SPIL CEO Peter Driessen on the power of HTML5 to revolutionise mobile games

When open standards meet web apps

SPIL CEO Peter Driessen on the power of HTML5 to revolutionise mobile games
Casual games giant SPIL Games hasn't previously been very active in the mobile games space. The potential for emerging web standard HTML5 to unify web and mobile gaming has it very excited however.

Indeed, it's been running an HTML5 mobile game competition for the past couple of months to encourage developers to get to grips with the new technology.

It's a good opportunity then for SPIL CEO and co-founder Peter Driessen explains why he's so bullish on the subject.

Pocket Gamer: Why are you so excited about the potential of HTML5 for mobile games?

Peter Driessen: Mobile gaming has never been as popular as it is today, due to the massive adoption of touchscreen mobile devices, such as those using the iOS and Android operating systems. However, unlocking the full potential of mobile gaming for both developers and end users has been hampered by different protocols, operating systems, and platform approval processes.

We're so excited about HTML5 because we believe it will free up developers by saving them the time and money they currently lose modifying games for different mobile platforms. Thanks to HTML5's open standard, developers only have to develop a game once, and it can be easily deployed on all devices with browsers supporting HTML5, such as PCs, iPads, iPhones and Google phones.

Also, the openness of HTML5 will be a real game changer for the mobile gaming user experience. Players will no longer be forced to download a game from app stores. They will be able to instantly play games through their mobile browser whenever and on whichever mobile platform they choose, without any installation hassles.

What advantages do you think it has over Flash?

HTML5 redefines the user experience because it removes the barriers to entry for mobile users to easily access and play games whenever and on whichever mobile platform they choose. If a game is developed in HTML5 it can be used on the majority of modern mobile devices. And, the quality of the game experience will be the same no matter what platform people use.

HTML5 also brings developers many advantages. At the moment the mobile gaming market is still far to closed and segmented to meet its potential. For instance, developers are forced into a kind of walled garden because they have to spend too much time and money to develop different games for every type of phone and platform (e.g., the Apple App Store or the Android Market); and are often forced into unequal revenue sharing.

This is ridiculous and goes against the spirit the game world should operate in. With HTML5, they'll be able to write the code for a game once and have it run everywhere.

An additional advantage is that HTML5 is much easier for developers to master compared to for example Flash. Besides this, HTML5 applications can be deployed much easier than those made in Flash on different platforms/devices.

HTML5 also offers the ability to play a game, without downloading a plug-in first and uses Canvas or Javascript to animate the screen objects. Although HTML5 is in the early stages, huge adoption is seen and the amount of libraries to extend the scripting standard evolve rapidly.

Do you think it will eventually reduce the popularity of apps?

HTML5 is evolving rapidly and the difference between an application and web app is becoming smaller by the day.

Take for instance the hardware support of the accelerometer in Safari. This is the first step to native support of the hardware layer on scripting level. Of course this will take time to evolve, but the gap is closing rapidly.

There are still some technical issues with the features HTML5 supports so why are you supporting it so aggressively now?

With any new technology milestone there will always be discussion and that's a good thing. HTML5 is still in the experimenting phase, but is almost done and already developers can make beautiful games using it.

The positive benefits of HTML5 for both users and developers dominate the whole HTML5 discussion and are too positive to ignore. We want to work with the industry to educate developers about how to best use HTML5, learn from and work with other companies that embrace HTML5 (such as Google) to help evolve this standard. Everyday more and more browser are announcing support or experimenting with HTML5.

What reaction have you had from developers RE: your competition?

We see a lot of enthusiasm from the developer community around HTML5. We have got quality entries, and are hoping to spread the word and increase the number of submissions.

Which games have most impressed you and why?

Sand Trap and Fruit Link have impressed us the most and taken the top prize for September and October.

Sand Trap is a brilliantly simple puzzle game with an innovative concept in which players direct sand through a series of mazes and traps. The game raises the bar on utilising touchscreen technology in HTML5. The real-time physics particularly impressed the panel.

Fruit Link (a timed puzzler in which players must join together rows of similar fruit) is a perfect example of casual gaming. It's a brilliant title designed specifically for mobile gaming with short rounds of gameplay that emphasize improving high scores for compulsive gameplay that's addictive and fun.

Why are the terms & conditions so strict in terms of what you demand of developers especially with respect to ownership of IP and thirdparty exploitation rights?

We think the terms and conditions are quite flexible. The only thing we ask all applicants (including the winners) is a non-exclusive right to feature and promote their games.

This ensures we can put all our efforts at promoting the game on our sites and making it as well known as possible. It also means the developers still own the IP to their games and have the freedom to do with it what they want.

Thanks to Peter for his time.

You can check out SPIL Games' HTML5 game competition here.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.