2014 promises to be a big year for HTML5 mobile games. As the CEO of a NYC-based mobile web game distribution company, I see three trends application developers should look for this year that will drive the HTML5 resurgence.
Trend Number 1: HTML5-based mobile web app demand will skyrocket
There is a growing set of HTML5 app stores that are all looking for the same thing – quality HTML5 games. They want them, they want a lot of them, and in many cases they are willing to pay for non-exclusive licenses to them and/or provide special promotion within their stores.
While the Apple and GooglePlay app stores are and will remain the biggest app stores in the market, they are also the hardest and most expensive to crack in terms of discovery and user acquisition. These alternative app stores are building sizable audiences and are investing heavily in their HTML5-based platforms.
So what are the emerging HTML5 app stores and gaming platforms? Here is a list of the bigger ones.
Firefox OS - Mozilla launched its HTML5-based Firefox OS in 2013, first in South America, Spain, and eastern Europe, and will be expanding its footprint throughout 2014. Firefox OS is working with Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom.
Tizen - A new HTML5-based operating system supported by Samsung and Intel is set to hit the market in 2014. Samsung sponsored a Tizen App Challenge in 2013 that included over $4 million in cash prizes.
Amazon - Amazon has recently put its muscle behind a mobile web app distribution program, supporting HTML5 games with integrated one-click in-app purchase ability, game service support, and game promotion.
Microsoft – Windows 8 recently surpassed 10 percent share of desktop browsers and Windows 8 Mobile continues to grow as well. Microsoft is actively looking for HTML5 web app gaming content to support both its desktop and mobile marketplaces.
Kik Messenger - Kik supports an HTML5-based game platform within its mobile messenger app. They recently surpassed 100 million registered users and are looking at games as a core component of their mobile strategy.
It should be noted that the web app opportunity is also very much an international one. For example, UC Web, which is the top mobile browser in China and India, is a firm believer in HTML5 and already has over 1,800 mobile web app partners on its browser platform.
Trend Number 2: Online Flash game portals will make the shift to HTML5 games
HTML5 games make a ton of sense for online game portals that are seeing their audience migrate to mobile. On the online game portals, users tend to enjoy snacking on many different games and game types in shared experience with their like-minded brethren who visit that particular portal. Native games are not the right fit for this audience. The requirement to download a native game interferes with and breaks this social snacking experience.
HTML5 games, on the other hand, can be played with just a click of a link. In addition, because the portals are web-based, a whole slew of social and viral elements can be employed by the game portals without the restrictions they would otherwise face as a native app within the Apple App Store or GooglePlay.
And as a game studio, you need to understand that in almost all cases, game plays within these emerging mobile game portals come with no cost per acquisition. As user acquisition costs continue to rise within the app stores, the value of reaching users through the mobile web will increase.
Shown is a chart that shows the top Flash game portals in terms of overall monthly visits and which are launching HTML5 vs. Native mobile portals.
Trend Number 3: Major brands will turn to mobile web games as the ideal way to connect with, and engage, users on mobile
Brands are struggling with ways to connect with users on mobile. Video ads can feel very intrusive on a phone, and banner ads are not always all that effective. What brands need to do is engage with their mobile users in way that resonates, namely mobile games. Over 40 percent of people’s time spent on mobile devices is spent playing games and on tablets that percentage rises to 67 percent. Games are clearly the “killer” content on mobile.
The challenge to date for brands has been that the only way to get games on mobile was by producing native games. That is an expensive proposition, especially when it requires producing both an IOS and Android version. In addition, the download requirement in the app stores is a huge hurdle for a branded game. People are just not very likely to download a branded game unless they are heavily incented to do so and that costs money.
Enter mobile web games. Mobile web games can be produced in a fraction of the time and cost of a native game and can be shared directly by the brands through their existing social platforms like Twitter and Facebook (again, just a click of a link with Twitter or Facebook on mobile or desktop). As an example, last summer HBO produced a mobile web game for season six of its True Blood franchise and used it to engage the True Blood fan base within its existing Facebook and Twitter channels.
These three trends share a common conclusion. The demand for HTML5 web app games will dramatically rise in 2014. If you are a developer with an interest in HTML5 game development, now is a perfect time to get “into the game.”