The new game developer challenge: Designing for the next 4 billion Internet consumers

Raul Otaolea, co-founder and CEO of WiMi5, has 14 years of experience in web games. WiMi5 is building an unprecedented online platform to create, publish and monetize web games so that indie game developers can leverage HTML5 potential. Raul discusses how

Today, around 40 percent of the world population (2.9 billion) has an Internet connection. The first billion was reached in 2005, the second billion in 2010, and the third billion will be reached by the end of this year. Mobile broadband remains the fastest growing market segment to connect to Internet, with continuous double-digit growth rates, according to ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. In 2014, there were 2.3 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions globally.

Of the 4 billion people who will connect to Internet in the next decade, more than 90 percent of them are from countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, and South America. And the leading agent for connecting these new consumers? Low cost smartphones. The ongoing transition to 4G networks and cheaper smartphones will likely keep the market for low cost smartphones growing above the global growth rate of 40 percent. So what does this all mean for game developers? A critical question we now face is determining which mobile platform is ready to scale and deliver game content to this new potential audience.

Where will the next 4 billion gamers come from

A critical question we now face is determining which mobile platform is ready to scale and deliver game content to this new potential audience.

The Effect of Low Cost Smartphones

Mobile hardware vendors have started to take positions in this arena, creating new categories of low cost smartphones. Big players such as SamsungNokiaMotorola, and HTC have launched new low-end mobiles. Even Apple, with a clear focus on high-end devices, launched a new family of low-cost devices last year. New vendors coming from Asia, such as Huawei, ZTE, andXiaomi are joining this battle. Operating systems vendors are also moving towards this direction. Great examples are FirefoxOS by Mozilla, Tizen by Samsung, and Android One Program by Google, that is already collaborating with Indian vendors Micromax, Karbonn, and Spic to build Android One-powered smartphones.

Mobile gaming continues to be a rapidly growing sector, with each country, culture, and language having unique profiles when it comes to player demographics, handsets, and business models. The challenge for global game developers will be to understand the most popular genres in these countries, localize games in the proper languages (taking into account cultural differences), and finally using appropriate business models and payment gateways to reach these markets. To succeed, gaming platforms need to take into consideration localization, culturalization, and monetization. And the million-dollar question is, which is the best platform to do that?

the million-dollar question is, which is the best platform to do that?

The million-dollar question is, which is the best platform to do that?

If the AppStore and Google Play will lead this new era, developers face a large problem: they need a huge marketing budget to stand out from the crowd. This rules out 99 percent of game developers. Today, small game studios and indie developers struggle with App Stores saturation and need to spend large amounts of money in game discovery. Imagine the chaos that 4 billion more users will bring. There is a much better option and it is called “the web.”  Not the web as we knew it, but a new one.

The New Web

Thanks to the W3C, after 15 years of HTML5 standard development, we finally have a great technology to create cross-platform games. While we don’t know which vendor or operating system will win the battle for new mobile users, we do know for certain the web will be there. And HTML5 offers an open, standards-based, easy-to-share format to create games that can be shared with a simple link, allowing everyone to play with instant accessibility. Because the web is real-time, it is always up-to-date and device agnostic.

Examples of large web-based marketplaces include the Chrome Web Store, Mozilla Market Place, Windows Phone Store, and Amazon. Already existing online game portals are shifting from obsolete technologies to HTML5 and a growing number of new portals have been born to push HTML5 games. We are facing a major transition to the way we experience and access game content – developers can now build great games for both desktop and mobile for a huge potential market without massive marketing budgets. Spil Games, Booster Media, Kongregate, Softgames are just a few examples.

In terms of mobile browser support, Android Chrome and iOS Safari (version 8, due this fall) will support HTML5 and specific key technologies for games like webGL. New operating systems such as FirefoxOS and Tizen are already HTML5-based so they provide seamless integration. Designers that want to be in native app stores can always create a hybrid app because HTML5 is that flexible.

Scene desktop

Designers that want to be in native App stores can always create a hybrid app because HTML5 is that flexible.

In the coming years, we are going to see a massive deployment of HTML5 as the share of mobile games on the market continues to rise in parallel with mobile subscription growth. When the next 4 billion subscribers tap in to the web, expect an increase in the diversity, quality, and quantity of web-based games. We are certain to see more games developed using HTML5 rise to the top of the most played mobile games charts. So what are you waiting for?

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