Developer Gamzee recently scored $1 million in seed funding to develop HTML5-based games for mobile devices and social networks. Apple, Facebook and other companies are all pushing to improve the markup language, in order to enable applications to run across computers and other devices more easily. However, the standard itself is still being developed, as is Facebook’s role in helping to promote social-mobile apps.
With HTML5 still coming into its own as a programming language for social and mobile games, few developers have released games that actually do run seamlessly across networks.
We’ve seen larger social game developers take steps toward realizing this goal, with Zynga acquiring an HTML5 engine just last fall and EA building an entire game and mobile component with it in 2011. The question is what Facebook decides to launch in addition to what it already provides for mobile devices, such as single sign-on for iOS. For now, app stores on native applications for iOS and Android have been the main way that people discover games and other third-party titles.
Josh Levitan, VP of Games at Gamzee, walks us through the challenges of developing an game in HTML5 that works on all platforms. Levitan joined Activision and Acclain co-founder Howard Marks at Gamzee after launching a social games division at Nexon (which is just now getting its first social game out in the form of Maple Story Adventures) and previously working at Playdom on a game called Kogamu, which was apparently shelved by Playdom following a beta test period. Gamzee’s first game is designed for mobile, but will work on Facebook as well.
Inside Social Games: Why HTML5?
Josh Levitan: Two reasons, the first is Facebook announced back in February that they were redoing their platform in HTML5 for mobile. Basically we saw that as a great opportunity because when Facebook released their web platform, they had all these great things where you could put games out as apps that would run inside Facebook — with all the Facebook frame, with promotion, with discovery… and they’ve added all sorts of things like Credits to enable people to purchase items in game more easily. They’re [apparantly] going to be doing the same thing on mobile.
The second reason [for our company] is that, having operated a bunch of games at Acclaim that are download games for PC and then making Facebook games that were Flash games at Playdom, we wanted the opportunity to make [multiplatform] games because as a gamer, I want to be able to play my game on whatever device I happen to be on. You can’t really do that right now. There are some games that allow you to have the same sort of integration across servers, but it’s usually a different client, you have to download an app for your iPhone… and that just gets really messy. With HTML5, you can make the same game on all platforms.
ISG: What are some of the challenges to being truly multiplatform? We’ve heard some developers say it’s just too much of a hassle to deal with phones’ variable WiFi connections…