Unless you live under a rock at the bottom of a crater in the shadow of a mountain on Mars, you’ve read that Google’s supposed to announce a self-branded Android-based super-phone, dubbed the Nexus One, sometime today. It’ll probably be an unlocked GSM phone, use a Qualcomm 1 GHz Snapdragon chip, employ an OLED touchscreen (no physical keyboard), weigh in thinner than Apple’s iPhone, and sport two mics. It’ll also presumably run version 2.1 of the Android operating system which is supposed to “streamline” the app purchase/checkout experience.
But what about the games?
In early 2008, Google held a contest to encourage talented young developers to craft apps for their then-fledgling Android platform. The sense at the time, per interviews conducted by mobile games publisher Electronic Arts, was that Android was “as strong of a gaming platform as the iPhone,” and that the device could be “a huge source of innovation from creative developers armed with an idea, a computer and a phone.”
Two years on, it’s difficult to argue Google’s delivered. Type ‘android games’ into Google and the results are pretty depressing. Android Gamez, the top hit, returns a spartan blue and white despoiled by Google ads and questionable links–the list of games run down the base of the site and amount to just 22 titles, ranging from uninteresting perennials like Pac-Man and Tetris to only marginally less interesting others like Lunar Lander and Sudoku.
This unofficial Android gaming forum seems more lively, but lacks a helpful “sticky” to direct casual viewers to the games themselves. If you want to find stuff, you’ll have to poke around the boards and sort through frequent reminiscing, commiseration, and requests for support.
AndroidGamesPro, which sports one of those annoying Evony banner ads, offers a list of “top 10” games, but it’s dated to October 2009. What’s more, most of the titles on the list are just repeats of the handful of games you’ll find listed anywhere else.
So where, exactly, are all the great Android games? John Biggs writing for Mobile Crunch tenders an answer: MIA due to storage space limits.
The real culprit behind the lack of Android apps isn’t lack of developer adoption or a difficult SDK – it’s the ludicrous 256MB limit on app storage for most current Android phones and Android 2.0 itself. The OS also does not support the installation of apps on removable storage like SD cards, further ruining chances for more effusive and expansive titles. Considering most apps are in the 10MB range we’re talking a max of 25 apps on a good day and about 5 on a bad one.
Will the Nexus One address Biggs’ concerns? We’ll see. I’m considering a Droid myself, but I’ll hold steady until Google convinces me they’ve got their head screwed on straight about the mobile entertainment market. It’s flourishing, while Droid games aren’t, and that’s a crippling incongruity, as far as I’m concerned.