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Gamelab 2011: Trip Hawkins: 'The Browser Will Win'

Digital Chocolate CEO Trip Hawkins believes the browser is the wild new frontier for games, and that it will ultimately become the dominant platform, while also touting free to play as "where all the money is going."
The browser, Digital Chocolate CEO Trip Hawkins is certain, will win out as the new ultimate platform for games. With the lowest barrier to entry on both the consumer and developer/publishing sides, and HTML5 rapidly improving, Hawkins thinks the days of retail distribution are numbered. "Why is it that in movies there are always so many sequels? Why is it in games?" he posed at his Gamasutra-attended Gamelab 2011 talk in Barcelona. "It's because everyone's so afraid." He explained, "They have big retail costs, they have big marketing costs ... Why would the retailer want to try something new? So they want to go with a proven brand, and the guys with the financial muscle can get behind it too." That's the traditional retail industry. Hawkins -- an industry veteran who was an original founder of Electronic Arts -- showed a slide with the 10 tenets on which he helped build EA and bring it to massive success. "None of this applies anymore," he said. "Instead, we have a search and social discovery clickfest. Our friends help us find things we're looking for, and we can try them for free." "The browser has already won on the PC," says Hawkins. "It'll win on the tablets. It'll take longer for it to adapt to the smaller screens, the iPhones and the like, but it will." But it's not just any content Hawkins sees succeeding. "What you're going to see is free to play, pay for items in the browser," he says. "That's where all the money is going to be." Though it may be only a percentage of users paying the money, they do pay a lot. Why? Because as Hawkins says, "$1,000 is a cheap price to pay to be king." People want to pay in order to dominate all the people playing for free, he says. "You could spend all this money in real life, and you might still be a loser," added Hawkins. "But you spend this money in a free to play game, and you become king!" For Digital Chocolate, whose games include Millionaire City, this process is well underway. "If you had Googled any of our properties four years ago, you wouldn't have gotten a lot of page hits," he admitted. "Now we get over a million page hits," because of all the brand awareness given the studio's Facebook games, which have a million daily players. You don't have to pay for that traffic either. Support is for browser games is accelerating, as well. There are a lot of hardware, software, and web companies that are losing now because of the disruption caused by Apple and Facebook, he says. "It's too late to just try to copy what Apple did. They're going to need a new idea, and the new idea's going to be browser. Just you watch."

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