MocoSpace's Scott Hyman on 5 tips for developing HTML5 mobile games

MocoSpace's Scott Hyman on 5 tips for developing HTML5 mobile games
Previously at Creat Studios, Vivendi Games Mobile and JAMDAT, amongst others, Scott brings eighteen years of industry experience to MocoSpace. He heads the company's internal game studio.

We've all witnessed the growth of mobile and social gaming over the past two years: the two genres have continued to evolve independently, while also coming together and embracing the power of HTML5.

Mobile browser-based social games have found an audience and are thriving.

This new gaming category draws from the strength of both web social gaming and native mobile apps, but the two do not overlap perfectly. Unless the game is featured on a mobile social network, the engagement of friends may prove difficult.

With the potential to reach millions of people, but faced with a glut of games on the market, the mobile game developer is faced with great opportunity, as well as great challenges. To avoid getting burned in the business of gaming, HTML5 game developers should keep in mind the following five tips.

1. In a well-built game, most customers won't know it's browser-based

As HTML5 techniques continue to improve, browser-based games feel more and more like rich, app-based experiences. With each new update to Android and iteration of the iPhone, users will soon have no distinction between the two. That said, take heed of tip no. 2.

2. Don't be tempted (yet) by fancy, higher-end tech

For now, build for lower-end HTML5 browsers. Just because HTML5 is chock-full of goodness doesn't mean that you have to utilise everything it can do. Many consumers are still lugging around lower-end browser phones that can't handle every cutting-edge concept designers and engineers can dream up. Focus on delivering a solid game mechanic that can comfortably run on most devices.

3. Size does matter: Be aware of screen real estate

While it may seem obvious, it can be easy to lose sight of the difference between a PC and a smartphone browser. Don't make players zoom in and out just to be able to accurately click on buttons or links.

Mobile social games are mobile games first and social games second. Give players the tools to keep connected and engaged, but remember that screen clutter leads to player frustration.

4. Smaller screen, shorter attention span

Another challenge for mobile developers is the shorter attention span of mobile gamers; mobile game players are likely to pass judgment on new titles in as little as 30 to 90 seconds, while players of new web-based games may take several minutes before making any decisions.

Realise that you're competing not only with other games, but also with text messages, calls from the best friend, and Lady Gaga's latest video. Be sure to engage users quickly, or they'll move on to something more exciting.

5. Time is money: Find ways for users to engage socially while providing short and longer-term gameplay option

Mobile games work best when they can provide quick bursts of gameplay along with longer periods of engagement. Finding this balance may be the greatest trick of all, but it's sure to pay handsomely when accomplished.

Work to establish short and longer-term gameplay loops to give players the best of both worlds. They'll be more eager to play your game, whether they have five minutes at the bus stop or a couple of hours to relax on the couch at home.

For example, Zynga designed its Ville games (Farmville, Cityville, Frontierville) to allow players to check in for a few minutes during a busy day, or to provide hours of engagement. Many of our titles at MocoSpace offer multiple gameplay loops to take advantage of the variety of circumstances where players use their mobile phones.

Our lessons

As HTML5 WebKit phones continue to grab market share, unexpected opportunities for high engagement with mobile browser-based social games will arise. How well they compete with the current app-based markets remains to be seen.

For background, here are some general statistics we are seeing on the MocoSpace Games platform:

  • Minutes played per day: 5 million

  • Average minutes played per day per game-playing user: 29

  • Average number of sessions per day: 820,000

  • Total number of mobile social games: 14 (with many more on the way)

  • Top 3 games: Street Wars, Cute or Boot, Happy Farm.

Lastly, if you need funds, they're available.

Not only has MocoSpace created a $2 million HTML5 Game Development Fund for development and distribution, but there are also a variety of sources, ranging from angel investors like AngelList to major games companies like DeNA and The9, which have all created funds to spur the growth of mobile games.

The market is truly heating up - now's the time to feed those creative fires, while keeping a finger on the pulse of consumers to avoid getting burned.

You can find out more about the MocoSpace Games platform here


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