Spring 2011: Developments in Android Gaming

Mobile gaming has really taken off ever since the advent of apps, and it keeps progressing each year thanks to hardware and software developments on the handsets. At E3 this week, we’re bound so see some new and exciting developments in the mobile gaming landscape, but the past few months have produced some interesting news in themselves.

Thanks to the fast paced development of mobile hardware, we’re beginning to see phones that can run even more powerful games, and output them to HDTVs.

Tablet Gaming

Honeycomb is due to go mainstream this summer with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Tabs and other tablets, following on from Motorola’s Xoom in the spring. And before the iPad 2, Android tablets had the upper hand in terms of specs meaning the introductory games could take full use of the graphical power behind them.

Honeycomb tablets have that high entry point that isn’t hindered by low-clocked specifications. Instead, Honeycomb tablets can take advantage of the full might of a GPU like the Tegra 2, advancing Android gaming for the better.

More and More Games

More and more games are being brought to Android, and (at last) without long windows following their releases on rival platforms. The ridiculously popular sandbox building game Minecraft has been announced for Android and will launch on Google’s platform before Apple’s iOS. Minecraft is being shown off at E3 this week, so the impending Android release is presumably fairly soon.

Minecraft is set to hit Android soon.

It’s true that Android users, statistically, don’t like paying for apps as much as iPhone owners do. Nevertheless, the growing number of users seems to be attracting big name developers and big name games suggesting more games are on the horizon.

OnLive Cloud-based Gaming

The OnLive gaming service is an interesting idea. Playing games over this service results in the gameplay being rendered on a remote computer, and streamed to your device, irrespective of your device’s hardware specs. The game is “played” on OnLive’s servers, so any device can receive the same standard of gameplay, as long as it can stream the video. The concept is there, but, naturally, those of us with slower internet connections cannot share in the fun.

Nevertheless, OnLive are preparing to launch on the Android platform. They formed a partnership with HTC, allowing the recently released HTC Flyer to be one of the launch devices. As long as it has a strong internet connection, the Flyer’s specifications are not that important in delivering a high quality gaming experience.

The actual controlling is done through a traditional-style console controller – very similar to a PlayStation DualShock – that connects to the tablet or smartphone, allowing you to control your gameplay whether playing on the device itself or with it being connected to an external display like a TV.

Can anyone spot the Android tablet in this mix of devices?

Gaming-Focused Android Hardware

Sony released their Xperia Play earlier this year, with a focus on gaming. That specific phone is a mix of Android and PlayStation and maintains the traditional shape buttons alongside a specialised library of PlayStation games able to run on the device (as well as existing Android games).

A large advantage for mobile gamers is that games are a lot cheaper than on traditional consoles. Instead of paying $60 for an HD console game, or $40 for a traditional handheld game, it’s difficult to find a mobile game that even breaches the $5 mark, let alone $10.

The Xperia Play is a gaming-foused Android handset. Seen here: The Sims.

Your Thoughts Needed

E3 is just about ready to kick off (coincidentally right at the same time that iPhone, iPad and Mac developers head to San Francisco to learn about the future of iOS and OS X at WWDC) with some big announcements expected, both on and off the Android scene. Any specific announcements you’re looking forward to?