Talking tech since 2003

Remember in the 1990’s when video games came on discs and it took hours to download them on your computer?  Well, that was short-lived because a little thing called the Internet came along and video games moved online.  Game developers thought online portals for gaming was the future until the app store came along, and every developer and major company started building native video game applications.  Unfortunately, the app store has a little problem called discovery, meaning there are so many apps, that many great games never crack the top 1,000 or even 10,000 (who I am kidding, 100,000).

For this reason, among others, companies such as Amazon, HBO and Disney are turning back the clock to online games.  Why?  Because it makes business sense.  First off, browsers aren’t what they were in the 1990’s.  With the fifth revision of the HTML standard, coined HTML5, online games have advanced in areas like animation and video.  Building apps in HTML5 is also cost effective and has allowed companies to provide engaging content to their users on mobile devices, without forcing them to leave their site to go to the Apple or Google app stores.

TreSensa, a NYC-based mobile web game developer, recently built a game for the HBO hit show “True Blood” called “True Survival.”  HBO had 10 million Facebook fans and 500,000 Twitter followers for the show and wanted to make a game for its fans.  HBO could have gone the native app direction, but chose an HTML5 game instead.

True Survival

“For media companies online portals- where they already have an audience- the last thing you want to do is throw it in the arms of Apple or Google,” said Robert Grossberg, CEO of TreSensa.  “Click and go to Apple, and suddenly everything is controlled by Apple.  The media companies want to keep the user there– you can keep them on your site and embed games right there.”

The explosive growth of mobile devices is also making gamers out of anyone with a smartphone or tablet.

“Over 40% of people’s time on smartphone devices are spent playing games- and on tablets it’s 67 percent,” Grossberg said.  “Tablets are really taking over for computers- and developing countries, where people never had computers, there’s really affordable Android tablets out there, so it’s really becoming a way where people are consuming media and connecting with people around the world.”

While the appetite for mobile devices is developing countries is enormous, data is, relatively speaking, more expensive.  And while smartphone prices continue to decline (Huawei unveiled an $80 Android phone in Kenya last year), data is unlikely to fall in price as quickly, so though most people are adopting smartphone’s in developing countries, they still won’t be able to afford to run many of the apps that make up the smartphone experience.  But while the phones may not have much bandwidth, one thing all those phones have is a browser.

Amazon, for one, has taken notice.  At a developer conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, Amazon announced “Workspaces,” a plan to provide desktop computing to all the mobile devices in the world.  In addition, it announced “AppStream,” a new service allowing developers to stream their high-end apps to devices which may not otherwise be able to handle the required processing power.

“Amazon has made a big commitment to mobile web and web apps, we’re one of the data partners with them,” Grossberg said.  “Amazon’s all about people reaching people on any device anywhere—and the existing environment where you have these app stores is not really fitting their overall objectives, so they’re making a big push in mobile web.”

They’re aren’t the only ones, either.  Sprint, Verizon and other carriers are launching their own games stores on new devices.  Browsers such as Firefox also has a new HTML5 marketplace and there’s a host of others close behind.  Also, Samsung and Intel are trying to make their newly developed Tizen operating system a go-to place for developers.  In fact, the companies are trying to lure developers to create apps for the mobile operating system, even offering an award of $4  million cash to the creators of the best Tizen apps.

So if you were under the impression that HTML5 was dead, you may need to rethink that conclusion.


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