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Looking at HTML5 and Flash - finding alternative solutions for mobile entertainment
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Looking at HTML5 and Flash - finding alternative solutions for mobile entertainment
by Przemyslaw Szczepaniak on 07/17/13 08:03:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This time I won't be trying to explain why one technology is better than the other. It won't be a "Flash vs. HTML5" argument or any research proving superiority of any of the technologies. Additionally, I won't be comparing native games with web mobile games, because these are two separate approaches to game development, and in my opinion this comparison is pointless. This entry will show that a change of approach by developers towards the future of mobile gaming is necessary so new business opportunities can arise. The lack of awareness and support towards HTML5 games development is still visible because we didn't noticed a "BIG BANG" in this niche yet. Despite that, mobile gaming is moving to the web in a wider range recently, and what's most important - Flash just doesn't work there. Mobile devices are more popular for gaming than handheld consoles, and it's one of most interesting facts towards thinking about the future. Flash is working fine for standalone games, but it will never have a chance to grow its visibility on mobile devices. In this entry I will try to indicate why we should move on with mobile web gaming.

Why HTML5 would be the good alternative choice?

HTML5 has been called a flash successor many times. Steve Jobs in his Thoughts on Flash has pointed out a necessity for support for the new technology. In his words, HTML5 was about to a be a replacement for Flash in multimedia support, and HTML5 would work better with touch functions, where Flash just doesn't work properly at all. "Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short." This breakdown was confirmed by Adobe which claimed that it’s the end of Flash era. Flash was never going to get ubiquity on mobile devices, where HTML5 is actually ubiquitous. According to Mike Chambers, "On mobile devices, HTML5 provides a similar level of ubiquity that the Flash Player provides on the desktop." Adobe has stopped supporting flash for Android 4.1 and onward, and in case of iOS - Flash didn't even show up.

What does it mean for web mobile gaming business?

At the moment, mobile browsers allow access to multimedia features, such as an accelerometer, sound, and touch events. Some features still have some issues, but as a summary I can say that as a successor to Flash, the HTML5 multimedia capabilities are a fact. This is one of the main arguments why developers should move on with this technology if they are thinking about web mobile gaming. I'm not saying that Flash is dead, because that would be a lie. I'm rather trying to convince the reader to think about the solutions he has now.

As I mentioned, Flash works great for standalone games and also for native mobile games. In the case of growing web mobile gaming market, there is no other alternative than HTML5. Of course you may say that the performance issues or lack of compatibility with all systems/browsers make it impossible to make very advanced games. But ask yourself a few questions. When Flash was showing up on market a while ago, did it have a big support? Was it as well developed as it is now? Did it have opponents and disbelievers? I think there is a very easy answer to those questions. Looking at HTML5 now, the situation is similar. Will HTML5 ever be finished? Not really. There are many things to improve, and similar to Flash, as time passes we may achieve much more than has happened in the last two years. The last two years have shown a huge leap from not very well working games to those that are much more polished and perform better.

Which way should we go, and what are the alternatives?

Lately, I managed to prove that web gaming has improved so much that it needs only some time and support to grow. Everyone says that mobile is the future, so is HTML5 mobile gaming in my opinion. If the mobile is the future and if the cloud is the future, then where does the real problem exist? Many times I mentioned that there is a lack of awareness and a lack of support from huge companies to build and grow a mobile web market. Yes, it is still a factor that blocks the mobile web gaming expansion. On the other hand, we already have a  potential among many networks which would easily support web mobile gaming. The traffic that is generated by some networks is sometimes enough to generate the satisfying revenues.

I learned from a couple of sources that even up to 20 to 30 percent of traffic from standalone networks (social or for example flash gaming portals) is lost because people are used to going to gaming and social network sites on their mobile devices more frequently. Of course, we also use mobile social networks. In some cases those networks don't have games access. But if they do then mobile games are usually native and downloadable. This forces users to download the gaming content. But if they only want to have some fun while they wait for a friend reply through PM, would they want to be redirected to external link to download a big file? Not necessarily. That's why those and other issues can be solved by implementing web mobile gaming among social and gaming networks in my opinion.

Publishers as well as developers should be aware of the many opportunities and chances they can have from mobile web gaming. It is not only crossplatform, it is also a great chance to create new models of cooperation. It is a good idea if publishers think about expanding their networks to a bigger audience. It is a great chance for developers/publishers to find new ways to reach out to a larger audience. If the mobile is more popular for communication, it is worth trying to promote gaming through the mobile web. I'd like to hear your opinions and alternative ideas. Maybe you already have an alternative solution?

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Phil Maxey
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"In the case of growing web mobile gaming market, there is no other alternative than HTML5"

Maybe I missed something in the article but I don't get that comment. What about native? obj-c? what about Unity? what about Haxe? What about Corona? What about Apples own SpriteKit?

Objective-c can seem pretty complicated when you first come to it, but using that and the Sparrow Framework I can now create games with XCode just as quickly as I used to with Flash/AS3.

The strange thing about HTML5 is you would of thought it would of crushed Flash, but it hasn't. Somehow Flash is still trundling along and for Web games it still has to be the number 1 choice for development.

HTML5 always had and still has huge potential, to be a great gaming platform. But there's too many things holding it back, which are always glossed over but yet are very steep mountains to climb.

The lack of a packaged file format. The lack of penetration on mobile App stores. The lack of good tools, (creating games in HTML5 is still pretty hardcore). HTML5/JS is seen wrongly or right as a "Web" programming language and as such I think it's going to be difficult for it to change that perception.

Andrew Grapsas
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This article really misses the point.

"web mobile gaming market" <-- nice way of saying, "People that want to play a game on a mobile device in a browser."

The whole concept is a myth. There's no monetary momentum to do this. There's no need. Even after a 30% cut is taken, there is ample reward to generating a native application. This is something that you can do in Flash (Air) that you will never be able to do in HTML5.

Every strength mentioned about HTML5 in this article is irrelevant. None of it matters. This is why HTML5 is a joke (for gaming purposes). It doesn't matter. There is no need. There is no momentum. There are no market forces related. It's a label used by start ups to garner massive investment with little to actually show for it.

Flash games make insane orders of magnitude more money than HTML5. HTML5 isn't even in the same league in terms of actual money being generated from utilizing the technology. That's all that matters. You can sling as much spin and propaganda as you want; but, all that matters at the end of the day is how much revenue is being earned.

havenisle mr jones
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This is a very interesting topic. I wonder if any of you have run into Construct 2. It's an HTML5 game engine that I've been working with for the last three months. My investor wants to take the game to market within a month, but now that I've read all this, I'm wondering why I left Flash in the first place. If it's possible to create downloadable apps for mobile with Flash, why shouldn't I?

I've always heard that Flash was completely useless for ios, and to be honest, I don't even think I want to publish my C2 games into ios after this last quarter. But I had never heard any good press about Flash on any other devices.

As a starving artist looking to monetize, am I wasting my time with C2?

Uti Vyas
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Can we create games in Flash and make use of Adobe AIR to port the game into the screen touch environment, by creating an apps. Will the Flash game function well, if ported for a tablet (iOS device)?
If this is possible, Flash still holds its importance as far as the creative design tools it has. Please advise the pro and cons of this method of creating touch screen games.

Yota Wada
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There are still many challenges using HTML5 for developing games. However, so far, we have successfully developed and released a 3D game called Polycraft ( for the desktop browsers. We have also tested that this game also runs in mobile browsers although not yet perfectly. More sophisticated HTML5 games will be coming to desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones very soon. BTW, check out this video of Quake 4 running inside a browser using our game engine.
This was taken last year.