Aleksandr Agapitov, CEO & founder Xsolla, posted an interesting take on the future of HTML5 games. The post was originally published on Medium.
VentureBeat just published an article by Albert Lai from Big Viking Games a couple of weeks ago. The piece made a lot of buzz thanks to its generous projected evaluation of the HTML5 games market as a $100 billion business. It does seem very optimistic, but one can’t really argue, with the rising popularity of HTML5 games right now. And with Facebook announcing the launch of Instant Games, more heads are turned towards this technology for sure.
I don’t believe that the main advantage of HTML5 is the lack of alternatives. Yes, back in spring of 2016 Google claimed that it’s going to kill Flash support in Chrome, which sort of made everyone say, ‘’Flash is dead, long live HTML5.” However, adding a familiar HTML5 logo to your splash screen won’t be enough to make the game successful. PlayToMax producer, Olga Homenko, believes that HTML5 is just another platform that requires as much work as any other technology on the market.
HTML5 has already captured browsers, mobile games, and is currently making first steps in the new territory — messaging platforms. Facebook is obviously just the first company to try it, and it will be followed by a majority of the competitors. I believe that this step is pretty logical, and its development will mimic the way the mobile games market has matured over the years, thus far.
We’re witnessing the cyclical development of HTML games. They are moving from desktops to mobile platforms, and now into the messengers. Our social media feeds will be full of runners, match-3, and other casual game genres that appeal to the core audience on messaging apps. These games are relatively easy to experience — short gaming sessions, one-button controls. They also have high viral characteristics, thanks to leaderboards that constantly inform your friends about your progress. The only thing that has changed is the channel for notifications.
The permeation of games directly into messaging apps was sort of a surprise from Asian companies. To this day Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat perform the function of a discovery platform, publishing games from other developers. With the introduction of Instant Games, all of the competitors are waiting for the next big move. They’ll be ready to strike as soon as the first dollars flow into Facebook’s pockets, and Google/Apple come up with their responses.
Facebook has been working on enriching their Messenger functionality for quite some time now, and this has caused some problems for the bigger companies, working on their own apps. Messenger can make money transfers, launch games, and with the bots, its functionality can grow beyond our wildest expectations.
At the “Viva Technology Paris” Facebook Messenger VC David Marcus talked about Facebook’s messenger functionality:
However, messaging apps like Instant Games, are still fairly limited. Experts believe that games on this platform can grow to the mid-core level, but moving beyond that will be impossible. The same thing is happening with messengers because you can’t really enrich the functionality of these channels until we have really believable human-like bots, working with neural networks or some other type of high-tech magic.
Hag Darkin from Intercom did a nice article recently, talking about the end of the app era. He believes the future of the mobile market lies in the form of the browser:
We spend much more time in messengers and social network apps than we used to. These products themselves are nice containers for the mobile web. They function like mobile browsers, giving us unique context and connections, which are absent in traditional browser systems.
So, it seems like giving more features to your messenger, turns it into a HTML5 browser. This is sort of a tricky thing, which opens up a lot of hidden advantages to the developers and publishers who might have forgotten about it…as they were previously constricted by the social networks and mobile store borders. We’ve seen enough examples of mobile games working through browsers, and most of them work pretty well without any Google Store interactions.
Ultimately, HTML5 should be a great place to try out various marketing options, play around with different distribution channels, and monetize them any way you want. Current platforms (Telegram, Facebook) are still a bit restrictive, but this will definitely change in the future. Still, the greatest advantage of HTML5 is…freedom.
- Freedom to promote your content any way you want
- Freedom to set up your own payment solution for players from all over the world, and therefore you get many more options than with Google or Apple
- Freedom to work with your audience any way you choose
- Freedom to get into global distribution with no limits, be that smartphones, desktops, China or Brazil
I know this because we at Xsolla have done billing, payments and checkout pages for browser-based mobile games since 2010. You may not have ever heard of them, but there are dozens of games for feature phones that play in-browser (WML and early versions of XHTML). They don’t look modern, but most of them are MMO-type of games and people are playing them solely because they are fun. Another underground cult thing is text-based games in platforms like Telegram Messenger — these are an interesting hybrid of old-school MUDs and brand-new bots that use natural language to understand you and your actions in the game. All of these experiences require proper UI and optimization, both for the in-game store (if any) and for selection of payment methods with mobile UX. Platforms rarely provide such things, so the beauty of the open-web is that there are always third-party solutions. And because there’s competition between them, they often evolve into something better.
As we speak, companies large and small are launching their games in messenger. Game Insight invested over $5 million in Instant Games, planning to launch eight new games for the platform (so far we’ve got only one called Tribez Rush, but Need a Hero: Puzzle Rush and six more projects are already being developed). It’s hard to say when they’ll see the return on investments though. Everything is changing every five years in the gaming industry, so it’s nearly impossible to give any reasonable forecasts. But, one thing we know for sure…freedom is so much better than restrictions.