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Why not just make native games?


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A month ago I discovered Phaser JS, and a few other JS libraries, and was amazed at what people can do in JS nowadays.  I know there are several advantages to making Casual HTML5 games, namely

(1) You can target many platforms using wrapping kits (like CocoonJS)

(2) You are working in a platform neutral environment instead of something proprietary like XCode/ObjC/Swift

(3) You control your game, and don't need approval from someone like Apple

(4) There are markets where you can license your games

(5) You can use whatever development environment you want, like Linux

(6) The simplicity of coding lets you focus on the game itself


Yet, even with all these advantages, there are some compelling reasons to go with Native - assuming you want to earn money:

(1) If you want to make money, you have to target mobile, so why not just focus on that

(2) If you will focus on mobile, the majority of the market can be reached by just targeting iOS

(3) Any good looking mobile game will run better/faster/stable as a native app

(4) Something like 80% of mobile users prefer native apps  over hybrid

(5) Your compiled code is harder to steal than JavaScript


I ask this because I've seen some really great HTML5 games, and I wonder if the authors could be topping the iOS game charts, making them boatloads of money.  I have read some people make a prototype in C2, then rewrite it in Phaser - why not prototype in Phaser and rewrite it in Swift/ObjC?  It seems like with HTML5, you can hit a lot of markets, but are not able to have a monster hit on your hands.  An example, I was playing one of Okinjin's games, and it was really great, then I accidentally "slid" Safari off the side of the screen, then I tried to "slide" it back. I ended up with several screens sliding around, and never found the game again. This was not Okijins fault, it was the nature of playing a game in a web-browser on a mobile device. I was showing a friend the game at the time, and ended up having to close Safari and browse back to the Okijin site. If it had been a native app, it would not have done that. 

I still really like the HTML5 stuff, but if the goal is to make money (and for many it is not), it would seem easier to do on native mobile.  On mobile, I know "discoverability" is a big problem, while HTML5 portals will actually push your game out to the masses for you. I've heard HTML games are easier to make viral because they can be shared with a hyperlink, but it would not seem that would be enough of a difference.


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`Thanks, Im also interested into this strategy, I think for some specific casual game it can work.

Except Agar.io, Slither.io and so on, Im not aware of other iOS chart toppers from the HTML5 field, but I would like to learn more from devs that have been succesfull doing this! :)

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I'll deal with opinion here.  

But to me it seems like you're more likely to make some amount of money off your game with HTML5/Flash distribution than you are with native/phone.   For steam the typical barrier of entry seems to be years of man hours invested into your game before people will look at it, on App stores user acquisition can reach up to $3.90 per user for some of the major games.   In HTML 5/Flash you have a good number of publishers that are competing enough to keep cash/man hour requirements for a game actually reasonable(App/Phone has essentially 2 App stores that everything is funnelled through, PC has Steam mostly), Likewise when you do find a publisher the developer can get some amount of risk off loaded since they typically pay some up front before it ends up on their site, If you're self publishing you're on the web usually which means you have access to normal advertising which the web has become good at.

That being said with it being easier to come ahead, most people don't seem to win as big as they're able to on App stores/steam when they do win.   But you won't see angry grumbling about making a good game and getting nothing for your efforts like you do on other Dev sites.

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12 hours ago, ozdy said:

These statements are just wrong.

How so?  Aside from my generalization, I was under the impression that it was difficult to get users to pay you when they are using the web, but on mobile it is easier and more acceptable to monetize apps (even hybrid ones).  People have an expectation that everything on the web should be free, while on mobile it is more acceptable for users to spend money.  That more money is made on mobile seems obvious since so many HTML5 distributors insist the games must run on mobile, why else would they insist that?

I also thought that out of the mobile market, the iOS market still made the majority of the profits, even though it is a smaller market.  Android users are historically "cheap", while Apple users historically have more expendable money.   My view has developed after reading a number of resources, like articles, blogs, reports, etc.  I think Developer Economics report was the one that said iOS made more money than Android.


I would expect an HTML5 game developer to say I am wrong, but I am curious why I am wrong.   There are some small games I want to write, and have been looking seriously at doing them in HTML5, but it still seems like to make money it would be better to make them native (or Unity).  My personal feelings favor using Linux and an open-source tool-chain, but being happy does not pay my bills.


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If you're looking to get on a portal/have a sponsor, you don't need to care about the most expensive part of a game(marketing to users).    You just need to focus on making a good game, that looks good in your elevator pitch to a sponser.   You'll get paid by focusing on a few dozen points of contact, rather than the scary world of marketing to random people who are trying to ignore you.    Users almost never pay anyways, and the web is far better at passive income generation(with ads and data tracking) than what you can normally put on an APP anyways.

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Plenty of HTML games make a boatload of money, I mention League of Legends because I've dealt with the company, but I'm sure there are many others, I'd have thought a load of the facebook games are very profitable.

For an indie or small game studio, cost of ownership is a real thing, if you want your game available on desktop and on mobiles then supporting those different platforms is a killer. The holy grail of write once-run anywhere hasn't been found yet (its doubtful it ever will but there are some credible attempts at least now and they'll get better) but that doesn't stop people from being able to get their products out to a larger audience very quickly, the trade-off is often sub-optimal performance or experience on specific platforms but there comes a point where performance gains are neglible i.e. I don't care if your game runs 70% slower than it could, or takes 50% more time to load, or crashes more frequently, if it runs fast enough that the sluggishness is unnoticeable, the load speed is still quick and it only crashes once per year rather than once every two years then users don't care.

Use the right tools for the job though.

If your focus is making money and you decide that the app/game you want to make would sit well on mobiles and you also decide that the iOS market is going to make you more money then why wouldn't you code it up natively for that platform? The only reason you wouldn't is if you didn't have the skills, if I'm a web developer I might be able to get a game out in 3 months using wrappers and such for iOS but it might take me double that to learn a language and complete the game but this is the tradeoff you make because the mantra that native applications are harder or more timely to create is tosh—stick 2 comparable devs next to each other and the one that knows their platform and their target will always produce a better result.

So I'd say it simply comes down to 2 points, cost of ownership and current skillset.

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Thanks vornay for mentioning Okijin Games :)

Honestly, my experience tells a different story. I have been making a living exclusively from this business for the past 3 years and I am confident that there's many more opportunities ahead.

First, the thinking that you will necessarily make more money on bigger marketplace than smaller one is wrong. In the same vein as elevator's speeches where the business owner tries to convince investors that because the market has 1 billion potential customers, if he gets only 1% of it they would be rolling on the money. In reality, larger marketplace means more competition, higher production values, higher budgets then much harder exposure. I could run a campaign to 40K installs on Windows Phone for $500 in 2013... How many new players would I get for that budget on iTunes or Google Play? The size of the marketplace only matters for the bigger companies. For the rest of us, we should go where user acquisition is the cheapest, that is all that matters. And if we ever reach that point where we need a bigger marketplace then I would say this is a "nice" problem to have for any business!

And then this is just the surface, you need a game that can pay you back. What's the expected ARPU (average revenue per user) for a game made in 2 weeks and a "Remove Ads" Button as entire IAP strategy? The reality is that your only chance to cash in is to pray the gods for your game to go viral (so you don't have to spend a dime in user acquisition) - and this is a strategy that could have you waiting for a life time, very similarly to people playing the lottery (and I am not saying don't try). ARPU for a game like flappy birds is at best 0.01 (and yes with 5M daily users it comfortably pays the bill) but if the developer had to pay for user acquisition at that scale he would have probably lost money at the end with that game.

True, HTML5 games quality is a step behind but is good enough to compete in several game categories (puzzle, casual...). I am confident that many players cannot really tell the difference between native or not with my latest game Sailor Pop, just released on Google Play. We are catching up:)

Finally, if you have any game idea I would encourage you to just go for it and make it a reality and release it somewhere - anywhere. Don't waste too much time in existential thoughts about which technology and best place to release, go with what can make your project a reality. If you meet success, then again, all problems will be nice to have (porting to another platform, growing user base etc). People have been making much money with only targeting one platform. In Korea where I live, there are game businesses (SundayToz...) making millions mainly targeting the local KakaoTalk platform (the number 1 messenger app there).

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On 9/13/2016 at 11:46 AM, RenStimpyShow said:

native or not native, windows or PC, developrs can make money if they find the right channel. My friends have done itch.io for a while, they do quite well given help from youtubers. You got to design the game for the specific audience (youtubers like to scream a lot, hence horror/wierd games make sense)

Yep, "Content is king", not platform. Remember how a guy found success in 2010 by releasing an NES game .

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  • 8 months later...
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On 6/14/2017 at 6:53 PM, TammySmith said:

Do you consider this project successful? It means if it will meet expectations in terms of experience, finance. I had a similar situation with work. When my contract ended, I was offered to extend it. But I decided to find a job in my hometown.

During this period I visited different interviews, there were different salaries, different working conditions, different schedules. But on every job, I did not like something. I was looking for three months. And I found such a job, which I go to with a great mood and return home with the same mood. I work with WritingCheap company. I wish you this too!!!!

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