Gaming is big business. Each year, billions of dollars change hands between developers, publishers and end users who consume interactive content on consoles, PCs, tablets and smartphones. Of all these platform types, mobile is seen as the area where the most growth will happen. As the world gets deeper into its love affair with iPhones, Androids and Windows Mobile devices, the demand for games on these platforms also surges.
Developing a game for a mobile device is easy in theory: you just need to get the SDK, have a good concept that gamers will enjoy, and hire people with the coding and design skills to make the vision a reality.
The thing is, game development usually has a business component to it. Publishers back up developer projects in the interest of turning a profit when the game sells well. The chances of selling more copies of a game increases with the number of platforms where it’s made available. That’s where things start to get a little complicated: porting video games across operating systems requires significant investments in technology and manpower.
HTML5: Making Multi-Platform More Manageable
Given that, the simple answer to the cross-platform development challenge is to try and find a way to make every version run off of the same source code. That’s easier said than done, as Apple, Google and Microsoft operate their smartphone platforms like walled gardens.
Everything from the coding rules, the distribution channels, and the online marketplaces is tightly controlled. Developers either had to comply or get out of the kitchen if they didn’t agree with the requirements that the platform owners mandate.
But more than that, it was the state of technology in the recent past that made cross-platform development for mobile game a pain in the neck. Most games run on Flash–a solid but dated piece of technology that offers limited flexibility in terms of cross-platform functionality. Until HTML5 came along, the common practice was to code a game five times over if it has to release on five different platforms.
Thankfully, those days are coming to an end.
Finalized in October of 2014, HTML5 will be the standard markup language that the Web runs on moving forward. With cleaner code, richer presentation capabilities, greater interactivity potential, and its relative ease of coding, HTML5 can be used for far more than just building webpages. It’s now powerful enough to develop games that are similar to Flash in terms of appeal.
HTML is no longer just a way to tell a browser where to pull on-screen elements and how to position each one onscreen. With HTML5, the experience comes together in a more seamless fashion because there’s no longer a need for native web apps to support specific functionalities.
For the most part, HTML5 can produce the intended effects that the developer had in mind all in itself. It’s so good that Apple, Google and Microsoft are all on board and are making their mobile operating systems HTML5-ready as this post is written.
HTML5 is the Future: Technology and Economics Agree
So how exactly do all these things bring us to a better mobile game development future? The answer is two pronged:
First, it now takes a lot less effort to develop cross-platform games due to the emergence of “shell apps.” These are hybrid mobile applications whose “shells” or outer code layers comply with the requirements of the host OS/platforms, but their insides all run on HTML5. To port the app to another platform, the developers only need to create a shell for that specific environment but the same HTML5 core stays the same. This is a big departure from having to re-program everything from the ground up, saving developers a lot of time on project cycles.
This also makes sense from a business standpoint. With shorter development cycles, game publishers spend less money on man hours. This makes profitability easier to achieve, giving them the ability to fund more projects.
The consumers win big with HTML5 and what it brings to the table, too. With lower development costs, more publishers can enter the market and give consumers more offerings. This increases competition and gives game developers the impetus to develop better offerings. If the competition gets intense enough, publishers may start dipping price points a little to attract more buyers.
HTML5 is also a big plus to all aspiring game developers. HTML is widely used and very easy to learn. Most people who are proficient in HTML will not find it hard to incorporate additions in HTML5. This makes mobile game development easier than ever, and it allows the independent game developer community to grow due to the easier entry point.
Now that HTML5 has been finalized by the W3C, we’re seeing more resources on HTML5 that can help beginners get a fast start.
Are you on board with HTML5 or do you think it’s much ado over a whole lot of nothing? Let us know in the comments section.