Everything is New and Broken in Just-Launched HTML5 Games for Facebook’s Mobile Platform

Facebook may be ready to roll with its newly-launched mobile version, but the HTML5 games are slower to get the ball rolling. Of the launch games planned for the platform, only three are live today with select titles from Zynga launching tomorrow and reportedly a forthcoming Sims Social game from EA.

To access the games from a mobile device, players must log in to Facebook’s new mobile site and enter the game titles into the search tool. Clicking on the game name opens a separate browser widow for the game that then invites the player to log in with Facebook, which opens a third window for the verification and permissions approval. Interestingly, some titles label the permissions screen as “Add to Timeline,” whereas accessing the same app from a web browser on a PC brings up the standard Facebook permissions pop-up window. Once the player has accepted, this window closes and the player is returned to the window in which the game is now running.

How each of the currently available games plays depends on the title. Games from mobile Storm8 like Vampires Live and iMobsters are very similar to the menus-driven gameplay of Facebook classics like Mob Wars or Mafia Wars. Wooga’s Magic Land spin-off, Magic Land: Island, meanwhile features click-and-drag gameplay comparable to the full Facebook version.

Note that these games post stories to players’ news feeds in exactly the same ways as traditional Facebook games. If a player clicks on a story generated by an HTML5 mobile game, that player will either be taken to the game in a new browser window or dumped into a canvas app like this one:

If the player clicks on a games story for one of these titles from their mobile device, they’re automatically taken to the initial game install screen.

Aside from the occasional screen hang-up and the inconsistencies around accessing games from a PC web browser instead of a mobile web browser, these early HTML5 games suffer from some technical hiccups. Our experience is currently limited to an iPhone 3G and an iPhone 4, but both these devices are showing difficulty with unresponsive touch controls for buttons and tapping motions. Additionally, some games are missing modes or features that would allow them to be displayed in a PC web browser (pictured below).

We expect many of these issues to be improved upon in the coming days. Some issues, however, are just growing pains of HTML5 that will persist. While many social game developers are excited by the cross-platform development potential of HTML5, most are hesitant to begin developing games with it because not many tools exist for the language, yet. Larger developers with deep pockets (like Zynga) can afford to buy HTML5 engines and invest in developing titles that work with or around the limitations of language at this stage of its development. Smaller developers, meanwhile, either stick to making simple games that shouldn’t be too taxing on their resources or avoid committing to HTML5 until more developer tools exist.