HTML5 and Games: Play Anywhere
Games no longer a niche market
Games no longer are limited to hard-core players immersing themselves into a virtual world. They also are no longer relegated to console systems, handhelds, and desktops. Thanks to a flood of casual games that can run in the Web browser and on mobile device that still look good, are addictive, and are fun to play, games no longer are a niche market.
Build once for all platforms
For a game development house, HTML5's build-once-for-all-platforms approach is tremendously attractive in terms of development time and cost savings. With HTML5, designers also finally can push onto platforms that may not have made financial sense to develop for in the past, such as Linux.
For example, Rovio, the creators of the massively popular Angry Birds, launched its HTML5 version over a year ago. Considering that Rovio already has native support for the biggest platforms – including iOS, Android, MacOS X, and Windows – the HTML5 version seems a little late to the game. However, with this version, anyone with Google's Chrome Web browser can fling birds at pigs, opening the game up to Linux users and other non-traditional operating systems.
Rovio isn't the only example. Games like Bejeweled and Scrabble are available in HTML5, and Zynga, the company that churns out all those highly addictive games on Facebook, has also jumped in, with new versions of Words With Friends, FarmVille Express, Zynga Poker Mobile Web, and CityVille Express.
Zynga claims its HTML5 games have load times comparable to native apps.
Hardware still matters
After emphasizing that HTML5 is cross-platform and allows developers to build games and applications that can run on any platform, it may seem a little odd to point out that hardware still matters. Don't get so caught up in the excitement that you forget the hardware limitations.
While modern smartphones have advanced rapidly in terms of CPU processing and graphics rendering, they still are nowhere near as powerful as laptops and desktops. Don't expect the same level of performance or speeds on desktops and modern smartphones. There's a reason why games like Scrabble work well for smaller devices, and that movie trailers for Hunger Games do not. The hardware is not there just yet.
There is also some speed variation between mobile devices. Recent research from Spaceport.io has shown that mobile browsers on iOS devices tend to run slightly faster than on Android versions.
All this is just a reminder that with HTML5, you can build just once, but you still need to test everywhere. Just because an HTML5 game is playable on a laptop doesn't mean it's going to have the same level of performance on a mobile device.
The Spaceport.io report has a very good piece of advice for game designers and developers:
"If your HTML5 game is playable on a laptop, think to yourself, 'If this game was running 10 times slower, would it still be fun?' If the answer is yes, you have built a mobile compatible application for the upper echelon of the fastest, most modern smartphones in the world. If your game is still fun running a hundred or a thousand times slower, then you have successfully built a mass market, mobile HTML5 application."
What are your HTML5 gaming experiences?
I have seen several Websites and applications recently switching over to HTML5, which is exciting. I will be discussing other industries that HTML5 makes sense for, but I am curious to hear from you: Are you developing your next game in HTML5? Are you seeing any differences in game play and user experience across mobile devices? Is a cross-platform game where you can start playing on one device and seamlessly resume on another platform really possible with HTML5? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
About the Author
Fahmida Y. Rashid is a contributing editor for Slashdot and SourceForge.