BlackBerry can regain lost ground ... if developers support it, reckons Paw Print Games director Antony White

Bottom has been reached

BlackBerry can regain lost ground ... if developers support it, reckons Paw Print Games director Antony White
| Paw Print Games news

Does good software trigger hardware sales, or do developers need a platform to boast a secure userbase before they can commit to it?

It's the chicken and egg quandary that all new gaming platforms have to handle at launch. It's much rarer, however, for a format to have to deal with such problems two or so years into its life.

RIM was late to the party in terms of serving up an app platform for its OS, with BlackBerry App World launching almost a year after the App Store - lag it's never fully recovered from.

The platform has taken further knocks since, with PlayBook failing to set the world alight to date and the next big update to RIM's smartphone line-up – BlackBerry 10 – delayed until late 2012.

Yet, despite such ills, Paw Print Games has decided to bring its library to the platform, with Kami Retro, KamiCrazy and Battle Bugs all launching on PlayBook.

We caught up with studio director Antony White to ask why, with a bit more developer support, he believes RIM still has a winner on its hands.

Pocket Gamer: Why did you decide to target PlayBook?

Antony White: Paw Print Games aims to get on as many platforms as possible.

Our first title, Kami Retro has been released on iPhone, iPad, Android, webOS for both mobile and TouchPad, and PlayBook, and we still have more platforms lined up - bada, Win32 and MacOSX.

We have been keeping our eyes on BlackBerry and RIM for sometime and had been eagerly awaiting a native SDK to become available so we can port our C++ code base to the platform. As soon as the beta was opened to develop natively, we got in touch with RIM and worked from there.

If we can develop natively for a platform we look to target it and as early as possible too.

We believe if you can target a platform at the early stages you are entering a less competitive market which can ultimately help the game stand out from the crowd; something of a problem developers are finding with the App Store and Android Marketplace.

From a developer's perspective, what's the OS like to work with?

PlayBook is very nice to develop for. The SDK is pretty solid and has good examples to get going, it is also based around 'standard' concepts that games developers are familiar with.

It is always annoying to start working on a platform only to find there are lots of new concepts to be learned because the vendor wants developers to work in a specific way. Instead RIM has been very helpful to try and cater to everyone's requirements and not force developers down whichever route it considers most convenient.

For Kami Retro, the main hardware requirements we look for are decent performance and a responsive touchscreen. PlayBook delivers in both of these areas so we are happy.

We have also released KamiCrazy – a prequel to Kami Retro - and Worms-style game Battle Bugs, all of which run very nicely.

Battle Bugs also makes use of the 'pinch' multi-touch technology to zoom in and out, so it's nice this is fully supported natively on the PlayBook.

PlayBook sales have been slow to-date. Do you see the tablet turning things around?

Certainly. Since the PlayBook release app sales have been increasing and are now at a state where getting a game into the charts can generate a decent enough revenue stream.

We can't wait to see the launch of BlackBerry 10 handsets, as these support the native SDK so we - along with many other developers I am sure - will be targeting them.

Before the native SDK became available there was always going to be a limited number of developers willing to make BlackBerry specific apps and games. But with the native SDK developers can just treat BlackBerry as another SKU, and if it is going to generate them some return for little effort, why wouldn't they put their titles on the platform?

The more good software there is available, the more people will buy the new hardware. When developers see more people using the hardware, more developers will want to target this ever increasing audience.

The snowball effect starts and, before you know it, the install base is huge, as is the app catalogue.

Some argue consumers don't see the platform as one for games, and RIM hasn't pushed mobile gaming?

I would agree that, up until recently, there might not be a huge amount of decent games on legacy BlackBerry devices, but if we look at the PlayBook line up, I think it would be hard to argue that it isn't a platform for games.

I have just booted my PlayBook up and jumped on to AppWorld to see what is available - SimCity Deluxe, Asphalt 6, Dead Space, N.O.V.A. 2, Modern Combat 2, Reckless Racing, Duke Nukem 3D, Doodle Jump and – if I can I big up Paw Print Games - Kami Retro, KamiCrazy and Battle Bugs.

There are loads more other high profiles titles on there, plus lots of the successful games from rival platforms such as iOS and Android - rest assured, Angry Birds is available.

If RIM can get its new handsets into developers hands early enough, I think there is every chance the BlackBerry 10 line up will launch with a fantastic app catalogue.

BlackBerry lost market share to both iOS and Android throughout 2011, especially in the US. Is that a worry for developers?

We just try to target everything, so for us we are just happy more and more people are getting devices we can target, regardless of the platform.

For RIM, I believe after stagnating with its Java-only devices, the firm is really pushing forwards with exciting hardware and platform support.

I personally know an increasing number of people that are buying BlackBerry devices - perhaps come back and ask me this question in one year's time,

My prediction is, RIM will be in a stronger market position then, but let's see.

Are you planning on supporting BlackBerry 10 handsets, and if so, have you been impacted by their delay?

We want to target them 100 percent, and as soon as they turn up, we will.

Any delays haven't affected us either - we always have lots to be getting on with; for example our next title Wacky Rapids is nearing completion and will be available on all our supported platforms soon.

Thanks to Antony for his time.

You can find out more about Paw Print Games on the studio's website.

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.