And it will all begin full-force next year, apparently…
“Core, casual and browser based games will merge next year, within the web browser,” that’s the message being given by Illkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell – developers of upcoming free-to-play MMO, Gunshine.net.
Paananen, speaking at today’s Evolve conference in Brighton, provided a number of points to back up his viewpoint. Firstly, instant access to browser-based games is a key feature not offered by other mediums. As a comparision, Paananen looked at World of Warcraft and Supercell’s own Gunshine.net, a browser-based thrid-person MMO shooter played from an isometric viewpoint.
WoW, for example, needs a download, the entering of personal info, a lengthy install, license agreement sign-offs, initial and ongoing subscription fees etc. Gunshine.net, by comparison, needs only a Facebook login and a password.
Just for the sake of imparting information, Gunshine.net doesn’t require Facebook for users to play but it is encouraged by Supercell. This is primarily because of the “virality” Facebook provides in promoting the game among your friends through status updates etc; essentially it’s good (and free) advertising.
Secondly, Paananen believes that the free-to-play model is superior to traditional financial models. He goes on to say that this has been “proven” by the success of Facebook games and the fact that 9 of the top 10 grossing iPhone games fall into the free-to-play category (Angry Birds is the exception).
Thirdly, technology advances are resulting in “levels of immersion” that are catching up with those offered by console games and premium-priced PC products. Specifically, innovations like Flash v11 have meant that browser-based games can display huge numbers of players and NPCs at once. (Paananen said that Supercell themselves have managed to get 4096 avatars running on a browser at 60fps thanks to Flash v11.)
Fourthly, browser-based games provide a social experience that consists of “actually playing together, not just spam” which other platform cannot offer to the same degree – largely because of the ease in integrating applications such as Facebook, Twitter etc.
However, Paananen doesn’t believe that browser games in and of themselves represent the final future of the industry. Cross platform play will remain, and become more so, important as consumers ever more come to expect to be able to access their products/profile/friends/games on the move. So, essentially, browser games + smartphones = the future of games.
Ultimately, it’s the “best user experience that will win,” said Paananen.
However, he did yield to the fact that browser games have a lot of work to do to convince the gaming public to indulge in its offerings to the extent he would like. Core gamers, for example (especially premium rate MMO players, apparently) are very negative towards the idea of playing in a browser window; largely because of the perception that Facebook/browser based games lack depth, sophistication and exciting tech.
And then there’s the issue that not many of the top, experienced developers have dabbled in browser based games, “people are more important than technology,” said Paananen. When skilled developers move into the browser game space the mass movement towards browser games will be well on course, concluded Paananen.