| | 11-12-2012, 04:35 PM Thread Author #1
Blackberry’s hard sell: Volker Hirsch on why a new operating system is winning over developers
source: Blackberry's hard sell: Volker Hirsch on why a new operating system is winning over developers | Features | Edge Online
The “other fruit guys” kickstarted a mobile games revolution with iPhone, then with iPad. Now BlackBerry has set its sights on the mobile games space, looking to seduce studios worldwide with a new platform and developer-friendly approach. But is it too late?
Certainly not, according to Volker Hirsch, Blackberry’s global head of business development for games. He is spearheading BlackBerry’s charm offensive after it acquired Scoreloop, his previous employer, in June 2011. Hirsch has been on the road talking to developers and extolling the virtues of the new BlackBerry 10 ecosystem, due for release early next year. There will be two new handsets, one touchscreen and one with the physical ‘qwerty’ keypad you’d expect from a BlackBerry.
Galaxy On Fire 2 HD running on a Blackberry PlayBook
When Hirsch presents to developers, he has what he calls a “myths and realities” slide, which really sums up the task ahead of him. He has to challenge the common perception of games on BlackBerry devices: they’re difficult to port to, no-one plays games on them, and developers don’t make any money from them.
It’s clear that BlackBerry sees its biggest opportunity to set that straight in the innate shortcomings of existing rival marketplaces, the App Store and Google Play. “A lot of people feel the pain at the moment with Apple, and maybe even more so with Google,” Hirsch tells us. “With Apple, at least if you make it to the top you can make money, but with Google that’s questionable for most. I think we have very strong answers to both discoverability and monetisation.”
Before getting into all that, though, BlackBerry needs to convince developers that porting games over to its platform is a worthwhile exercise in the first place. Hirsch has an answer for that, too. “Galaxy On Fire 2 HD was ported over by one engineer in one day,” he says. “We make it easy for people. [Developer] Fishlabs could only do this in a day because we made sure all the tools and engines and scripting languages are there so that they don’t have to change their development process around. They work with the tools they are used to working with.”
Hirsch puts a lot of this down to the BlackBerry 10 OS. BlackBerry’s parent company RIM acquired QNX in April 2010, and based its new operating system on that tech. “It’s a multi-threaded OS which addresses multicore infrastructures much more efficiently,” he says. “Software engineers will smile when they see that.”
The next perception BlackBerry needs to overturn is that no-one releases games on App World because, well, no-one plays games on their devices. “There are 103,000 apps already on App World – it’s not an empty place,” contends Hirsch. “A lot of the leading games are there already and it’s a vibrant space. It has had less attention from the gaming community in the past, but ever since we started talking to the community and talking to developers, we have changed that quite quickly.”
Mobile’s evil twins, monetisation and discoverability, are problems Hirsch feels BlackBerry can capitalise on, too. With BlackBerry 10 it has built the Scoreloop technology it acquired last year into the OS. Hirsch says that in doing so, new devices will harness the power of social recommendation through BlackBerry Messenger, which already has 60 million active users.
“You can use BBM to gift apps using the BBM API,” says Hirsch. “You can alert your friends and recommend a game using that and point them straight to it rather than coming out of the game and going into your text messages and so on. It’s really the centrepoint of the whole BlackBerry 10 proposition – to bring in a more natural flow.”
And monetisation? BlackBerry owners pay more for games because it is a premium brand; Rovio charges £2.99 for Angry Birds on App World, for example. Carrier billing will help, too, and it’s something only BlackBerry 10 can offer. Hirsch is confident that purchasing apps through the carrier rather than via credit card is a better, slicker user experience and results in higher sales. “When it comes to monetisation, BlackBerry has always held up better than others,” he says. “We can’t share direct numbers, but when you look at the key metrics of how many people download, there are quite a few analysts that have stated that Blackberry App World is actually more profitable than Google Play.”
Hirsch and BlackBerry show a really strong understanding of what games developers want – easy ports, return on investment and discoverable games. BlackBerry 10 is an interesting proposition for studios, but setting those ‘myths and realities’ straight in the hearts and minds of the development community’s feels like the first part of BlackBerry’s wider challenge. Those same preconceptions about games on BlackBerry in the minds of the phone-buying public might be tougher to overturn, up against well-established players like Android, Windows and those “other fruit guys”.