end3r

Current state of HTML5 game development in 2016

43 posts in this topic

6 minutes ago, True Valhalla said:

Aside from the traumatic flashbacks I suffered upon seeing the Tizen logo, I enjoyed this article.

Thanks. And yeah, I'd add the sad memories after Firefox OS (and the Marketplace) to that too. The image is clearly out of date, but I couldn't find anything that would fit better there.

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Good article, the line is definitely blurring between native and web. I remember when developing my first game, I had that moment of doubt, confronted to heavy performance and rendering issues, when I thought I may have chosen the wrong technology. it is getting easier and I don't doubt anymore that it can fully power my projects.

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13 minutes ago, OkijinGames said:

Good article, the line is definitely blurring between native and web. I remember when developing my first game, I had that moment of doubt, confronted to heavy performance and rendering issues, when I thought I may have chosen the wrong technology. it is getting easier and I don't doubt anymore that it can fully power my projects.

I had similar feelings - audio was broke, adjusting the game to mobile was black magic, and I thought it won't work at all. The interesting thing was, when I created my first web games they were very, very simple, yet got listed in countless "top X HTML5 games" rankings, because there was so few of them that just worked. This assured me it's worth trying, and a good path to follow.

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Thanks for the article, i have a few questions though :

- since webgl seems to be the de facto standard for high end engines and is way more capable than canvas, is canvas still worth it even for a 2d engine?
- what are the minimum devices to target in 2016?
- is it still worth considering the low end ones or are they marginals in term of gamers playing html5 games?

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3 hours ago, totor said:

- since webgl seems to be the de facto standard for high end engines and is way more capable than canvas, is canvas still worth it even for a 2d engine?

Depends on the game but I'm not sure I'd put much effort into canvas, you need to know your own userbase but I'd guess the number of devices without webgl capabilities is pretty low and by and large the webgl rendering is far superior to canvas rendering, particularly on low-end devices where performance is more of an issue. There are slight caveats here where in some cases drawing primitives on to the canvas works out better without webgl so really its dependent on what type of game you're making, I'd say try to support both (most frameworks/libs such as Pixi support both with no real effort on your part) but if you got into a situation where webgl rendering got your game to acceptable FPS but canvas doesn't, I'm not sure how much effort I'd put to get the canvas rendition up to speed.

If you're targetting some distributors though, they may still prefer canvas support in order to squeeze every possible user our of your experience.

3 hours ago, totor said:

- what are the minimum devices to target in 2016?

Again, depends on the game and the market you want to target but if you want to push the envelope of what is possible with HTML5 then only target newer devices, maybe covering just the latest 2 OS's/devices. Most agencies will only support modern platforms, charging more for older support (again, dependent on the app/game, some things are easier to retro to older devices than others).

3 hours ago, totor said:

- is it still worth considering the low end ones or are they marginals in term of gamers playing html5 games?

Same as the previous answer, I wouldn't bother unless you have a specific reason to. Know your user base and support only what you have to, be aware that this can sometimes be pretty hard for newer products, as in, if you've pushed out a beta or early version of your game that is poor on older devices then obviously your stats are going to show only players on newer devices which isn't necessarily indicative of your market, only of the fact your app only really works on those devices.

@OkijinGames mentioned the blurring lines between native and web and where newer, more powerful devices, are concerned, I agree, things are getting closer but if you go the extra yard to support older devices then the difference is clear and the web can't cut it. You'll still see a difference between hybrid and native approaches (on new devices) but, depending on your game, the hit from web tech could be minimal and the cross-platform advantages could well outweigh any disadvantages from sub-optimal performance.

I'm interested to hear what the pros in this field have to say, those with good user statistics and good relationships with distributors, but its a bang-for-your-buck equation, if your current game is going to make you more money if you increase device support over creating a new game then its worth doing, if not, then get cracking on adding more features to your current game, increasing monetisation options or create a new game to put out to market.

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So what about monetization?
Old business models don't work reliably anymore, and new ones still are in their infancy.

PrimeArwyn likes this

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I always felt like we shot ourselves in the foot by focusing on mobile-first with HTML5 games. We let the opportunity that the death of Flash presented pass us by

We were all so in love with the idea of our games on phones that we targeted the weakest, most fractured platforms to develop our games on (using an unfinished spec)... and then couldn't understand why monetization didn't take off! Given a do-over I think I would have focused first on delivering top quality non-casual games for the desktop browser and then extended that into a mobile presence.

Now the implementation of the HTML5 spec has finally caught up on mobile but the market is almost completely unchanged. Apps still rule and there are very few players (almost all small / regional) paying low fees for casual-ish games. Most (all?) of the HTML5 gaming tech startups that were initially shoveling out money to developers have withered and died.

For better and worse, not much has changed on the business side. It's still trench warfare to make any money but it's also still wide open for opportunities.

 

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6 hours ago, Red Spark said:

So what about monetization?
Old business models don't work reliably anymore, and new ones still are in their infancy.

To be fair, these "old business models" that you refer to have never been entirely reliable. If you take a look through my old income reports you'll notice that my income has been a rollercoaster, with frequent spikes and drops. It has never been particularly predictable or consistent.

The licensing model definitely still works - it's just not super accessible to everyone like it used to be 4 years ago. It takes more initial effort to get a sturdy foothold in the market.

As far as new models go, I'm particularly excited for in-app purchases with the roll out of Apple Pay and Google Pay in mobile web browsers. There is so much potential for new approaches to monetization there.

1 hour ago, KyleNau said:

I always felt like we shot ourselves in the foot by focusing on mobile-first with HTML5 games. We let the opportunity that the death of Flash presented pass us by.

Unfortunately, the financial incentive just wasn't there...and really still isn't. Those companies expect Flash-quality desktop games that can "go viral" and they don't pay nearly enough to justify that. Combine that with the challenges of making such a game cross-platform, and it's clear why that market never took off.

KirUn, mattstyles and OkijinGames like this

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Also, to add to the sentiment... I wish there was a sponsorship market for advanced html5 games, with compelling story and strong visuals - something like Zombotron, Union City: The Last Stand 3, Outpost: Haven, Kingdom Rush, etc.

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Market for advanced games +1, it's just weird that flash games are already dead but the need for same quality html5 games has never appeared. BTW. whenever will the flash plugin completely removed from people's browsers?

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11 hours ago, Red Spark said:

Also, to add to the sentiment... I wish there was a sponsorship market for advanced html5 games, with compelling story and strong visuals - something like Zombotron, Union City: The Last Stand 3, Outpost: Haven, Kingdom Rush, etc.

Make such a game and I'm sure you will have no problem making money from it :) Btw, Kingdom Rush was made by 3 people for 1 year and got $30K from Flash licenses, which is a tiny amount of its total revenue across all platforms.

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1 hour ago, ozdy said:

Make such a game and I'm sure you will have no problem making money from it :) Btw, Kingdom Rush was made by 3 people for 1 year and got $30K from Flash licenses, which is a tiny amount of its total revenue across all platforms.

I would gladly make one in ~6 months... I just have big doubts I will find an html5 sponsor ready to shall out $20k-30k for such a game. And there aren't enough active sponsors to cover that cost by multiple non-exlusive deals. May be with the advent of IAPs to mobile browsers there will be a demand for such games, who knows. 

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22 hours ago, Red Spark said:

I would gladly make one in ~6 months... I just have big doubts I will find an html5 sponsor ready to shall out $20k-30k for such a game. And there aren't enough active sponsors to cover that cost by multiple non-exlusive deals. May be with the advent of IAPs to mobile browsers there will be a demand for such games, who knows. 

As I said, the licensing income of that game was only a tiny fraction of it's total revenue, and I don't see why missing 1-5% of the total income would stop you make one. And respect for making something in 6 months that took 3 people 12 months ;)

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7 hours ago, ozdy said:

As I said, the licensing income of that game was only a tiny fraction of it's total revenue, and I don't see why missing 1-5% of the total income would stop you make one. And respect for making something in 6 months that took 3 people 12 months ;)

Well, Kingdom Rush is kinda outlier there, since it succeeded in the app store. I believe the team's primary target at that time still was $30k licensing deal, and then they saw an opportunity for expanding to mobile platforms and got lucky with it.

Regarding 6 months project - I wasn't talking about repeating KR in particular, just my own personal concepts I'd like to develop into complex story-driven html5 games. ;)

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24 minutes ago, ArcticArcade said:

Nothing lucky about Kingdom Rush at all. That game was polished all over and reaped the rewards.

Unfortunately it's not prerequisite for success anymore ;)

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54 minutes ago, Red Spark said:

Unfortunately it's not prerequisite for success anymore ;)

Show me an indie game with quality of Kingdom Rush that failed :)

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On 10/19/2016 at 4:52 AM, ozdy said:

As I said, the licensing income of that game was only a tiny fraction of it's total revenue, and I don't see why missing 1-5% of the total income would stop you make one. And respect for making something in 6 months that took 3 people 12 months ;)

I heard straight from the horse's mouth (the ironhide forums) that it took them 18 months...

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5 hours ago, dimumurray said:

I heard straight from the horse's mouth (the ironhide forums) that it took them 18 months...

My bad, they said in a presentation 365 developer days, so I put a year, but I shouldn't have included rest days :)

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20 hours ago, ozdy said:

My bad, they said in a presentation 365 developer days, so I put a year, but I shouldn't have included rest days :)

Thou shalt not make games on the holy sabbath day, heathen!

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I just have big doubts I will find an html5 sponsor ready to shall out $20k-30k for such a game.

 

I think this is a problem of tunnel vision where most HTML5 game developers automatically think in terms of sponsorship for their games.

People have been monetizing web content for decades and there are a lot more options for generating revenue. In fact, the more unique and interesting the game the greater the number of options available to you but it changes the approach to development (both what and how) significantly. Licensing is a business-to-business transaction, the audience (for both parties) is pretty much an afterthought but you can always take your game directly to the audience. Examples:

Dwarf Fortress is free, ugly and devastatingly hard to learn - but earns over $4,000 a month in Patreon (and was doing so for years before that using regular PayPal donations).

John Battagline has a Casual Connect talk about building his business (and going full time indie) with freeplay Solitaire and Mahjong websites.

And quality isn't the metric here as much as niche is. It's worth remembering that Minecraft started as a bare bones Java applet posted free to the public. Spelunky was a Gamemaker game, posted for free with its source code.

We've all been in the sponsorship game and seen how... resoundingly unimpressive the sponsors are. If you're making something special, something interesting, you would be a fool to trust it to them for the pittance they offer. Had any of the above examples taken a sponsorship (allegedly the Dwarf Fortress devs turned down a six-figure offer) they never would have been the successes they came to be.

 

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