Facebook Pushes HTML5 Among Game Developers — A Key Part of Mobile Strategy

Facebook’s Cory Ondrejka, who recently joined the company last fall as part of the Walletin acquisition, appears to be stepping up as the platform’s advocate of HTML5 — a central piece of the company’s mobile strategy going forward. Facebook wants developers to choose HTML5 over building native iOS or Android apps, so the company can sidestep relatively closed intermediaries like Apple when it wants to roll out new platform functionality or bring products like Credits to mobile games.

Ondrejka is giving a talk tonight about game performance with HTML5. During a recent hackathon, he and others developed JSGameBench — a way of exploring high-performance gaming using HTML5. The program draws moving, animated sprites as fast as possible at 30 frames per second against a background with both axis-aligned and rotated sprites.

They used JSGameBench to test browser performance at drawing the sprites — Microsoft’s Internet Explore 9 came out on top followed by Google’s Chrome 10, with more than 1,000 sprites per frame. Ondrejka said that 50 sprites per frame is generally the lowest amount needed for good game performance.

Right now, Facebook has weak penetration among top mobile developers with only half of the best-selling iOS apps of all-time having some sort of connection to the platform. Even if an app has a Facebook integration, only a minority of users elect to use it over logging in a different way. Top iOS developer Pocket Gems, for example, said three weeks ago that it has had 18 million downloads so far and is making well over $1 million a month. Yet, we only pick up a little over 217,000 monthly active users logged into the company’s top game Tap Zoo through Facebook on AppData. On Instagram, we pick up 333,826 monthly active Facebook users, even though the company says MAUs are at least twice as high.

On top of that, Apple is stepping up enforcement around in-app payments, a move that would complicate any plans to bring Credits to mobile devices. Getting its core community of developers to choose HTML5 over native apps would give Facebook better access to downstream revenues and a cut of virtual goods transactions on phones.