Interview

Facebook's HTML5-based Project Spartan won't kill 'dirty' Flash, reckons Mobile Pie's Will Luton

Still a space for the old ways

Facebook's HTML5-based Project Spartan won't kill 'dirty' Flash, reckons Mobile Pie's Will Luton
It seems strange to be discussing the impact of a platform its creators are yet to even acknowledge, but the prospect of Facebook's Project Spartan – now expected to be announced in its own event after F8 on September 22 – is too big to ignore.

If chatter is to be believed, Spartan's browser-based marketplace will offer a bypass to the traditional platform-centric app store – albeit potentially with Apple's backing – with its HTML5 foundation allowing it to target almost any browser on any OS.

The question that arises, therefore, is just where this leaves Flash – the traditional first port of call for in-browser entertainment.

According to Mobile Pie creative director Will Luton, while the advantages of launching an HTML5 platform are clear to see for Facebook, it doesn't necessarily mean the rest of the industry will dance to the same beat.

Pocket Gamer: What do you expect Facebook's Project Spartan to offer the industry?

Will Luton: I think Project Spartan could be very important. It's a given that at some point in the future the web will become the de facto platform for all devices and HTML 5 looks likely to have a big part to play in it.

The main issues, beyond the technical ones, is delivery and discovery and Facebook is perfectly placed to solve those problems. It has a monetisation platform, ad services and a ton of game playing users.

Is Facebook ahead of the curve with this?

I think HTML5 games will solve a problem for Facebook.

Games are incredibly sticky and Zynga et al are bringing lots of people back to Facebook daily, increasing visit time and ad impressions, but as users switch from the desktop to mobiles not supporting Flash – or, at least, not supporting it well - it's losing a massive retention hook.

In fact, the only unique thing Facebook does on mobile over web is Places, and that doesn't seem to have done the business for it. So, it needs to have games on its mobile portal too.

Do you think this is game over for Flash gaming?

Flash certainly has a place as it does cross-platform very well, with little compatibility problems, and in some special cases outperforms HTML5, apparently.

Yes, it's a little dirty and not mobile friendly, but there's a market there for Flash on the likes of Kongregate, New Grounds etc and as we've seen from J2ME markets, the legacy platforms with entrenched users and tech can remain profitable for a long while.

At the moment, Flash has a fantastic install base, delivery network and back catalogue of games.

How do you think the move to HMTL5 will impact app stores?

Likewise, HTML5 won't kill the native app overnight. Performance and the technology itself will take time to refine, I believe, and consumers know the app stores and how apps work. If anything, it will be a slow erosion.

Does Mobile Pie have any plans for HTML5/Spartan?

We're very much platform agnostic here at Mobile Pie and get something out on all mobile platforms, even if they're very light games.

We've done some internal experiments with HTML5 and are looking at some future tech we're calling PIE5, so we're keeping an eye on how things are moving at the moment.

Should Project Spartan happen, we'll be researching it carefully and will undoubtedly put something out.
Thanks to Will for his time.

You can find out more about Mobile Pie via its website.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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