Build HTML5 games for the mobile browser – The facts and the f(r)iction


Today a post appeared on Gamasutra by a blogger who represents an HTML5 gaming technology. Gamasutra has a blog section in which selected authors are able to make posts on the site which attracts a huge number of readers. Having read the post and another recent post by the same author I had some concerns about the presentation of some of the information, so here’s my response. Given that Gamasutra has given this author their huge platform to spruik an agenda, I hope they will give the same opportunity to representatives with other opinions (perhaps not commercially motivated) on this subject.

Having had some time to think it over I was originally going to reject the entire premise of this article, however I can see some aspects where there is definitely at least a niche that can justify efforts in working on mobile browser gaming. It’s easily possible it could grow – the habits of younger internet users in particular tend to be dictated by cost and accessibility and if games can be made free and uncensored via a browser I think you could start to see some traction.

Nonetheless, the current reality is a little different.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the ideas presented as fact weren’t still (highly debatable) speculation of a meaningful rise in mobile *browser* gaming. Need some more numbers on this one. Does anyone come away from this article convinced that gaming in the browser on mobile devices is representing a significantly attractive alternative to apps? How many people prefer the experience of mobile browser games over app alternatives? By all measurable qualities it’s a worse experience.

In terms of friction I really disagree with the proposition that it will take off. Hate to tell you this, but the act of going to a browser and searching/navigating to a url is friction on a mobile device.

Let’s not even mention performance in 2014. Ok, let’s. You can pull off a Bejewelled/Candy Crush clone (at 60fps?) but how much further can you go without GPU access? I hope in the future WebGL on phones is opened up to a worthwhile degree – this would make a huge impact in the favour of any JavaScript based solution. But in 2014 this is another fail in terms of cross platform support, which seems to be a pivotal element in the premise argued in the article. I think another thing that would make a great difference is full screen immersive view of browser based games – is this currently possible or on any road maps? At the moment browser games are fiddly to say the least.

I’d love to see some links to some great HTML5 games for the mobile browser, and make a note of which platforms support them. This would be a good starting point to help explain a pro-mobile-browser-gaming position. Happy and interested to be shown what I’m currently not seeing.

I looked at some of the links in the article to mobile browser gaming portals. 155 million views per month is amazing, but we need information on how many of those are mobile views? I went to on my Android and iOS phones and was presented with links to apps to install.

The final problem is the actual development language – JavaScript. If you find a solution that provides a language with strong typing, OOP, early error detection, good debugging and profiling, then you’d be addressing some of the concerns that non-hobbyist game developers are likely to have.

Maybe the most successful web gaming portal will be build on the tears of those developers having to work in an environment free of all the modern productivity enhancements of newer more capable languages.

More power to the browser, but be realistic and balanced please.


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