Zombieville USA is one of the poster children of Unity on iPhone, and I'd go as far to say it's up there as one of the best examples of what can be achieved with the middleware. So when developer Mika Mobile announced it was giving up on Android as a games platform, I instantly wondered how it would reflect not just on the game's creators, but Unity also.
The developer's Battleheart currently has a score of 81 on review aggregator Metacritic, while Zombieville USA 2 is just as happy on 80. Sufficed to say, Mika Mobile has some idea of what it takes to make a quality mobile game — information it was more than willing to share in a recent, lengthy post:
Where did your dollar go? We spent about 20% of our total man-hours last year dealing with Android in one way or another — porting, platform specific bug fixes, customer service, etc. I would have preferred spending that time on more content for you, but instead I was thanklessly modifying shaders and texture formats to work on different GPUs, or pushing out patches to support new devices without crashing, or walking someone through how to fix an installation that wouldn't go through.
This required the company to shell out "thousands" for test devices, all for a platform that contributed just five per cent to its bottom line. Is that worth trading 20 per cent of your resources for? As Mika Mobile puts it, the "ratio is unsustainable".
One of the reasons a developer goes with a piece of middleware like Unity is so they don't have to worry about building the core technology or killing themselves over the possibility of a multi-platform release. You can just get on with it. That doesn't mean you're off the hook entirely — it's still up to your technical artists and programmers to make sure the shaders they're coding match the capabilities of the target devices and the demands they're putting on the hardware are reasonable.
So I think I can confidently say Unity's not to blame. Google, on the other hand, might have some work to do.
Mika Mobile's blog post clearly suggests it's the fragmented state of Android devices that's put them off the OS, while comments over at Phandroid point a finger at a lack of updates. Going by Battleheart's entries in the App Store and Google Play, both platforms were last refreshed over six months ago. It's no secret updates are the lifeblood of mobile games, and I'm willing to accept this is a contributing factor to the game's reduce income on Android. That doesn't explain why it remains profitable on iPhone, however, especially seeing as Battleheart and Zombievilla USA have four-plus star user ratings on iOS and Android.
I haven't seen other developers dumping Android, so it's hardly a trend, but it does concern me that fragmentation could be a real issue going forward for the platform. It's entirely in Google's hands how that plays out.