Of the few markets in which Flash is still relevant, gaming is perhaps the largest. Despite the fact that Adobe seems intent on killing Flash, for many game developers, Flash is still a necessity.
The big question, of course, is for how long? There's a lot of excitement about HTML5, and some game developers have actually been experimenting with HTML5 game development.
One such developer is Wooga. With approximately 50m active daily users playing its games, it's the third largest developer of social games and a natural pick for Facebook, which was looking for a partner willing to experiment with HTML5 game development.
For Facebook, HTML5-based games make a lot of sense. The world's largest social network has built a multi-billion dollar ecosystem around social gaming, but there's a huge problem: as more and more users interact with the Facebook service through mobile devices, more and more users are unable to play the Flash-based games that have become so popular and lucrative.
So Wooga set to work building an HTML5 game, Pocket Island, which launched in October 2011. But it never really took off. In a blog post on its blog, Wooga explained:
...while there have been games that have delivered on some of the promises the technology offers, the games themselves weren’t up to the standards of native apps. Problems such as a long initial load time, lack of sound on mobile and the reliance on being connected to the internet were all big problems. When the game originally launched on Facebook’s mobile platform, users simply weren’t used to there being no app icon to quickly return to the game. One quick press of the home button would return them to the home screen with no clear direction how to return. Such limitations had a knock-on effect to the game’s growth.
Development was a pain too. "What is a simple task on native apps can be a decidedly more complex and time consuming task with HTML5," the company wrote. And there were significant limitations that made it difficult to provide a great experience. For instance, for the game to function, a stable internet connection is a must.
Wooga attempted to address some of these issues, and did, but apparently had little justification to maintain Pocket Island. So yesterday it announced that Pocket Island's days on Facebook had come to an end.
For Facebook, Pocket Island's departure would seem to be a real blow to the company's efforts to extend its social gaming ecosystem to mobile devices. But there's good news for developers: Wooga has released the Pocket Island source code under an open-source license. According to the company, "The promise of HTML5 is still an exciting one and while the time for mass market implementation may not be in 2012, we’re confident its time will come."
With the source code for what Wooga hoped would be "one of the world’s most advanced HTML5 games" now in the hands of talented developers around the world, that time may come sooner than later, but whether it comes soon enough for Facebook is another matter altogether.