HTML5 Gaming: the sound of Inevitability

by Pascal Rettig posted Jan 27, 2012

[X-post from]

There's a scene in the original Matrix near the end where one of the Agents is holding Neo in front of a train and says: "Do you hear that sound Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability."

With the cacophony of discussion of whether HTML5 is ready or not as a gaming platform, that phrase always pops into my mind (Let's ignore, for the sake of the bad metaphor, that the Agent was wrong)

2012 will most likely be a gap year in HTML5 gaming. It's not there yet, primarily because on mobile, HTML5's sweet spot, the platform is still underpowered for games. But I'd guess that at some point late during the year, when hardware accelerated canvas has reached a crucial level of market penetration, there's going to be a game that captivates the masses that could only have been written in HTML5. Much like the shot in the arm of Indie developers everywhere that MineCraft gave, this game will do the same.

But that is actually beside the point. It doesn't matter if there is never a game that does that. The die have been cast and the tea leaves have been read. The reason for the inevitable sucess of HTML5 gaming over competing platforms is access. Everyone in the world with an electronic device has access to a HTML5 Game development environment (the Browser) with a full debugger (Dev Tools, Firebug) already installed on their Desktop. Throw in a text editor and you have a world-class IDE.

A discussion I had with some colleagues at a meetup recently drove this point home. Every one of them had gotten into programming by developing games. Out of 5 people in the conversation, every single one had the same story. 

The next generation of programmers (and game programmers) are already weaning themselves on the most accessible programming environment at their disposal: JavaScript. Online coures like Codecademy teach JavaScript because there's an interpretor already built into every browser. Programmers in training aren't going to buy a $500 program (Flash) or download gigabytes of IDEs (Visual Studio, XCode) to learn a development environment that's more difficult with less instant gratification unless they have to.

As soon as HTML5 Gaming as platform is "Good Enough" for whatever it is you want to build (which it is dangerously close to being,) the battle is going to be over. Look at the success of JavaScript versus all the alternatives that have come and gone. Simplicity and availability win the day. 

When that next generation starts building indie games and starts entering the workforce, they are going to come pre-packaged as HTML5 Game Developers and have their say on the next generation of games being developed.

It may be in a year or so or it may be a few, but it's a train that's a coming.