The Mounting Problems with Flash and Mobile Games!

By: Daniel Imbellino
July 14, 2014

While the technological functionalities surrounding the internet continue to flourish, and tech giants like Google have realized their importance, many have failed to adopt these newer, better, and more powerful technologies, especially in terms of game development and online gaming as a whole. While console gaming is now clearly at its peak, with next gen consoles offering state of the art functionalities that rival anything else, both in-browser (mainly Flash) desktop and mobile games have become a sore thumb for the web today, with developers clearly failing to keep up with the times. Today, the newer capabilities of HTML5 and its prospective use as a platform for game development have clearly been ignored, while mobile developers seem to have forgotten that laptops and desktops even exist. The question is when will game developers wake up to the reality of a cross-platform world?

cross-platform development graphic

No Sense of Direction:

With the recent explosion and adoption of mobile devices by consumers in recent years, game developers have jumped on the bandwagon, producing games and apps galore! In the mad hysteria to cash in on mobile, the majority of game developers have clearly forgotten the desktop experience ever existed. And, while the use of mobile continues to grow at an alarming rate, it still only accounts for a very small fraction of all traffic on the web today. At the time of this writing, less than 10% of all traffic to this website comes from mobile, and the rest from laptops and desktops, pointing out a clear example of how mobile developers are missing out on a huge audience, despite the thinking they were actually tapping into a larger one.

To add insult to injury, app stores like Google Play are literally getting hammered with so many new games each day that the entire mobile gaming market has become heavily diluted with millions of mobile games to choose from. Also, consumers have not expressed a willingness to pay more than a few dollars at most for the typical mobile game, pushing profits even lower. In fact, most mobile games fail to produce a profit at all, a serious concern when it takes developers six months to a year or longer to develop a single game.

To make matters worse, mobile developers also haven’t realized that most gamers prefer to play games with an actual controller and not some touch screen where they slide their fingers around aimlessly. Take into account all the developers that are handing out there games on mobile devices for free, and you have a recipe for gaming disaster.

The Failure to Adopt HTML5:

While the mobile gaming developers have lost sight of their largest potential audience, the desktop gamer, the desktop gaming developers too have clearly lost their ways. While Google continues to reiterate the need to develop for cross-platform functionality, the majority of Flash gaming developers have ignored newer and better alternatives to game development, such as the adoption of HTML5, in which games can be developed to work across all platforms, not just mobile or desktops.

Just like Google, many publishers of online games, including myself, have all found ourselves in serious frustration with game developers, since close to 99% of all in browser games still rely on Flash based technologies, and almost all have no support for mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones. In fact, of the over 200+ games available on this site, none work on mobile devices since they all rely on Flash, and less than 10% are scalable in browsers, meaning they cannot be resized depending on the resolution of the screen rendering the content. When will developers wake up and realize it’s no longer 2003 and there’s no such thing as “One size fits all” anymore?

Just as the mobile developers missed out on desktop gaming audiences, the desktop developers are missing out on mobile users as well. One major concern for both is the fact they’re also losing tons of revenue that they otherwise could’ve had, and both have failed to keep up with the times.

The Implications for Web Publishers:

The inability of game developers to produce games for a cross-platform world has now become a serious concern to publishers who are now under heavy pressure to conform to web 2.0 standards and do away with Flash altogether. For now, publishers like myself are stuck with Flash if we want to keep games on our sites, there’s just no other options available. Online game developers have failed to adopt HTML5, and despite several years of pushing developers to make use of this technology, it remains almost completely ignored.

When Apple pulled the plug on Flash, announcing a few years ago they would no longer support its use on mobile, this meant the end of Flash as a whole was written in stone.

While some game development platforms like Unity have made strides to provide cross-platform options for developers, they too have fallen short on providing an alternative to the much outdated Flash plug-ins the internet world still relies on today. Even Unity itself relies on proprietary plug-ins.

At present, search giants like Google and Microsoft want web publishers to do away with those proprietary plug-ins altogether, and those who fail to conform are punished by steep drops in ranking and the recent threats of Google’s Matt Cutts that they will remove sites that don’t support mobile across the board from their search results entirely if they have too! This very well means this site could lose all of its games, or shut down completely as a result. We can’t stay online with no revenue at all, it’s just not possible. It’s quite obvious Google also has no sense of understanding in our predicament, they could care less.

Greedy Developers Know No Boundaries:

Another issue that is currently affecting games across all platforms is the fact that many developers are producing new games only with the intent of making a fast buck. While the world economy is definitely in dire straits, and revenues on the web remain at all time lows, the demise of game publishing platforms like Mochimedia are a clear example of how developers themselves are also responsible for many of the issues surrounding online gaming today.

While Mochimedia provided an excellent platform for game developers to monetize their games with by connecting publishers across the web with the developers themselves, many game developers abused platforms like this by creating garbage games that obviously no one would ever play. It was all done in hopes that online game sites across the web would publish these games, and those developers would cash in on the advertising revenue. Unfortunately, that idea didn’t pan out well after Mochimedia shut its doors for good March, 31st of 2014. The platform itself turned a blind eye to what was going on, and they were just as much responsible by allowing such rogue developers to flourish on their platform.

Mochimedia provided games to over 40,000 publishers across the web, most of which featured those worthless games that no one in their right mind would have ever cared for. The publishers too didn’t seem to care as long as they were making money, that’s all that really mattered to them.

The end result was online gamers assuming that all Flash game sites were full of boring games, so most began to ignore these sites altogether and focus on other platforms, such as console gaming, which clearly offered a much better experience.

The Need for Change:

At present, the mobile gaming market as a whole is dead, due mainly to overwhelming competition among developers to grab a piece of the pie, forcing everyone involved to get their hands on just a tiny cut of the vastly expanding market. The mobile developers also need to wake up and realize they’re ignoring a huge audience, those on desktops and laptops, who are ready and willing to play many of those great games that are only available on tablets and smart phones.

Game developers as a whole also need to start focusing on cross-platform game development, and not just producing games to work on only one type of device. As for those who fail to adopt new and emerging development standards like HTML5, they will lose out later on when publishers like myself ditch their games and their advertising revenues plummet to nothing.

In case developers didn’t realize it, time is running out, and many publishers are already searching for alternatives to Flash only and mobile only games. In the event we could afford it in the future, we may go as far as to hire our own developers, pushing those who refuse to conform to web 2.0 out of a job. Supporting all devices is no simple task, but it’s something all those involved must take seriously in order to remain competitive on the web, as well as offer online gamers the great user experience they expect and deserve when they visit our sites. While I don’t agree entirely with Google’s stance towards publishers in terms of cross-platform adoption, I do agree it’s time for some serious change.

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