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From mini game to full-fledged industry: The browser game phenomenon

Free HTML5 games have become increasingly popular since the late '90s and even more so in the last few years. They have spawned many franchises and success stories and this looks set to continue. Also known as “browser games”, these mini games are often developed for mobile use nowadays, and it is exactly this reason that has caught the imagination of the playing public and launched some title to stratospheric success.

Official HTML5 logo by W3C (CC BY 3.0)

Gamers' wish to play games on the move has long been acknowledged by the games industry but the trend of mobile gaming has taken off in a big way since the released of the smartphone. These are essentially mobile computers with the additional ability to make phone calls and write text messages. The other functions are far more in tune with what you would have, in previous years, associated with a laptop or tablet.

There are several titles that have gone from simple 5 minute time filler to massive global franchise. If you look at games such as Club Penguin that started out as a Flash game but ended up being developed into a massive franchise owned by Disney that, at one stage, had 30 million subscribers, it is clear that these games have massive potential if they find the right formula.

Freeciv screenshot by Nybygger (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The game was developed by Lance Priebe in his spare time and was known in its early stages as "snow blasters". The game went through a few different stages but when Lane Merrifield and Dave Krysko joined the team they went about creating a game that was safe for their own kids to enjoy while being free of adverts, hence the beginning of Club Penguin. It proved lucrative for the trio when it was sold to Disney in 2007 for $350 million.

Other online games that can be played on mobile such as the videoslots offered by Betsafe, are offering endless varieties with some 833 different games available including titles such as Planet of the Apes and seasonal classics like Santa. This choice is another reason for the growth in HTML5 and Flash gaming. You can literally have hundreds of different variations due to the relative ease and low cost of development.

When Nintendo launched their Wii U, they made the decision not to support Flash but instead focused on the HTML5 games and there were several successful titles available on their console. Titles such as Cut The Rope allowed players to use the stylus to solve puzzles and had the kind of addictive nature as mobile classics like Cover Orange which was available on mobile phones with iOS.

Bejeweled is another classic that ended up making it onto Xbox as a downloadable arcade game. Like many others it started out as a web-based game but when creators Popcap games teamed up with Microsoft and changed the name from Diamond Mine to the current incarnation it took off.  It was one of the games that derived the Facebook classic Candy Crush Saga that was estimated to have been downloaded 2.7 billion times.

So next time you have an idea for an addictive, fun and challenging browser game you might just have a huge hit on your hands. The possibilities are endless.

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