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I've noticed quite a few mobile games on the Android platform recently that prompt you to download their assets package when you first run the game. As an example, The Sims 3 is available for iOS and Android devices (Android Marketplace, Apple App Store) but the iOS version seems to be much larger in size and as such probably doesn't use this system.

I can think of several advantages and disadvantages to doing this:

Advantages (to developer):

  • The game's store page reports the size of the app as much smaller than it is.
  • When a patch or update is released you don't need to download the entire application again. (Does the App Store release patches, or do you need to download the whole app again)?

Disadvantages (to developer):

  • You need to provide your own bandwidth and ensure download availability.
  • You need to poll your server for updates in the assets and ensure that you make assets available for old versions of the game.

Advantages (to a consumer):

  • You don't need to ensure you have space for app+assets before installing. Downloading the package manually means you can install the libs/logic/executable on your device and the assets on eternal storage such as SD card, rather than installing all to the device and moving afterwards.
  • It could be possible to download lower resolution versions of the assets depending on install device (somewhat unnecessary for Android as the market provides a way of supplying different packages to different devices)

Disadvantages (to a consumer):

  • More difficult for app to enforce that download is done over wifi rather than using up their contract bandwidth.

While I understand that direct comparisons of the two methods are difficult, I'm looking for statistics/reports preferably of the same app with control and sample groups. If that's not available, can anybody with experience with this method indicate whether users preferred not bundling assets? Does user opinion on this vary based on platform? Does the value to users outweigh the extra effort for the developer?

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It could do so indirectly. When I publish a game, or anything that has assets, I use an updating system so it downloads the latest assets when they run it. This way no one ever downloads anything that's out of date, but that makes it easier for me to make more frequent updates. Making life easier for me means I can make a better game with the same effort. –  Philip Dec 11 '11 at 13:42
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This system ensures that the application runs online at least once. –  FxIII Dec 11 '11 at 17:38
    
In the iOS marketplace specifically, if you can get your application download to under 20mb then people are going to be able to download it over cellular networks instead of having to be on WiFi (useful if they hear about a title via word of mouth or whatever). I think the error might happen after you've already purchased the app, but for a freemium title that might just cause people to not bother playing it. –  Tetrad Dec 11 '11 at 18:58
    
Another factor to consider is that the big smartphone platforms limit what apps can be downloaded over the phone's network, and what ones require Wifi. By limiting the size of your app to be within the limit, you're giving people more opportunities to download your app. –  Jordaan Mylonas Dec 12 '11 at 0:58
    
I read statistic that not being able to download over 3G const 40% sales. I'm not familiar with the android market but iOS means 20MB limit. –  Aleks Dec 12 '11 at 2:19
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I have no such data, but you haven't mentioned another downside: For me at least, having to download assets separately is very annoying.

Also, while the marketplace can download large apps in the background, in my experience it is not always clear whether (or even the case that) I can do other things with my phone while the game is fetching assets, as this function is usually not coded very well.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that I think you will not implement an excellent asset download system- however, if so many people are not doing it, perhaps it's just hard to do right?

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