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Would HTML5 mobile games be able to create an alternative market (for natives)?
by Przemyslaw Szczepaniak on 02/06/13 03:16:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Web mobile gaming is still far away from the point where it would achieve smoothness, and quality of effects of native games. Despite the small range of mobile web gaming market, and small (but growing) quantity of games, developers keen on working.

2 years ago we didn't realize that some of borders can be crossed, and now we can play great looking HTML5 mobile games. But, let's put away the performance issues. Let's try to to find out if HTML5 mobile games can become an alternative solution for natives. Could they be a new quality? Could they create a new market for developers, and gamers?

I would say YES. Why? Because there are couple features, and advantages that can make web mobile gaming better in terms of gameplay and distribution. HTML5 is still very controversial topic, which reminds me an article by Joe Monastiero, where he proves that more solutions are, or will be possible soon.

In fact, I'm HTML5 mobile gaming believer too, because it took us (the developers) couple years to reach a point where we know more, where we can develop better games, and finally make money on them.

Browser gaming access is faster, easier, better!

HTML5 is claimed as a Flash successor. No plugins, no worries. Just click the link and play, simple as that. You don't need to download anything, the updates are made by developers live, directly to the game code. Just take your phone anywhere you like, open Wi-Fi, or 3G internet access, and play.

To understand it better take a number of steps you need to make to play new, native game from Google Play or App Store. You have to access the store, find the game (if it's buyable, you need to confirm the payment), after that you need to download it, then the game needs to be installed... and finally you can play.

A bit complicated? Well, I'm sure it is not for those who are used to that, but in the case of HTML5 mobile game - you just need to click the link ONE time to play. Sounds much easier, don't you think? That's one of greatest advantages of HTML5 mobile gaming - accessibility. Knowing that, we have a possible, strong foundation for new market - networks, or alternatives for app stores, where players joins a game with single click.

We know that similar mobile networks already exist, but numbers are still low., or are only couple of them. They still only provide mainly smartphone gaming experience, with not as high as natives range. But if the awareness would be higher, we could really get a totally new market of easy accessible, web mobile games.

Multiplayer web mobile gaming is cool!

I mentioned crossplatform gaming couple times in my blog entries. The idea of gameplay via browser with your friends who have different devices is amazing. For now only HTML5 can give us this feature. We have OUYA, we have Smart Tv's, we have more powerful tablets, and smartphones. Would you even think about this 2 years ago? I don't think so.

Now only development, and facing some technical problems are the barriers to cross. We cannot predict yet how many changes can come, but crossplatform is now the best solution for multiplayer/social/hardcore games. Can native mobile games do that on multiple devices? No, and that's another fantastic foundation for the new market.

Costs of development and promotion?

Practically - minimal. Well, I don't want to exaggerate, but HTML5 is free, open technology, and it only depends on how many additional tools developers or designers will need for game production. There are also pre-made HTML5 game engines, but many developers can do it with their own code. Compare it to native games - where single game requires high costs of production (in the means of updates too).

Now, how do we promote the native game? App stores have their own politics, some games just get the chance to be featured, but many times it needs additional costs of advertising. And how does the HTML5 work out? It is true that we can't compare such small market with huge native stores (they have years of practice already).

But, imagine it in a similar scale. Huge social networks with millions of players, who easily share the game link with each other with no additional costs. Basically the publisher can put out the info about the game, and gamers will spread the word about it in  the community. But that's not the only solution: you can send the game link by email, Facebook, communicators, SMS - practically through any channel that can launch a browser link.

So, can it be done?

Those couple features, mentioned above, provide one, concrete solution. A huge mobile social network, or games portal, where gamers with multiple types of devices could have their accounts, they could compete in a multiplayer fun, they would get easy quick access to games, just by one click of a link. No downloads of games, or updates, no waiting, no complex operations to play.

Yes, it still requires development, and better performance, but come on - technology already did huge step from ugly, slow games, to well performing ones. Who knows how it will change soon? Nobody, I believe. I'm sure that with higher awareness of HTML5, native games can really have big competition in the means of mobile entertainment very soon.

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GameViewPoint Developer
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I agree with a lot of this, but unfortunately I just don't see it happening. HTML5 has the potential to provide gaming to a lot of people through the browser, but there are some major issues which are never really addressed, the first of which is all your code is just sitting there for the world to see and more importantly copy. Copying is rife with Flash games, and it will just be worse HTML5 games. 2nd, and this is the main issue I have, most people are going to end up playing games on either iOS/Android or a console, i'e through closed and controlled App stores, that's basically the future, and even though I think a html5 open App store is a great idea I can't see it ever taking off because of the competition of the Native app stores.

Przemyslaw Szczepaniak
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I understand your point of view. Though, many issues have been solved - especially I'm speaking of those which couple years ago stopped many developers from moving forward. I would give some more time to developers and technology. The biggest problem is still lack of awareness, and without it, and without support from huge companies - HTML5 web mobile gaming is still not flourishing.
About the gaming networks - personally I counted around 30 active, or in stage of built now, during my researches. The biggest were mentioned in this article. So I think that it will depend on how well web based mobile gaming will be accepted,how well the games will perform, and how well the developers will create their games. If that would work out with higher awareness, I don't see a problem this to happen. Well, it already is happening, but in much smaller scale than natives:)

GameViewPoint Developer
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I've not seen it explained anywhere that the problem of the code being displayed, or the distribution issues with HTML5 have been solved, as far as I know these are still issues.

But more than that, the main reason I don't see HTML5 taking root is a business issue. The major platforms want and will fight to keep their 30% cut of any/all apps that are on their stores, and the only real way they can control that is if the apps/games are native, i'e Android, iOS etc the problem for them of HTML5 is that anyone can set up a games portal on the web, and cut them out of the loop, and I suspect that's not part of their plan.

Web games will be a thing of the past in 10 years time and all games will be distributed/played etc via stores, whether it be Google play, Apples App store or Steam.

The irony of all of this of course is that's it going back to how things used to be, i'e a limited number of places where you go to buy games, in the past it was retails stores on the high-street/mall and in the future it will be the same thing but just online, the day of the free for all of the web games market will fade away.

Don't get me wrong it would be great to have a language to make games in that is prevalent across all formats and platforms, and HTML5 could of been it, but the economics just work against it.