Mobile development is definitely on a roll, whether it’s for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone. However I recently saw one estimate that there will be a billion html5 enabled smart phones within a year; a figure that can only increase and it got me thinking about which way to go, mobile or web game development?
There are now over 500,000 iPhone and iPad apps and the number of Android apps is likely to surpass that before long. Without a lot of marketing spend or help, and a large dollop of luck, the odds are heavily stacked against you making a lot of money from your game. Unless you come up with an original concept (Flight Control, Angry Birds…), your game will come and go in a pretty short time. There are plenty of examples where developers have released their income figures.
With Web games, particularly Browser MMO, it’s a little different. The competition isn’t quite as intense, unless you are a Tower Defense or Mafia wars clone, and development can proceed at a different pace.
The web suits MMO games, and it’s very easy to buy mmo scripts or find open source games that you can run, or with the right skills, develop yourself. Sourceforge has a large list of open source games which I’ve filtered to just show php ones, but make sure you respect their licenses which may allow/disallow commercial use.
So what are the Pros and Cons of Web Game versus Mobile Game development?
You can launch at beta, and get players to be testers, as it’s easy to make changes and try different things or add new content. You can reach huge audiences via Facebook or BigPoint.com. You don’t even need to be a programmer to run open source games, just to code or alter them.
You need to setup a website and associated infrastructure for taking money, support and to sort out security and exclude spammers setting up fake accounts. A $7/month shared server hosting, though, will be unlikely to support millions of new players! Does the game monetize well or are you running it for the love of it? It’s hard to compare game development times, but my guess is that web development takes slightly longer than mobile.
You can make a lot of money quickly (if lucky). These figures are quite fascinating and reveal that “only 25% of developers have made more than $30,000 lifetime total revenue selling games on the App Store. Conversely, we can see that 25% of developers have made less than $200.”
You need to be a developer, with the equipment and software to develop a game. For iOS this means owning a Mac and a $99 a year subscription for developing iOS games plus the ability to code in Objective-C. The game needs to be fully tested pre-release, though bug fixes can be deployed later. It’s definitely a steeper learning curve.
Mobile games tend to be a lot more innovative than web games. It’s a side effect of the relative youth and vigor of the mobile market and the intense competition. Web sites have been around for nearly twenty years while smartphone Apps are less than four years old. I reckon that with most smart phones eventually able to access html5, and the lower entry to developing or buying a game/open source that web game development will start to pick up again.