Instant-access games that live everywhere -- the real pull of HTML5?
Most developers are attracted to HTML5 because of its portability across platforms, but for startup NonStop Games, co-founded by former Wooga head of studio Henric Suuronen, it's because "HTML5 is the glue that brings the internet together."
When you hear most developers talk about the advantages of HTML5, they trumpet the fact that it's a standard that lives across multiple platforms. That's not why NonStop Games is interested in it.
"Other companies are talking about cross-platform; we're talking about instant accessibility," says co-founder Henric Suuronen.
For NonStop Games, the key to HTML5 is that games can be accessed by direct, simple URLs. "What this means is that you can share this link wherever. Is it on Facebook status, Twitter, Pinterest? ... there is no installation, there is short loading, there is no App Store page," says Suuronen.
Suuronen, who was German Facebook developer Wooga's head of studio, co-founded NonStop with Juha Paananen, who worked at Nokia during its salad days as the world's biggest and most successful handset provider. The two serve as president and CEO, respectively.
Suuronen left Wooga after it climbed to number three Facebook developer under his watch (it's currently number four, in the wake of EA's acquisition of PopCap.) His new startup, which is about to make the move to a new San Francisco HQ, is focused on trying to break down the walls between games and the web, and web apps and games.
You can even play the company's first title, city-builder Dollar Isle
, from within the Twitter app on iOS devices when you click on a link from a tweet.
"This has proven to be a really good viral source for us," says Suuronen. "And that's, for us, the biggest benefit of HTML5."
The top city
on Dollar Isle
's ranking has had 32,000 unique visitors. "This is obviously not possible on Facebook, because it's just your friends," says Suuronen. Moreover, he says that this traffic, while incentivized by NonStop, is more organic than Facebook virality. Players are "spreading the game, not spamming the game," he says.
"I think it's a lot friendlier way than what you've seen on Facebook," says Suuronen.
"In the end, not so many of your friends play the same games you do," says Paananen. NonStop's hope is that "you can find new friends, and then take those friends to new games."
Moreover, the company's games will feature one-way following, like Twitter, so it's less intrusive. If you like someone's Dollar Isle
city, you can send them a message and tell them so, and you can even gather resources from their city. But you don't need to form a bi-directional friendship if you don't want to.
While Dollar Isle
(pictured) looks a bit primitive compared to the latest and greatest Flash Facebook apps, Suuronen is confident the company is on the right track for casual users.
The company's second game, Paint Stars
, is admittedly based on Zynga and OMGPOP's Draw Something
-- mixed with Instagram.
"We thought Draw Something
was very cool, but it lacked something -- if I do a picture I want to share it. You had to take a screenshot. The other thing was that there was no community," says Suuronen.
In Paint Stars
, players are given more robust drawing tools than with Draw Something
, and their paintings then become puzzles for other players to solve at any time. Artists can post galleries of their work, which become game menus for those who want to guess, and simple showcases for those who don't.
You might find the game by "looking for cool pictures on Pinterest -- and then, hey, there's a nice drawing done in Paint Stars
," says Suuronen. And then, when you click on the link, "You get directly into the game," says Paananen.
"HTML5 is the glue that brings the internet together; you can exist in multiple places," Paananen says. "When you really do games that live out of that logic, I think you can do pretty exciting stuff."
But why would someone who had "an amazing ride" with Wooga, walk away from that success, and the Facebook platform?
"People are using Facebook now on mobile platforms, and you don't play Flash games on mobile platforms," says Suuronen.
"Facebook is a really good platform for the companies who are really strong in there," says Paananen, "but I think there's a wider web outside of Facebook, and you shouldn't limit yourself."