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  • 07/17/18 05:10 AM

    Why Gaming in the Browser is Inevitable

    Game Design and Theory

    Plains of VR

    Just like applications, games will be migrated to the browser as well. In order to understand the forces that will make this transition happen, we need to understand what makes the Internet, the browsers and websites so successful in the first place, and why is that relevant in the context of games.

    Bit of History

    There is always a reason why a trend develops and decays over time. It's more than just excitement then later on boredom. In the beginning, all the application were developed for the mainframes first, because at the time no single person could afford a computer. Then the PC came along and everything got rewritten for that platform. Then just recently, internet speed, hardware and browsers become fast enough to run the apps we use in the office to trigger another wave of application migration, back to the cloud. Think about Microsoft Office Online. Improvements on the hardware level will disrupt trends build on top of it.

    The Bias

    When a new technology comes along, people tend to focus on the downsides only and argue that the new tech never going to be as good as the old one. The reasonable question would be, what are the downsides and what are the upsides and what the new technology allows me to do and can I live with the downsides. Change is difficult, therefore people tend to stick to the old tech. New customers who are exposed to competing products the first time, evaluate the old and the new tech objectively and then make a decision.

    People tend to confuse the principles that brought a trend to live with the current state of those trends. They say: yes, but at the moment X can’t do what Y can. A set of features was used to create a popular app, service or game, a different set of features will produce a different product. The new product doesn’t have to be superior in every way in order to succeed.

    Not as Black and White as we’d like it to be

    When PC was introduced it wasn’t as fast as consoles at the time. People argued that it's not good for gaming. Today it's the other way around. Nintendo Switch was released with 1 teraflop performance on a market where the competition was PS 4 Pro - 4.2 teraflop - and XBox One X - 6 teraflop and become one the fastest selling consoles of all times. Clearly, there was more to the story than just performance. After all, why do even consoles exist when they are inferior to the PC.

    So what are the upsides of gaming in the browser and what do we have to put up with?


    • Instant Gaming - fast as loading up a website
    • Cross play - No need to convince your friends to buy the same console to play the same games together.
    • Seamless Updates - No delayed gaming sessions because a new 30GB update just got released.
    • Low Resistance - When something is only one click away, it's more likely to give it a try.
    • One Standard - Porting Games is unnecessary. If you have a browser, you have access to the game.


    • Limited Graphics - Web standards are behind the cutting edge APIs available on other platforms.
    • Fast Internet Required - You need a reasonably good internet speed. E.g.: 4G on your phone.
    • Deviation from Standards - Some browser vendors make it difficult for devs to use the same codebase.

    We probably going to see a form of merger in the long run. Apps will merge with websites and the same goes for games, and they partly already did on mobile devices. It's not the question of better or worse, or whether it will provide a better experience for everybody or not. It's more about what will become mainstream? When most people sit down to play a game, what device they will reach out to and what platform will deliver most games?

    Feel free to disagree and leave a comment below if you have something to say :)

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    User Feedback

    I believe that games will not become browser based, inevitably. Here's why:


    With the push for higher end graphics, and the want of the consumer to have these higher quality graphics, I think that unless browsers are able to support higher end graphics libraries (like we are seeing with WebGL, but now people are making the move to Vulkan. Will we have Web-kan?) that we won't see a switch to browsers anytime soon, at least for AAA games. Not to mention that of the tools available, there is a limited subset that is available in browsers today. From what I know, there isn't a 3D audio library for browsers, nor is there any ability to add scripting support (I suppose you could add it in the back-end, but that would be a little bit too much for the browser to handle with those get and post requests.)


    Another thing to mention is the ability for a native program to access the memory specified by the OS, rather than using browser memory. This allows programmers to have access to a larger array of memory, and speeds up memory access, than just requesting the browser to request memory from the OS. Also, with a program like a game, it can take advantage of the OS scheduler and be put into the correct priority that the game needs to, rather than being stuck in a browser and doing goodness-knows-what to the scheduler. 

    I am biased in this regard though: I hate browsers using up almost all of my computers processing time and memory.

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    How're you supposed to make a game in a browser when all you could use are HTML5, CSS and JS, all of which are 100% publicly readable code ? Obfuscation just slows down reading it.

    Edited by uDp
    Added more text.

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    • increased ongoing revenue stream through ad insertion and subscription fees


    • ad insertion and subscription fees

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    It's more about what will become mainstream?

    Maybe, but wouldn't this just accelerate the 'downfall of gaming'?

    We have franchises throwing out the same game again every year, more HD remakes than new innovations, exploding costs just to put more sugar on top, growing number of unsatisfied customers. I don't think we can afford the technical fallback caused by a total move to browser games at the time.

    Much more likely cloud gaming is the better alternative. It makes the same promises as you list on the upsides, but is backed by capable hardware and OS at least.

    It is however not clear if you include cloud gaming services to your vision of browser games, if you talk about gaming in general or just casual games, if you think browsers will replace consoles and PC. So it's hard to discuss that.

    For example, comparing a Nintendo console targeting families vs. PS4 with a very different audience can not be argument for an acceptable loss of performance when moving everything to browsers. As long as we can make progress in tech, i do not think that's the case. Because people still want graphics, physics, etc. to improve over time (which gives new options about gameplay too!)

    So there will be always something you can't compete against with browser games, and likely browser will not become the one and only gaming platform anytime soon.

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    There is also a business hurdle to overcome. It might sound dumb, but people will not make a one off 60$ purchase on a browser game (even if it's AAA).

    This is the same reason you don't see Blockbuster films on Amazon. ( Transformers / Averngers / Disney... ) : Nobody is willing to pay 15$ per seat for a movie on Amazon no matter how good it is. Do you think that my kids need to go to the theatre to watch the latest Pixar movie? We have a great TV at home, and a great internet connection. They don't care weather it's on the big screen or not. However Disney makes sure you can only see their latest film in the theatre, which means that you are willing to spend 50$ as a family to go and see it. And that's how a blockbuster makes *most* of it's money. Disney cannot spend $150M on a film, and then sell 10$ tickets (per family) on Netflix / amazon. And if you want Elton John to write songs for your film ( which is what being AAA is about! ), it's not going to be cheap.

    On the same page: I see no real reason for consoles to exist except for the fact: That's how AAA make most of their money.

    Not saying it's impossible to get people to pay 60$ for a browser game, but I think that that is a big hurdle.

    Think about it: Smartphones are perfectly capable of AAA experiences with regards to the production you can pour into them. However, barely anyone makes AAA games for smartphones. Why? Because you need to charge 50$ to pay your artists, and almost noone is willing to pay that on a phone. ex: A good Skyrim style game does not require the latest and greatest performance. It *does* require the best game design, writing, voice acting, and music. That's where the budget goes (that and marketing 🙂 ). Would you undertake such a AAA effort knowing that no matter how good your game is, people will not pay more  than 10$ for it?

    And I think that that is the sole reason for the existence of PS4/Xbox/Nintendo : It is an established cultural phenomenon that people are willing to pay 60$ for a game there. BTW: I am an avid PC gamer, and I can say whole heartedly that that is the problem with PC gaming: There are not as many people who are willing to pay 60$ for a PC game as there are PS users. That is why the only reason you see a PC exclusive release is: The developer is too small to handle the difficulties of developing for consoles.


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