5仍保持着这样的情况）。面向单一的3:2纵横比开发游戏能够帮助iOS游戏开发者抵消他们在面对苹果繁琐的App Store审批过程中所遭受到的“折磨”。
2010年，随着各大手机社交游戏平台的出现，如OpenFeint，Scoreloop以及Papaya Mobile，Android开发者也迎来了更多解决方法，包括全球排行榜，成就机制以及玩家管理机制等。这些公司让开发者可以无需管理基础设施而执行各种社交功能。正是看到这种便利性，广大开发者们都纷纷使用了这些平台。同一年，GREE以1.04亿美元的高价收购了OpenFeint，而Research In Motion也收购了Scoreloop（但并未公开收购价格）。
与G1最初问世以来相比，如今的游戏质量已经取得了巨大的进步。多亏于强大的硬件设备的发展，如Nexus 7平板电脑，如今的Android玩家已经可以享受各种3D游戏了，如Madfinger Games的《Dead Trigger》，Gameloft的《狂野飚车：热度》以及艺电的《质量效应》。而因为4D连接性能的完善，这一平台上也出现了越来越多受欢迎的MMO。手机设备所具有的“随拿随玩”的本质让玩家可以在任何地方控制他们的游戏角色。Spacetime Studios的《口袋传奇》以及Com2uS的《魔法世界》便都获得了上百万下载量的好成绩。
The State of Android Gaming – Past, Present, and Future
by Matt Haggerty
Since its inception, Android has matured rapidly as a gaming platform. Google’s first attempt at a mobile operating system has handsomely rewarded those who had the patience – and drive! — to overcome its early shortcomings. The story begins in October 2003, when Android, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, CA by Andy Rubin and his team. Later, in 2005, Google acquired Android Inc., and by 2007, the Open Handset Alliance had been formed and the Android Beta SDK released.
It’s unknown exactly when the first Android games entered development, but in August 2008, Google announced that the Android Market would open to the public that October. October 2008 also marks the release of the first Android phone, the G1, on T-Mobile’s GSM network. About a week later, the G1 (also known as the HTC Dream) showed up in the UK, but it wouldn’t be until early 2009 that other carriers would receive the device.
T-Mobile customers that ponied up $129 with new two year contract (or $399 without contract) could start downloading free games from the Android Market on launch day. The Android Market initially only supported free apps, and paid app support arrived later in February of 2009. The G1’s hardware specs such as its VGA screen (320 x 480), 528 MHz ARM11 CPU, Adreno 130 GPU (an anagram of ATI’s Radeon brand), 192 MB of RAM, and 256 MB of internal storage enabled gamers to enjoy some early, classic titles.
The iPhone 3G was the G1’s main competitor at the time. In terms of hardware, the iPhone 3G had a similar VGA screen, 128MB of RAM, Power VR MBX Lite GPU, slightly slower 412MHz ARM CPU, but much larger 8GB of internal storage. However, this extra bit of hardware, along with a more refined app ecosystem and user experience, came at a higher $199 price. It’s also worth noting that the iOS platform was publicly available nearly 2 years before Android, which enabled Apple to put millions of devices in consumers’ hands prior the G1’s arrival. Getting to market sooner gave iOS an early lead in mobile gaming. However, as the years passed, this gap would eventually close. Mobile enthusiasts may be quick to point out that BlackBerry was in existence long before Android and iOS; shouldn’t it have had an advantage over both of its competitors? However, due to its focus on business applications and late adoption of touch screens, it was quickly left behind.
During the early days of the G1, developers had to be very conscious of the memory footprint of their games. The CPU and GPU were relatively weak (by today’s standards), and its 256MB of internal storage was quickly filled by the operating system itself, leaving little room for entertainment. Android also had a little known restriction that came into play during app installation. It would not permit the user to install an app unless the user had at least 4 times the amount of disk space needed. For example, an app with a package size of 4MB could only be installed on a device that had at least 32MB of free space. Despite these challenges, the first round of games available on the Android Market was good enough to light the spark.
Initial Android games included the likes of Pac-Man by Namco, Solitaire, Texas Hold ‘Em, Snake, Chess, and Bonsai Blast by Glu Mobile. Within 4 months of release, Namco’s Pac-Man had racked up more than 250,000 downloads. Other popular game titles were slightly behind at 50,000 to 250,000 downloads a piece. By comparison, the Apple App Store opened around the same time (July 2008) and within a month users had downloaded more than 60 million apps total. During this same short timeframe, Sega surpassed Namco’s Pac-Man sales numbers by selling more than 300,000 copies of its 3D Super Monkey Ball (at $9.99 each).
While iOS was showing off fancy 3D titles, Android gamers had to settle for 2D games, and network-based multiplayer hadn’t yet made its way onto the scene. Even with simpler 2D graphics, the G1 would sometimes struggle while rendering frames in some of the more visually intense titles such as Bonsai Blast. Developers were still new to the platform, and the hardware had a long way to go. However, the G1 provided the first step toward what would eventually become a notable gaming platform.
Throughout 2009, new Android devices and OS versions were released in ever faster succession across a wide variety of carriers, with each device improving on its predecessor’s hardware specs, software efficiency, and user experience. The proliferation of new devices brought with it a host of new games, some of which included significant improvements such as parallax scrolling, 3D graphics, and network-enabled multiplayer.
That year the state of Android gaming was also propelled forward by Google’s Android Developer 2 competition which yielded some landmark games. For example, Speed Forge 3D by RatSquare took home first prize in the arcade/action category, and developer Che’s multiplayer What the Doodle?! was at the top of the casual/puzzle category. Other notable 2D finishers included Hexage’s Totemo and Moto X Mayhem by Occamy Games.
2009 also marks the beginning of Android’s fragmentation problem. By the end of the year, at any single point in time, Android devices could be found with different hardware, different carriers, different Android versions, and different screen sizes and aspect ratios. These new features enabled developers (and gamers) to push the envelope, but it came at a price. In some cases, games that looked great on VGA screens now had black bars, as developers struggled to effectively use the additional screen real estate on new devices. In other cases, developers were forced to choose between creating a game with high-end graphics for only a select few and creating a lower end title that would work on a wider variety of devices.
Fragmentation has only gotten worse with time, but luckily developers have learned how to manage it by employing better practices, tools, and techniques. For example, when creating a new Android game, developers now take the wide variety of devices into consideration and plan ahead for tackling the associated issues. Partially as a result, the use of OpenGL has become increasingly common as it offers many clean ways to appropriately display content regardless of a screen’s aspect ratio, physical size, or pixel density. Cross-platform tools such as LibGDX and Unity3D have done a good job helping developers overcome these hurdles.
While Android game developers were busy learning how to overcome fragmentation, developers working on iOS titles did not have to address these considerations. Due to Apple’s tightly controlled approach, iOS games could be developed for a single aspect ratio with nicely scaled pixel densities (at least until the release of the iPhone 5). The added simplicity of developing games for a single 3:2 aspect ratio helped iOS game developers offset some of the hurdles required by Apple’s cumbersome App Store approval process.
Starting in 2010, mobile social gaming platforms such as OpenFeint, Scoreloop, and Papaya Mobile emerged to offer Android developers with easy solutions for adding features such as global leaderboards, achievements, and player management. These companies gave developers the opportunity to implement social features without requiring them to manage the infrastructure. Due to their incredibly convenient offerings, developers quickly adopted the platforms. Since 2010, both OpenFeint and Scoreloop have been acquired. OpenFeint was purchased by GREE for $104 million and Scoreloop was purchased by Research In Motion (RIM) for an undisclosed sum.
Ease of integration and intrusiveness of these social gaming platforms has often been a point of contention between players and developers. Therefore, Swarm, a new alternative, was created in 2011. With Swarm (aka SwarmConnect), mobile game developers can add social gaming features with only a few lines of code, and they can choose when and where to use each feature. Full APIs are also available to enable developers to create experiences that match the look and feel of their own games.
Throughout 2011, Android improved by leaps and bounds and its market share increased exponentially. Companies with well-known brand names such as Electronic Arts and Disney have joined the fray alongside mobile specialists Gameloft and Rovio in hopes of capturing their share of the pie.
The quality of games has come a long ways since the G1 first entered the scene. Thanks to powerful hardware on devices such as the Nexus 7 tablet, today Android gamers can enjoy solid 3D titles such as Madfinger Games’ Dead Trigger, Gameloft’s Asphalt 7: Heat, and EA’s Mass Effect. MMOs are also becoming increasingly popular thanks to the growing availability of 4G connectivity. The pick-up-and-play nature of mobile devices enables players to work on leveling up their characters whether they’re at home or on the go. Pocket Legends by Spacetime Studios has enjoyed millions of downloads and so has Com2uS’s The World of Magic.
Mobile devices are rapidly coming up to par with dedicated gaming systems such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, and it seems that they will continue to disrupt the handheld gaming market before finally taking it over almost entirely. Handhelds have yet to show the market that they can match the convenience and connectivity of mobile device gaming.
What’s in store for the future of Android gaming? Android will likely continue to find its way into an ever increasing variety of devices. Perhaps one of the most notable devices released to date has been Sony’s game-centric Xperia Play, but this is only the beginning. Recently, a company named Boxer8 raised more than $8 million dollars on Kickstarter to help launch the Ouya, an Android-based video game console willing to take on the Big Three in the living room.
Branching outside of video games, Android is being used as a platform to control physical devices such as the Sphero the robot gaming system, and Parrot’s AR Drone quadcopters. Furthermore, Google has already announced that Google’s Project Glass will become available in 2013 which will undoubtedly become a platform for innovative game design.
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be part of mobile gaming, and we at Swarm can’t wait to see what’s around the corner!(source:GAMASUTRA)