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HTML5 for Game Studios

HTML5 still isn't being widely adopted by larger game studios...my argument is it should be.

Austin Hallock, Blogger

June 14, 2013

5 Min Read

HTML5 hasn't had success with larger game studios to this point. There have been some prolific 'failures' with companies like Wooga and Facebook taking a step back with their HTML5 commitments, and unfortunately that scares a lot of folks away from the technology. Despite that, HTML5 is still an incredible platform for game development, waiting to be properly utilized.

Past High Profile HTML5 Games

Angry Birds, Cut the RopeTwo of the highest profile HTML5 games have been Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Field Runners also has an HTML5 port, but it's not as well-known.

The common thread between these games is they were ports of older iOS/Android games, and they didn't take advantage of HTML5's cross-platform nature. The developers didn't make the most of the technology, and haven't done much with it since.

Yes, HTML5 is still mostly unproven at a large scale; however, it's still advantageous for studios to start developing for it now.

Common Arguments Against HTML5

Mobile Performance

The biggest harp on HTML5 has to be its performance on mobile devices - whether or not it can compete with native apps. It's still not up to par with native, but it's continually getting closer and closer as JavaScript engines in mobile browsers improve.
Pixie, Strandead

For examples of HTML5 games that are great in mobile browsers see Strandead and Run Pixie Run. Both were built by small teams (TreSensa and goodboy) with quick turnarounds.

High performing HTML5 games can be built today, and the technology just keeps getting better.

Using a new technology

So, you have a lot of talent built around your tool of choice: Objective C, Java, Unity, etc... Is it worth the risk to change gears and try out HTML5?

Fortunately, HTML5 is primarily just JavaScript, an extremely popular language that I bet a good chunk of your team knows well. If not, it's fairly easy to hire for. It's difficult to get an accurate representation, but this article takes a look at popular programming languages from a variety of sources and JavaScript consistently beats out Objective-C, and varies with Java.


HTML5 is blessed and cursed by distribution. On one hand, there is no single, cross-platform distribution channel for HTML5 games - Facebook is trying to achieve this, but the mobile side is lacking. On the other hand, an HTML5 game can be distributed to just about any platform.

With an HTML5 game, you can easily reach users in: the iOS App Store, Google Play, Facebook, Chrome Web Store, Windows App Store and Firefox Marketplace.

But that's only half of the equation. What many developers often forget about are the thousands of "Flash Portals" out there - sites like Kongregate, Armor Games and Newgrounds. While these sites have traditionally served just Flash games, they've realized they need to take advantage of the mobile traffic they're already receiving, and display mobile-web-friendly HTML5 games. The market for these games isn't crowded, so a good game will receive a lot of traffic.

At Clay.io we recently released a Publisher Platform that allows these Flash portals to search through HTML5 games and add them to their sites. For an idea of the amount of traffic these sites can provide just on mobile, a few of our mid-sized publishers bring in 1,000-2,000 uniques per game, per day, despite being an order of magnitude smaller than the sites I mentioned.

Media Coverage

As silly as it may be, developing and releasing an HTML5 game will make it easier for you to get media coverage. It's still considered something new, so even if a studio takes a small direction towards HTML5 it's newsworthy, helping in the short-term with distribution.

How to Approach HTML5

Find a Partner

Mozilla Google MicrosoftThere are some huge names backing HTML5: Google, Microsoft and Mozilla to name a few. Get in touch with one - if you're a developer with some solid mobile games in your repertoire, they will without a doubt provide you with extra help.

In addition to the big names, there are some newer players that focus 100% on HTML5 gaming that are worth reaching out to like Game ClosureLudei and Clay.io (company I am affiliated with)

Firefox OS, a mobile operating system built on HTML5, is rolling out later this year. In order to build up the ecosystem, I'm sure Mozilla is more than happy to help in any way they can to quality studios.

Test the Water

To any studios out there working on native mobile games, my suggestion is to start small with HTML5. Have a team of 2-3 people work on a simple, fun HTML5 game that performs well on desktops and mobile.

Develop this game as a tool for cross-promotion for your other games. With the average cost of game app installs at $1.40 (source), building a quality HTML5 game on a low budget can save big on your marketing budget.

Games like Paper Toss on iOS, aren't built to be money-makers, rather to direct users to BackFlip's other games with higher ARPU. I can see this same approach working for a small-scale HTML5 game... take advantage of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of plays to get more installs for your current mobile apps.

I wouldn't go into this with the mindset that you will make money directly off of this game. It's certainly possible, with advertising being the most common way nowadays , but I think there's more value for studios in cross-promotion.

Develop a smaller-scale HTML5 game, but do it right! After lowering the risk with this approach to see if HTML5 is a valid long-term strategy for your studio, you can build larger-scale HTML5 games and monetize through in-game purchases and advertising.


I'm more than happy to help, whether it's with technical questions, or about the current HTML5 games market. Feel free to email me at [email protected], and see what Clay.io can offer your game here.

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