Realigning the Azimuth

The Porting Dilemma

When it comes to bring a game (or application) out, there’s always going to be the question about ports. Whether it comes up during development, or the point after you get it out the door and into the player’s hands - it’s bound to come up sooner or later.

The first factor is always looking at how the game has been built and whether or not a port is even feasible in the first place. Whilst the traditional notion of a port from scratch could be possible in an extreme case (and can have wildly different outcomes as Portscenter shows) - it’s likely to be not the most optimal solution.

I’ve been lucky that with Pocket Dogfights, I ended up building the game with Unity, as it does make porting feasible - at least once the costs for licenses & for development hardware are covered.

Once the technical feasibility of a port has been determined - the focus turns to the numbers game. Sadly, it’s always a case of the size of a platform versus the potential audience versus the ease of signing up to any developer programs verses the complexity in supporting the platform.

Using Pocket Dogfights as the example - my original intent was to publish the game onto iOS, and then maybe desktops. I added the Android version upon request of a few friends, and was lucky that during GDC 2012, Unity decided to allow people to obtain the basic Android & iOS publishing licences at no cost - which meant I could at least experiment with porting to Android.

Beyond that, when it comes to the numbers - one also needs to factor in selling the game. I had originally planned to release the desktop versions within a few weeks of the iOS/Android launch, but circumstances happened to not make that possible. Consequentially, I had to look for an alternative - which ended up taking several months. In the interim, I was able to get a Mac version out onto the Mac App Store - but at the time, there wasn’t such other options.

At the moment, that results in 5 versions (iOS, Android, Windows, OS X, Linux) of the game, onto 4 stores (iOS App Store, Google Play, Mac App Store, Gumroad) - and at the moment, I think I’m at the stage where coordinating these releases is starting to consume a significant amount of time.

Thus, I’m not sure I want to be doing any more ports at the moment - in theory, thanks to the Unity & Microsoft deal, I should be able to publish a version for Windows Phone 8 & Windows 8 - but the paperwork required to set that up feels too much for the moment.

But what about other platforms? At this stage, I feel like I’d really need some incentives to perform more ports, instead of focusing on getting paying work, let alone starting with design or prototyping work on a new project (either a game, or an app).

When it comes to looking at what other developers - I feel like I see other developers who have their choice and they stick to it, or those who are able to wave a hand, and suddenly ports just appear.

Is that an observation shared by other developers, or am I alone in that one? Perhaps, I really should be happy with the platforms I have Pocket Dogfights out on, and follow the plan in my head with moving to maintenance and no additional platforms.