As Game Developers, when we talk about Platform we are talking about which devices and systems on which we will release our games. XBox? That’s a Platform? PS4? Platform. iPad and iPhone? That’s the iOS Platform. PC, Mac, Linux? All separate Platforms.
As players, it’s often confusing as to why a developer would choose to release for one platform and not another. We’ve seen passion around game console platforms approach a religious level of fervor, and there will always be a small number of vocal players who want a game on their relatively obscure but favorite platform (“Bring the game to Linux!”). Why does a developer create a game only for iOS, or only for PC/Mac, but not for XBox, PS4, or Android tablets?
From a developer standpoint, we ask ourselves several questions. First, does the platform meet the technical requirements for our game? Is the platform powerful enough to run the game? Is there a lot of variation on the platform (different GPUs on PC) or is it relatively uniform (iOS)? Does the platform primarily use the expected interface methods (game controller vs. multitouch vs. mouse and keyboard)? Is there typically enough memory on this platform for this type of game? Is a fast internet connection required, or even available?
Second, what are the costs for developing for that platform? Does the platform require a lot of low level code optimization (PS3, for example)? Will the developer need to purchase a $10k development kit, or a $100 developer license? What software is required to build for this platform? Is there an existing content pipeline, or must one be built? Is it easy to build cross-platform code, or is a from-scratch port (rebuilding the game for a different platform) necessary? Game Engines like Unity can make the latter part easy, but incur their own costs.
Finally, what are the player expectations for this platform? Is there an already established predominant form of gameplay on this platform (Racing or Shooters for Consoles vs. Multitouch Games for Tablets & Phones vs. Adventure or Sim Games for PC)? How does this game align with that? Does the platform typically offer long gameplay experiences, or a few minutes of entertainment? What do players typically pay for a game on this platform? (iOS users, for example, are relatively happy to pay for DLC or powerups, while Android users are notoriously cheap.) How do players get games for their platform? How discoverable are new games?
When we started building V.Next, we knew we wanted to build for PC and Mac because it offered us the most straightforward way to build an interesting and differentiated game experience, while delivering what users on that platform expect. PC and Mac are the home to the most innovative, and even experimental, games that are being created today. Only on a PC, could a hacking game like Zachtronics TIS-100, or the upcoming Quadralateral Cowboy, work. We knew each episode of V.Next would incorporate up to an hour of gameplay, and we knew players on these systems want and enjoy the longer term engagement. We also knew that Keyboard and Mouse would be the right interface for what we wanted to deliver.
Will we port our games to iOS and Kindle Fire Tablets? It’s in our plans to do so, but we’ll have to alter our interaction model a bit. However, we’ll deliver on our original vision for the game by first releasing on PC and Mac, and we know players will love the nostalgic, retro experience of this game on those launch platforms.