March 04, 2011, 7:55 AM — When it comes to web-based games, Flash has been the standard development environment for quite some time. (Remember when the decision was whether to build in Flash or use a Java applet?) Flash is fairly ubiquitous on PCs and works quite well under Windows. Not as well under Mac OS X. And of course not at all on iOS devices, thanks to Apple's hard line stance against allowing Flash onto that platform. Flash is on Android with mixed success, but we can expect that will continue to improve.
When the iPad launched last year most web video was delivered via Flash, too. That has changed. Cnet posted an article on Wednesday claiming that 63% of the video on the web is now HTML5-compatible, compared to just 10% a year ago.
So will web-based gaming follow the same trend? While it's foolish to try to draw a graph based on two points, it was interesting to see two similar announcements happening yesterday. First, Disney acquired HTML5 game developer Rocket Pack (VentureBeat has the story) and second, Motorola Mobile invested in HTML5 developer Moblyng (for that story head to TechCrunch).
The beauty of using HTML5 rather than Flash, of course, is cross-platform compatibility. The same code runs on Android, iOS, Facebook and in any modern browser. Given that Motorola is an Android supporter, it's curious that they'd be pro-HTML5, but perhaps the idea is that they want games that'll run on low-end phones that really don't handle Flash well. It may be significant that Moblyng makes games that are essentially text-based simulations running behind a static UI. In other words, there's little-to-no animation in Moblyng's games.
Rocket Pack has only one game out right now, but it's closer to a 'video game' than Moblyng's titles are. Warimals is a kind of tower-defense game built around the eternal struggle between cats and dogs. It's got cute graphics, funny animations and mildly snarky dialog between members of the opposing forces, and runs great inSafari on the iPad. Sounds like a perfect fit for Disney.
What makes the Rocket Pack acquisition more interesting is that Warimals was built using Rocket Engine, Rocket Pack's tool for building HTML5 games. Here's a quick overview:
Neat, huh? I'm sure Disney was after the tool and the talent that built it, rather than the cute Warimals game.
Still, HTML5 titles have a ways to go before they catch up to the action-heavy gaming that Flash can provide. I don't think Adobe needs to be worried yet, but the fact that companies like Motorola Mobile and Disney are starting to spend money on the technology is encouraging for those of us who're looking forward to a Flash-free future.