As work on BlackBerry 10 continues behind closed doors, Waterloo-based RIM is gearing up to make yet another attempt to woo would-be BlackBerry 10 developers to its cause.
This time though the company has its eyes set on a specific kind of dev — come November 16, RIM will offer up cold hard cash to game developers who create a game for (or port an existing game to) BlackBerry 10.
But let’s back up a minute first. RIM’s online-only 36-hour “Port-a-Thon” will make company employees and technical experts available to guide developers through the game building and porting process, all in hopes of fleshing out BlackBerry 10’s app ecosystem before the platform’s official launch in early 2013. What’s really interesting here is how RIM’s prize structure is set up — each approved game will net the developer $100 (though the dev can “only” submit 20 apps for consideration), but developers who churn out more submissions stand to win a hell of a lot more.
If you get between two and five gaming apps approved for instance, you get a free BlackBerry PlayBook on top of the money. Should five to ten or your apps get approved, you get all that plus a Dev Alpha device. On the off chance that you’ve been sitting on a boatload of apps that eventually get approved, you get all that plus a free ticket to attend GDC 2013 (while supplies last, naturally).
The cynic in me can’t help but wonder what sort of effect (if any) this could have on overall app quality. After all, I’d much rather have a smaller number of truly stellar games available to download than heaps upon heaps of middling ones. That’s not to say that the average consumer would feel the same way though — there’s a tendency to consider an app store’s total number of apps as some easy catch-all indicator of health, but that’s a tremendously short-sighted way of looking at things. Even so, perception is key especially when a platform is new to a market, and it seems as though RIM really doesn’t want to have to deal with that numbers argument.
That would at least partially explain the company’s zeal in reaching out to developers these past few months. RIM hasn’t exactly been shy with their developer outreach efforts so far — the company has already seeded thousands of Dev Alpha and Beta devices to eager programmers and promised to pay devs the difference if their apps didn’t earn $10,000 in their first year in the BlackBerry App World.
It’s not exactly a surprise to see RIM take this sort of approach for games, especially considering how important they can be in adding to the stickiness (or, at least, the perception of stickiness) of a platform. Remember the mild furor that came about when Rovio mistakenly said it wouldn’t bring Angry Birds Space to Windows Phone? Google recognized the importance of games relatively early in Android’s life — it offered free top-tier Android handsets to folks at the 2010 Game Developers Conference in exchange for sitting through some game dev sessions, and now RIM is ready to take a similar tack.
I’m willing to bet there’s a certain subset of BlackBerry users whose gaming experiences never extended beyond frenzied bouts of Brick Breaker. That should all change shortly if RIM’s plan pans out the way the company wants it to, but the rest of us will still have to wait months before seeing how/if everything comes together.