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Why the web will be the global gaming platform

March 24, 2013

One meme that will happily be put to rest at the upcoming Game Developers Conference is if HTML5 can handle gaming.

The answer will be a resounding “YES”! Whether on desktop or mobile, HTML5 has made great strides and is at a stage where it will be able to support the most challenging game experiences.

Gamers are a notoriously demanding bunch. And that’s understandable. You don’t want any hiccups or stutter in game play when you’ve got compounds to storm, races to win, balloons to pop and ropes to cut.

Firefox is working hard to make the browser, on desktop on mobile, faster and able to run high intensity graphics. Have we succeeded?

Yeah, I’d say so. For example, we’ve done benchmarks with our new OdinMonkey JavaScript engine that will ship in upcoming versions of Firefox and have seen a performance boost by about 1000% (yes, that is three zeros) over anything else out there.

Want to see what that boost in performance can provide? Check out the future of web-based 3D gaming on our totally awesome (but goofily named… wasn’t my idea) BannanaBread demo, an incredible 3D first-person shooter running on nothing but web technologies.

But never mind the technology, let’s talk game experience. As EA’s Rich Hilleman points out, games are about magic and pushing the limits of imagination. One potential the web offers is the possibility of a single, contiguous gaming experience that carries with you wherever you go.

In a multi-device, multi-platform world, the consumer won’t accept playing their game in only one environment. As they move about their day, they’ll want to access their game, at the right state, on the device they have handy. The ubiquity of the web provides for that.

Also, by extending games to different devices and different form factors, the web helps open up gaming to the casual user, who is a great new customer for the gaming industry.

How else can the web help the gaming industry?

  1. Massive reach: It isn’t called the World Wide Web for nothing!
  2. Marketing and discoverability: Developers aren’t restricted to marketing a game in the confines of an app store. The expanse of the web and all of its inherent linkability and shareability are available so developers can reach new customers
  3. Payments: People have been doing payments on the web for years. With the web, developers have the flexibility to charge what they want, and use the payment processer they want
  4. Easy updates and analytics: The game is on your server. Developers can update when they want without having to bother with store approval processes
  5. Easy analytics: Again, the game is on your server so you don’t have to wait for analytic reports from an app store, you get all the analytic information you need, in real time
  6. Customer relationship: Distributing a game on the web means the developer owns the customer relationship. The developer doesn’t need to go through an app store or any other third party to manage payments or updates. You own the customer. No one is in the middle.

But ultimately, as Chris Ye of Uken Games says, gaming is about spreading happiness. If a developer is getting the performance they need from the web (and we think they will), then HTML5 lets them spread happiness across multiple platforms without the unhappiness of needing to maintain and upgrade multiple code bases for multiple devices.

The web still has some work to do to live up to its full potential as the ultimate global game platform, but it is getting there. And realizing the benefits the web provides, the industry participation in building out a game ecosystem is closely tracking the improvements in web game performance. That’s a trend we’ll see at this GDC and across the game market.

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