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GDC China: Why HTML5's negative publicity might be unfounded
GDC China: Why HTML5's negative publicity might be unfounded
November 20, 2012 | By Simon Carless

November 20, 2012 | By Simon Carless
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, GDC China

Despite its bad publicity, HTML5 is still a viable platform for games and, in fact, most of the top-grossing mobile games of late could have been made using it.

That's according to NonStop Games' Henric Suuronen, a veteran of companies including Digital Chocolate and Wooga, discussed the state of HTML5 games, who spoke at GDC China on Monday.

Suuronen's Singapore-based startup is HTML5-exclusive, and he noted that several recent high-profile stories have maligned the progamming language. Of these criticisms, "some were deserved, some not."

The first PR blow for HTML5 in recent months was from Suuronen's ex-employer Wooga, who said they were pulling out of making HTML5 games. This created big headlines, but Suuronen noted that Wooga were simply saying that HTML5 games were "not really for the mass market" - and in many ways he agrees.

The second PR blow was when Mark Zuckerberg said using HTML5 for mobile was Facebook's biggest mistake of recent - but the NonStop Games founder notes that Facebook still has more users on the browser version than the native version. However, it was still a good move for Facebook to abandon HTML5 because the responsiveness issues meant less people were looking at news feeds - and therefore displaying ads.

Overall, Suuronen suggested that instead of looking at the sometimes overblown press, let's look at what sells. Examining the top-grossing U.S. iOS titles, he suggests that some of the top titles like Kingdoms Of Camelot, Poker by Zynga, Rage Of Bahamut, and Slotomania could be made just as well in HTML5.

But some top games like Clash Of Clans couldn't be, because the "level of polish and level of animation are so high" that it's difficult to do in HTML5. Overall, titles with complex animation and sound and swift responsiveness won't work as well in HTML5, Suuronen admits.

The ability to use a 'wrapper' to run an HTML5 game across web, mobile, Facebook, and other systems all at once mean that NonStop Games believe that hardcore social games are the sweet spot for HTML5 titles.

Games where you can play anywhere easily - on your cellphone, tablet, and PC - lend themselves to HTML5 much better, and you can tailor different short and longform gameplay for the different times of day - commuting versus sitting down in the evening.

Ironically, Suuronen notes that right now the 'casual' games are the more complex in terms of what's screen, but these 'core' social games generally have more depth but less complex animations.

Having started on more casual HTML5 games such as Dollar Isle, NonStop is now concentrating on a more complex, PvP-included fantasy wargame, to be revealed soon, which intends to play up a lot of the advantages that he sees with the language.

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Tom Baird
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But I can build for Cellphone, Tablet, PC, and more using something like Unity or Flash, or a half dozen other competing engines/platforms, and end up with a more consistent feature-set, much better performance, and a single point of contact for implementation issues.

As well, simply giving a bunch of big games, and saying they COULD have been made in HTML5 doesn't really show merit for HTML5. It also could have taken longer, and could have required more programmers, and could have required more QA(the high platform variance to support the browsers you want), and could have cost more. The fact is they weren't and it seems insincere to think they didn't do proper pre-production and investigate HTML5 as an option(especially considering some of those developers have mentioned an interest in HTML5).

The issue I have with HTML5, is that unless your target is specifically mobile browser applications, then there are better tools for any job you could give to HTML5, and so why aren't you using those tools?

Terry Matthes
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"Examining the top-grossing U.S. iOS titles, he suggests that some of the top titles like Kingdoms Of Camelot, Poker by Zynga, Rage Of Bahamut, and Slotomania could be made just as well in HTML5."

that statement is pretty weak sauce. I'm sure there are a number of ways those games could have been made...

Jed Hubic
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So? They can still be made in HTML5. That was his point, regardless of what else is out there.

Liza Shulyayeva
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The HTML5 game dev community as a whole is still largely experimental - new tools, ideas, demos, etc are coming out of it on a regular basis. It may not be ready for prime time in the same way that any experimental tech may not be ready for prime time straight away - what we ARE seeing is that HTML5, aside from allowing for increasingly rapid prototyping, is being driven by the large community around it. HTML5 games are reaching new levels of polish and new ways of integrating web technologies for games at what in my opinion is a solid pace. And it's as much about raising the bar in terms of polish as it is about figuring out exactly what kinds of game dev implementations and environments HTML5 is best suited for. This is not to mention the opportunity that it creates for new developers to experiment with their ideas with its low barrier to entry.