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There's a lot of talk that goes on about future web based game technologies, with people speculating about a variety of technologies threatening the dominance of flash.  These technologies include the Unity web player, WebGL, and HTML 5 Canvas.  The focus of this article is on ad-supported browser-based games, like those found here at http://digitalwizardgames.com

First lets look at 3D options for browser-based games.  At the time of the writing of this article the Unity web player is the only browser-based solution that has solid cross browser support.  The Unity engine has a lot of features and excellent support for the development of games for multiple platforms at once.  However, the Unity engine was designed for high end 3D games that would be impractical to make for free browser-based games.  Based on monthly sales figured from flashgamelicense.com, in the last few years the median price for a flash game sponsorship has been about $800.  Some very successful flash games have been rumored to take in over $100,000.  Flash games must be developed quickly and efficiently to be profitable, and it is doubtful that Unity based web browser games can be produced efficiently enough to be practical for ad-supported browser-based games.  I believe Unity is a very powerful and useful technology, but it's strengths lie in games that are purchased or have income from substantial in-game purchases.

WebGL is supported by some browsers and will one day be supported by all web browsers. It is an open standard that relies on javascript for programming. It currently lacks support across all browsers. Javascript performance tends to be below that of as3, and no doubt Unity. It is also harder to protect your code from hackers who might disable site locks on a game and such, since as3 is compiled into another form when distributed as a swf. Javascript obfuscators no doubt exist but are probably not as effective as as3 compiled and obfuscated. On the bright side WebGL is a good platform for building a reusable game engine from the ground up.

Before I get to HTML 5 Canvas, I'd like to mention Adobe's 3D support and comment on 3D in general. Adobe came out with limited 3D support in flash player 10, and flash player 11 promises a more complete implementation of support for 3D graphics through the GPU. Existing 3D flash engine Away3D is already integrating this support into it's next version. The big question is can game developers produce 3D games that do as well as Crush the Castle 2 or Raze in the same amount of time, or better, than it takes to produce a high quality 2D game. Also important is game size, and 3D games tend to be much bigger than 2D games.

The last threat to the dominance of Adobe Flash in browser-based ad-supported games is HTML 5 Canvas. Like Web3D it is javascript based, but has better cross browser support. It's general strengths and weaknesses are the same as Web3D.

Besides the advantages listed above, Adobe Flash has several high quality engines, APIs like Box2d that give your games collision detection and response, and APIs for integration with various game sites for high scores and accomplishments. Flash games also tend to be small which is important when serving millions of users on a budget.

I'm not opposed to some web technology replacing flash some day, but as long as flash keeps ahead of the competition in features game developers need for browser-based games I don't see their dominant position changing.