Ticket to Ride is here for Android! Why Days of Wonder changed their “Apple only” stance
Days of Wonder CEO Eric Hautemont famously told fans not to hold their breath for the sublime mobile version of Ticket to Ride to come to Android devices last year. Well, it’s okay to hold your breath, or at least begin breathing, as the game has launched on Android devices this week. So what changed?
“The beauty of board games, where you can have a long life-cycle, and look at things in years and decades whether than months or weeks, is that time takes care of many issues,” Hautemont told the Penny Arcade Report. “One thing that has occurred since we last talked, is that time has a tendency to solve all problems.”
Why waiting a year was the smart move
Hautemont was worried about fragmentation last year, and supporting many different form factors, screen sizes, resolutions, but the market has since stabilized.
“There are now clear winners and clear losers in the market. In the public space it’s pretty clear that Samsung is a winner, Google with their Nexus 7 and 10 is a winner, and then you can argue to some extent that Amazon with the Kindle Fire is a winner,” he stated candidly. “Pretty much everyone else is a loser. I don’t mean to say that in a bad way, but it’s good news for us. We don’t care who wins, as long as someone wins.”
Now it’s easy to focus on a few key areas, and grab a high number of gamers. The game is being sold through Google Play, and will on devices running Android 4.0.3 or higher, and on devices with a minimum resolution of 1024 by 600, although they recommend 1280 by 800. “These include the popular Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Galaxy 2 10.1 tablets,” the marketing materials state. The focus on tablets is deliberate, as the company feels they can offer a higher-quality experience on the larger screens.
The question is how support for Android devices will change how Days of Wonder develops games moving forward. The company launched a Kickstarter for Small World 2 to try to gauge the interest of Android gamers.
“For a small company like us, especially one doing all its development in-house, creating versions for these platforms is a non-trivial project, and one that will divert significant resources away from our Ticket to Ride mainstay,” the Kickstarter page said. “In our forums, on Facebook and on Twitter, enough of you have told us you’d like to spend some hard-earned cash on Android and Steam apps to make it worth our while. Now is your chance to prove it.”
Moving onto other devices has meant the company needs to change the way they create games. “We had an old version of Small World on iPad that was very Apple dependent, it was Objective C, it was using all the Apple libraries, we decided that the game was three years old… we felt we needed to rewrite Small World from the ground up,” Hautemont said. “We couldn’t just patch our way to success.” They started from scratch and created a version of the game that’s much more friendly to multiple devices, including the PC.
That sort of flexibility needs to be added from the beginning, the time when you could rely on iOS exclusively for success may be coming to a close.
“We want to make sure moving forward, and with Small World 2, we’re writing the software in such a way that we can adapt to both more space and touch-based content on a variety of screen resolutions,” Hautemont explained. They’re discussing whether they need to fully re-write Ticket to Ride for new devices, an expensive process, but one that would allow them to do things like bring in vertical maps, and adjust the user interface accordingly.
The CEO also said that the market for games isn't getting smaller, but the ability for singular companies to make massive profits on mobile games may be shrinking. More apps are being released, they're often of a higher quality, and of course free-to-play is becoming a popular choice. He's content with software only being one part of their business, and that business is selling people a physical product.
“We’re very happy that it’s helping to sell the board game,” Hautemont said. “If we were just looking at the software side of things as a standalone business and we had no board games, I’d say it would be a mediocre and not very interesting business.”