At the Develop Conference in Brighton today, COO and co-founder of browser game publishing platform Turbulenz Gavin Shields’ talk pointed to the fact that the top 50 games on the App Store account for 71 per cent of its revenue - this, Shields says, is proof that latecomers simply can’t crack a market that has already had its heyday. Cut The Rope, whatever its other charms, made money by getting out of the gate first. The early Angry Bird catches the worm.
Instead, to guarantee better success, Shields recommends developing for the tech of tomorrow - which, he believes, is HTML5. Regardless of its teething problems, Shields predicts that it will eventually muscle out thirdparty plugins. Even now, thanks to Chrome’s recent uptake of WebGL, it is supported by the browsers of some 1.3 billion users. That number will only grow. Already, HTML5 is capable of running games of low-end console quality in the humble web browser - and its capabilities will only improve.
However, irrespective of the technology underpinning them, we wonder if browser games represent the sort of new frontier that buoyed the sales of early big-hitting smartphone games. Buying and playing games through a browser is an experience that exists today in multiple forms - through Facebook, the Chrome Store, Flash gaming hubs and others. Before smartphones, there were no smartphone games - the analogy Shields makes between the App Store’s rosy dawn and the nascent high-end browser gaming scene is not a perfect fit.
Really, what Shields is asking you to bet on is that his HTML5 development SDK and publishing platform will become a dominant player in the browser scene. And, actually, he may not be wrong. The deal they are offering developers is a tempting one: you can use their SDK for free. You can publish your game privately online through the Turbulenz hub for the purpose of testing and iteration - again for free. Once completed, you can sell your game anywhere you please without paying royalties, but Turbulenz reserves the right to cherry pick the best games and sell them through its website as well, from which it takes a 30 per cent cut.
Unlike the early days of smartphone gaming, Turbulenz’s particular market will only exist when there are games to sell on it. Meanwhile, only a flood of impartial testimonials will make clear how Turbulenz’s API stacks up alongside competitor’s, working within HTML5 and without, like Unity. But what is clear is that they need those developers on board and are willing to offer a very equitable deal to entice them.
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