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Disney Acquires HTML5 Game Engine Startup Rocket Pack
Disney Acquires HTML5 Game Engine Startup Rocket Pack
March 3, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

Disney has purchased Helsinki-based startup Rocket Pack, a social game developer (Warimals: Cats vs. Dogs) and the creator of a HTML5 game engine described as "Google Docs for making games".

The firm was founded just a year ago and debuted its Rocket Engine platform last December, promising a "fully integrated solution for plugin-free browser game dvelopment" that enabled developers to create HTML5-powered single player titles, Facebook games, and browser-based MMOs that work across a variety of platforms.

Rocket Pack has so far released a single title, Warimals: Cats vs. Dogs, an asynchronous MMO on Facebook meant to demonstrate Rocket Engine's capabilities. Though the game has only 50,000 monthly active users, the Finnish developer claims this is the first social game built on HTML5 to be released on the social network.

Neither Disney or Rocket Pack disclosed financial terms for the acquisition, but Techcrunch cites a source that puts the purchase figure somewhere between $10 million and $20 million -- a fraction of the $763.2 million the media conglomerate agreed to pay out when it bought social game developer Playdom last year.

Some speculate that Disney acquired the HTML5 engine maker as part of a strategy to build and release multi-platform games that circumvent App Stores, such as Apple's marketplace that takes a 30 percent cut from all revenues. Users playing Rocket Engine-created games would be able to directly load the titles in mobile/tablet browsers.

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Bart Stewart
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Well, that was quick.

I had been looking forward to a low-cost version of the Rocket Engine tech to compete against the less useful Flash and the more heavyweight Unity and Unreal engines.

Now that Disney has engulfed Rocket Pack as a strategic acquisition, it seems unlikely that Rocket Engine will be made available to third-party developers at any price.

On the other hand, Disney might still license the engine as a way to popularize HTML5 development versus Flash. Long-term actions to grow an industry segment are pretty rare, and I can't recall any examples of Disney Interactive taking that kind of leadership role, but I suppose it's possible.

Still, it seems more likely that Rocket Engine just got deleted as a development platform I was hoping to try out. Sigh.

Nick Allain
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Hey Bart,

Take a look at Construct 3.0 Preview at

If I remember correctly, it's open source.

It has a bit of a ways to go but Construct 2.0 was pretty fantastic so I bet 3.0 will eventually be that way too.

- Nick Allain /

Bart Stewart
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Thanks for the pointer, Nick. I will certainly try to take a look at Construct.

Chris Melby
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"less useful Flash"

Oh come on Bart. Just for the sake that maybe I'm reading your post wrong, what are you getting at with this comment?

Brent Orford
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I'm assuming his "less useful Flash" comment was more a comment on distribution platform options (no flash on iphone/ipad stuff) than a comment on the technology as a whole. I may be wrong though.

Bart Stewart
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What Brent said.

Obviously there are advantages to writing in Flash or so many people wouldn't use it. But Apple's unwillingness to open iOS to Flash instantly cuts off access to millions of potential customers, making Flash less desirable as a development platform. It's just an unfortunate reality.

For what it's worth, that's not a knock on Flash as much as it is a criticism of Apple. It's good to see Apple starting to open up a little on that, but I really was much more excited by the possibility Rocket Engine offered of bypassing the Apple/Adobe fight completely. I hope this clarifies that what I said earlier wasn't just a random whine (and thanks for the very nice words, Chris).

As for calling Unity "heavyweight," that's not entirely a criticism. Unity offers a remarkable number of features, including in its free version, but that level of power can make Unity difficult to use for someone with more ideas than programming experience. I hadn't seen the alpha build of the Rocket Engine, but from its feature descriptions and HTML5 origin it appeared that it would be less intimidating -- less "heavyweight" -- than Unity, and certainly easier to get into than something like Unreal. That would have been good, I think, for helping more indie developers turn their ideas into games.

If Disney winds up keeping Rocket Pack's technology for internal development, then Unity's free version becomes even more valuable to first-time developers. I absolutely hope Unity appreciates this special opportunity they have to support indie development!

kP09 HI19
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So, Unity isn't the underdog anymore? Please don't talk about it to Unity Team 'cause I like the free license, if they know that now they are heavyweight they could cut the relationship with indie developers....

Chris Melby
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And that's why I want clarification, because Bart's posts are the ones I'll spend time to read.