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The State of LaunchBox on Android


Jason Carr
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Update (2021-08-24): Android is back! The official new version is available directly on the main LaunchBox website here:

https://www.launchbox-app.com/android-about

I've added some notes in green below to clarify some things.

Hi all, I wanted to share some news about LaunchBox on Android; I have some good news and some bad news, so I'll start with the bad news. Unfortunately, we will be stopping development on Android for the time being. Android has not at all been good to us, and here are just a few reasons why:

  • Our income on Android has only been around 5% of our total income, with the rest of our income coming from LaunchBox Premium on the desktop. With Google taking 30% of that, we only stand to make $3.50 per copy sold. Update: We have unfortunately had to increase the price with the new version, but anyone who previously purchased from Google Play will of course receive a forever-updates license and will receive all new versions. The new pricing model closely matches the desktop, but is also much cheaper: $10 for a regular license, or $25 for a forever-updates license. These new prices will help to ensure that Android development continues to be feasible for us long-term.
  • Though the income is low, our development effort requirements for Android are about the same as for the Windows applications. It doesn't really make sense for us to be spending half of our development time on the project, while only making a 5% return. Update: Android development of course still takes significant development time, but we do have two full-time developers these days, and the new pricing model will help to make Android development more worth the time. In addition, we are hoping to use the Android version in the future as a base for development on devices such as the Raspberry Pi, which makes it even more worth our while.
  • We've been massively disappointed in the software restrictions on Android. We wanted to be able to run import processes in the background, but that turned out to be impossible due to over-zealous battery-saving restrictions. We wanted to be able to easily allow users to add their own custom emulators, but it turned out to not be easy at all due to Android's poor design for launching other applications. Those are just a couple examples of the restrictions that we're constantly slamming into on Android. Update: Unfortunately we are definitely still very restricted by Android's various poor design issues. None of the above really changes, but we do already have a good product, even if it is restricted by Android's failings.
  • Android is *not* an open platform. In fact, Windows is *far* more open than Android. The Google Play Store is really the only viable way to release apps on Android, and red tape is everywhere. The Amazon App Store is also available of course, but both stores have similar issues, and no app can flourish on Android without being in the stores. We have so much more flexibility on the desktop, and for that reason we would much prefer to focus on it. Update: We are grateful for the changing mindsets lately regarding the app stores. People are starting to realize that they're not ideal, Google is being forced to make some positive changes, and people don't mind side-loading apps as much. The best version of Retroarch is already only available by side-loading it, because the Google Play version is so restricted, so we're seeing not being on the Play Store as much less of an issue these days. It will still likely hurt the popularity of the app, but we feel that it's worth the tradeoff to avoid the Play Store and distribute LaunchBox ourselves. We've also made LaunchBox for Android free for less than 100 games, which should help to increase the adoption.
  • There are major concerns regarding the future of emulation on Android at all. Google has begun severely restricting the ability to share files between applications for security reasons, and it’s already affecting users who are running Android 11. They’ve been pushing for these changes for quite a while now, but they’re a poor solution and they wreak havoc on emulation, because they disallow sending ROM files from a frontend to an emulator, amongst other things. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us. Update: Unfortunately this is still an issue. Google did not eliminate the previous storage model as they promised (yet), and we're grateful for that, but the new storage model is still horribly broken and will not work in its current form for emulation frontends at all. Unfortunately this means that emulation frontends on Android are still seriously at risk. Google could disable the previous storage model in the next version of Android, which would pretty much break everything. I don't think they will, but they could, and this leaves the entire situation at risk. Still, we at least want to prove what is possible on Android, so that if Google does end up ruining it, there will be enough of a backlash to get it changed.

All that said, we will be stopping development on Android for the time being and focusing our efforts 100% back to the desktop applications. We actually had some really cool features in the works, including wheel and CoverFlow views, but since we’re not even sure if frontends will work at all with future versions of Android, we’ve decided to set it all aside for now.

We will be taking LaunchBox for Android off of the Play Store here shortly, as we don’t want to mislead users. It is possible that we could come back to Android at some point, but this is our plan for the time being.

Now for the good news: LaunchBox Premium and Big Box on the desktop are doing better than ever, and we are super excited about recent and future developments. We can’t wait to get the new MAME community high scores features out next week, as they’ve been super fun even just while in the betas. We also have some amazing ideas that we can’t wait to jump on.

Lastly, if you’re dead-set on Android for emulation, there is a new frontend out that looks very good called RESET Collection. We can’t say if and how they’ll get around Android’s upcoming security restrictions, but we do wish them all the best.

Thanks to everyone for your support with all of our projects, and we do apologize for having to disappoint Android users here. At this point, we strongly feel that we are best supporting this community by focusing on the desktop, so that is what we will do going forward.

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This sucks, but I understand. I have been reading a lot of similar issues with other developers when using 11.

I so wish Microsoft's mobile OS did not fail. I was hoping the openness of the Windows platform could be brought over to mobile phones... but they missed that boat.

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2 minutes ago, ItchyRobot said:

This sucks, but I understand. I have been reading a lot of similar issues with other developers when using 11.

I so wish Microsoft's mobile OS did not fail. I was hoping the openness of the Windows platform could be brought over to mobile phones... but they missed that boat.

No kidding. I still feel like there's room for it.

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This sucks but is understandable. I game more on my pc but bought the Android version on release because of the quality of windows version in hopes of using it on my ShieldTV. Now that Android is gone, people will be wanting a Linux version instead.  Lol

Long live LB for Windows!

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7 minutes ago, ed20910 said:

This sucks but is understandable. I game more on my pc but bought the Android version on release because of the quality of windows version in hopes of using it on my ShieldTV. Now that Android is gone, people will be wanting a Linux version instead.  Lol

Long live LB for Windows!

Yeah, per Linux, I'm fairly certain we would run into some very similar issues on Linux, unfortunately (though obviously not the security restrictions issues).

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3 minutes ago, gonzalo_hvega said:

For those of us who already own and paid the app, will we be able to re-download in the future from our purchased app history? Thinking about replacing my tablet and want to make sure I can set everything back up again.

Yes, my understanding at least is that Google Play will continue to allow you to download and use the app if you've previously purchased it.

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17 minutes ago, Alucard205 said:

Well thank you for being honest and open about it. I have to say I am a little bummed, but I understand why you did it. If the project were to ever continue in the future, would I need to purchase a different app, or would my previous purchase have been enough? 

Of course, if we do come back to it, we won't make anyone re-purchase it. That'd be pretty scum. ;)

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Sucks but understandable.

curious if the headache of development could be overcome.  couldn't you just distribute it outside off google play.  other then a guaranteed safety from virus and such for users. play store dont seem necessary.

and i think most here trust you ?...

Edited by ALIE
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6 hours ago, ALIE said:

Sucks but understandable.

curious if the headache of development could be overcome.  couldn't you just distribute it outside off google play.  other then a guaranteed safety from virus and such for users. play store dont seem necessary.

and i think most here trust you ?...

The issues run a lot deeper than just the Play Store. Even if we weren't on the stores, we'd still have to contend with the upcoming security restrictions, which may end up killing frontends on Android anyways. That's the biggest problem; we don't want to invest time into a questionable platform. We will probably re-evaluate once things settle down a bit.

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2 minutes ago, Jason Carr said:

The issues run a lot deeper than just the Play Store. Even if we weren't on the stores, we'd still have to contend with the upcoming security restrictions, which may end up killing frontends on Android anyways. That's the biggest problem; we don't want to invest time into a questionable platform. We will probably re-evaluate once things settle down a bit.

That is understandable..

Here's looking forward to LaunchBox for Windows continuing to become better as always 

GleefulAgonizingCygnet-max-1mb.gif

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What a bummer, but certainly understandable. While I appreciate the recommended app as a replacement, at this point I'm not sure if I want to invest in Reset Collection, given the circumstances that frontends will not be able to run properly on future versions of Android. 

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4 hours ago, bundangdon said:

What a bummer, but certainly understandable. While I appreciate the recommended app as a replacement, at this point I'm not sure if I want to invest in Reset Collection, given the circumstances that frontends will not be able to run properly on future versions of Android. 

Yeah, I'm not sure I would either, to be honest. A lot of that is up in the air. As far as I know, the only "solution" for it depends on Google reviewing an app and providing it with "special" permissions (for example, for File Manager apps). So my understanding is that the current system will require Google to approve it, and who knows whether they'll approve an emulation frontend to have those special permissions. It's also unclear whether both the frontend and the emulators would require these permissions, or just the frontends. It's a mess.

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Wow, this is devastating. I've been in love with this product since it hit the play store and have been eagerly waiting for an update to add dos games, scummvm, and fix a few bugs. I didn't think it needed much else. Best of luck going forward, I can only hope something changes down the road to bring new life to the project.

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