Android Fragmentation: Alive and Devastating Android Gaming Efforts

I love Tower Defense games such as Plants vs. Zombies and Fieldrunners, so when I saw a link on Google+ for a great new tablet / Honeycomb based TD game I got excited! When I heard it was a magic-based variant on the genre, I was intrigued and based on a couple of comments I was pretty well sold! Here is the description of Magic Defenders HD:

Ready for magic circles, spells and an endless army of orcs?
Be the hero and defend your village from the evil orcs in three different invasion episodes. You will fight in the forest, near the walls and inside the town to defend the town’s last resort, the castle. Compete with people around the world for the highest score in an endless battle to defend everyone in an arcade style gameplay.

Then I hit the link to the Android Market and got smacked in the face with the Android Fragmentation bat … again! There is nothing like seeing “This app is incompatible with all of your devices.”

When I bring up ‘Android Fragmentation’ I am typically rebuked by a chorus of ‘it isn’t so bad’, and am reminded that most apps people care about run pretty well on the majority of devices and majority of OS versions in use. When I point to version incompatibility and lagging updates I hear that 2.2 is a pretty modern version even if it has been out for over 18 months and has some distinct disadvantages from 2.3.x. When I talk about tablets … well, there is little disagreement to the problems there.

But the #1 Android Fragmentation issue for me … is games. Perhaps that isn’t surprising since I am such a heavy gamer, but it still surprises me just HOW bad it is.

I have said before that I have yet to find a game that performs better – or even as well – on Android as on iOS. While there are many things Android does well – gaming simply isn’t one. The graphics look worse, load times are longer (even with a faster processor), responsiveness is comparatively lacking, and so on. That doesn’t mean Android games are ‘bad’ – I’ve been playing a bunch of them and they work just fine. Plenty of folks happily game on Android daily. It is just a comparative thing.

That I could deal with so long as I could actually play all of the games I wanted.

There was a poll on an Android site this week about ‘how many apps you bought last week’. When I thought about it I realized that in spite of WANTING to buy several games … I bought NONE.

Gameloft has started bringing games to the Android Market, and supposedly a big push for them was the Tegra chipset. Yet my Tegra-based Acer Iconia isn’t supported by anything they make. And for anyone wondering what ever happened to my ‘Spectral Souls’ review, the game claims to be compatible with all of my devices, yet only works on my original Droid so I never finished it. There are other games that claim compatibility but don’t work correctly – this is particularly true for my Iconia Tab. And I can’t even think of all of the other games that are incompatible with my devices that I would have bought from the market based on good ratings and low price.

Given the massive gaming market Apple has created with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, it would seem to me that gaming should be a priority to Android – but based on actions and results it is not. Let me be clear – as someone using Android for two years now, Android gaming is a failure. Maybe not PSP-level failure, but certainly much worse than it should be at this point in the OS history.

I understand that Google and their partners are in a tough situation trying to constantly catch up to Apple, particularly in terms of tablets. But since the smartphone OS has matured very nicely I hope that ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ or whatever the next release is called finally brings some decent capability, and that something happens to facilitate gamers actually getting to buy more than just Angry Birds and a few other top-level games on most systems.

What has your experience been with games and various Android devices? Am I just asking too much to expect things to ‘just work’? Should developers do more? Should Google be taking the lead? Let us know what you think!

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!