Everyone knows the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are taking over the mobile gaming world -- even Nintendo knows that. So who in the world would think of Android as a great gaming platform, let alone better than Apple's?
Apparently, these companies do:
NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor sets the standard for Android gaming performance on both smartphones and tablets, enabling HD gaming for devices on most major wireless carriers in the United States. And unlike on the iPhone, compatible Android smartphone and tablets feature NVIDIA's Tegra Zone app, which lets you browse through HD games worthy of your machine's specs.
The last remaining brick-and-mortar games store in much of the United States recently bought streaming game company Spawn Labs, and is in the process of buying Stardock's Impulse games store. The company is apparently planning to create a streaming game service to compete with OnLive, and has plans of bringing this service to Android.
Speaking of streaming games, HTC's upcoming Flyer tablet is being developed in partnership with OnLive itself, and will offer PC- and console-quality games that can be played with a BlueTooth controller. Best Buy is already taking preorders for the unique, stylus-equipped tablet, which will also feature the HTC Watch movie store.
Apparently the PlayStation Portable wasn't good enough for Sony, as Sony Ericsson just released the Xperia Play, the first "PlayStation Phone." A couple of "PlayStation Tablets" are also in the works.
These Android devices are PlayStation-certified, letting them download PlayStation games (currently limited to a selection of PSOne titles) and log into the PlayStation Network. And the Xperia Play includes a PSP Go-style slide-out game controller, complete with shoulder buttons and dual analog touchpads.
Alienware's parent company, Dell, already manufactures Android handsets and tablets. One of the company's senior vice presidents said that it's "looking at all form factors," in a conversation reported by IGN, and refused to deny that a gaming tablet was in the works.
A forum conversation with Valve president Gabe Newell suggests that Steam may be headed to Android soon. It may also be headed to iOS, although the recent controversy over in-app purchasing on the App Store might have dampened Valve's enthusiasm. Plus, it would have to compete with Apple's Game Center.
Why the interest?
Partly because there are things gaming companies can do with Android, which would be impossible or impractical to bring to Apple's devices. Sony is taking full advantage of this with the controller built into its "PlayStation Phone," for instance, and the multitouch screen on its upcoming NGP game console suggests that it might've learned a few things from Android as well.
Beyond that, though, some game developers are simply finding that they do better on Android than iOS. Game company Spacetime Studios has found that its Pocket Legends MMORPG makes much more money on Android than on iOS, even though its iOS version has been out longer.
It's true that some major game companies have been burned by Android. Gameloft refuses to sell most of its games in the Android Market, and Rovio's been nonplussed by it as well. Both companies are partnering with Amazon's Appstore for Android, though ... which shows that Android's open platform will find a way to accommodate even them.
Whether any of this turns into actual games, or a better gaming experience on Android, is anyone's guess. A lot of these things couldn't happen on iOS, though. So whether or not Android's the "best," the gaming world would be lessened without it.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.