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Which Handheld Devices will Game Maker games appear on?

With the announcement of Competition 5, many people are probably curious about Game Maker coming to a portable device. But which one? With the diverse specifications for each device, its hard to tell which portable system will have the best chance of supporting Game Maker. Lets take a deeper look into each of the popular handheld systems to see what is possible and what isn’t.

The iPhone OS which operates on the iPhone and the iPod Touch has been sold on over 41 million units and has been well-known for its easy development and deployment environment. The iPhone SDK has tons of functionality that would allow something like Game Maker to function on it. The SDK contains OpenAL and OpenGL (a mobile version) which could easily be used to run a Game Maker Game. The SDK also includes many other systems such as networking and a file system. Sandy has mentioned porting Game Maker to the iPhone on various occasions (1, 2, 3). A recent company profile of YoYo Games took a look at Game Maker and its mobility. The author of the article has bought 7.69% of YoYo Games and is probably interested in a portable Game Maker alongside Sandy. Unfortunately it is currently difficult to port Game Maker over to the iPhone/iPod touch because Apple does not allow any interpreted code (GML) running in an application. All applications must be compiled using objective C and verified by Apple before being sold. It also costs $99 to start posting your games in the application store. The hardware and operating system could easily support Game Maker, but the main problem lies within the licensing/verification system.

The Microsoft Zune HD which runs on Windows CE, is similar to the iPod Touch and features a Marketplace where users can get music, TV/movies, apps and games. The Zune HD has support for OpenGL ES and Direct3D Mobile and all games are written in C# using the XNA Game Studio which allows games to be deployed on PC, Xbox 360 and the Zune. XNA studio is free to obtain but does have an annual fee of $119.00 to sell games on the Xbox 360 or Zune. A Game Maker port could easily be made in C# and be distributed to the Zune or the Xbox 360. Since Sandy is a former Microsoft employee, he probably has quite a bit of experience with Microsoft gaming products which may boost the chances of seeing Game Maker on the Zune. While the Zune is a good possibility, only ~3 million units have been sold.

The Sony PSP is another great option, however the developers SDK costs $1,500. This would only be a one-time fee that would be payed by YoYo Games before they develop Game Maker for the PSP. PSP games are written in C++ using the PSP SDK which are then compiled, packaged and deployed as a UMD or a download on the Playstation Store. Though the PSP does not feature anti-aliasing and OpenGL/DirectX are not supported, the PSP does have sufficient hardware for running 2D and 3D Game Maker games. The PSP has a total of over 50 million units sold which is a large chunk of the handheld gaming world.  In July this year Sandy first mentioned the possibility of Game Maker games running on PSP.  A quote from Sandy also suggests that a PSP port of Game Maker is quite possible:

Look at the picture [below]…that is NOT the PSP picture viewer…THAT is a loading screen. (Remember that C++ runner that we did about a year ago ….well, it’s still early days….so I’m promising NOTHING)

The Nintendo DS which already has a Game Maker alternative, has sold over 113 million units which is by far the most popular handheld out of the 4. The graphics hardware does not support any libraries such as OpenGL or DirectX but can easily handle Game Maker games with the hardware specifications. The DS runs compiled code from the SDK which can be purchased from Nintendo for ~$2,000 to $10,000 and requires a long application process. A homebrew application may be developed instead which is essentially free, however it requires all users to have DS storage device such as an R4 and the legality is questionable. James (The creator of DS Game Maker) says that he would love to help out with porting Game Maker to the DS, but weather or not YYG accepts is unknown:

I been at YoYoGames for years to let me help them port this to the Nintendo DS. They always deleted my topics at the GMC!

They will just port the game to the console.. save the graphics, redo the code.

While all these handheld systems are capable of rendering graphics that Game Maker currently outputs, many of the devices have licensing issues with the exception of the Microsoft Zune which also has the lowest amount of sales.

Photo credits (l-r): iPhone by William Hook, Zune HD by Glztt, Google on Sony PSP by Dan Taylor, Colors! on the Nintendo DS by Afroswede.  All released under a Creative Commons License

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  1. These predictions are stupid. DS,PSP why would you even spend time? The Zune sucks hardware wise. Apple has far to much things shoved up there *** to care about something as “Indie” as Game Maker. The only real handheld would be the Android Platform. Everyone who has said that the Android is capable of running anything has not seen the power. I wouldn’t know anything about converting GML to Java but..

    “Android! If there was ever a clear, open source and growing platform to choose it was that.

    No license fees, virtually non-existant checks on the market place, an open-source SDK and even an emulator. (for Android). Baring in mind that there are also Wii and DS emulators, I am not sure about the PSP, and definetly NOT for iPhone (so people can test their games on the PC, compiled for the platform in question).”

    Could not have said it better.

  2. Actually, the DS has a fantastic port of OpenGL. No Non-Microsoft consoles support Direct3D. And yes – clever commenter – Android! If there was ever a clear, open source and growing platform to choose it was that.

    No license fees, virtually non-existant checks on the market place, an open-source SDK and even an emulator. (for Android). Baring in mind that there are also Wii and DS emulators, I am not sure about the PSP, and definetly NOT for iPhone (so people can test their games on the PC, compiled for the platform in question).

  3. @Garion I know what you mean; but this was a poll (though it really didn’t have a big or diverse enough set of people to get any useful information from it)

    @tuntis The wide array of hardware that runs Android would make speed considerations rather difficult (well, not if you’re making your games properly in the first place, but how many GM developers actually bother to check the FPS?)

  4. @Sam Whited take anything mashable says with a grain of salt. They are huge Apple fans over there, so its natural that Apple gets chosen.

    Personally, there is enough crap on the App store now without another 10,000 pac man clones. My choice would either be the Nintendo DS or the Zune HD (just to boost the applications)

    But given that Sandy has said that the controls must only be directional pads and one other button, my guess is that it’s more likely to be the Zune (only because the DS has way more buttons).

    But also being in Europe (where the Zune isn’t yet released) it’ll probably be the iPod.

  5. Much like homebrew for the DS, it would be possible to bypass Apple’s stringent regulations by producing an app to release on a 3rd-party app store for jailbroken devices. A very high proportion of iPhones/iPod Touches are jailbroken, so you would still be left with plenty of users.

  6. According to a recent poll by Mashable the iPod won out over the DS and PSP for portable gaming (via

    Also, the XNA Creators club membership is not required to sell your games on the Marketplace; it’s only required to post your games (if you buy a quarterly membership for forty-something dollars then post your games and let it expire your games will not be removed and you will continue to receive payments)

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