Blackberry’s hard sell: Volker Hirsch on why a new operating system is winning over developers

Blackberry 10

The “other fruit guys” kickstarted a mobile games revolution with iPhone, then with iPad. Now BlackBerry has set its sights on the mobile games space, looking to seduce studios worldwide with a new platform and developer-friendly approach. But is it too late?

Certainly not, according to Volker Hirsch, Blackberry’s global head of business development for games. He is spearheading BlackBerry’s charm offensive after it acquired Scoreloop, his previous employer, in June 2011. Hirsch has been on the road talking to developers and extolling the virtues of the new BlackBerry 10 ecosystem, due for release early next year. There will be two new handsets, one touchscreen and one with the physical ‘qwerty’ keypad you’d expect from a BlackBerry.

When Hirsch presents to developers, he has what he calls a “myths and realities” slide, which really sums up the task ahead of him. He has to challenge the common perception of games on BlackBerry devices: they’re difficult to port to, no-one plays games on them, and developers don’t make any money from them.

It’s clear that BlackBerry sees its biggest opportunity to set that straight in the innate shortcomings of existing rival marketplaces, the App Store and Google Play. “A lot of people feel the pain at the moment with Apple, and maybe even more so with Google,” Hirsch tells us. “With Apple, at least if you make it to the top you can make money, but with Google that’s questionable for most. I think we have very strong answers to both discoverability and monetisation.”

Before getting into all that, though, BlackBerry needs to convince developers that porting games over to its platform is a worthwhile exercise in the first place. Hirsch has an answer for that, too. “Galaxy On Fire 2 HD was ported over by one engineer in one day,” he says. “We make it easy for people. [Developer] Fishlabs could only do this in a day because we made sure all the tools and engines and scripting languages are there so that they don’t have to change their development process around. They work with the tools they are used to working with.”

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