We’ve been hearing about it for years: The collection of Web technologies known as HTML5 is the future of online publishing. The promise of cross-platform applications with one easy code base is enticing to developers, who stand to save a fortune in coding costs, and publishers, who could extend their reach and leap across distribution channels. Meanwhile, skeptics keep saying, “I’ll believe that HTML5 is the answer when I see a great app built in nothing but HTML5.” Finally, it’s showtime: Boom Town, a game developed by appMobi, represents the first step toward creating dynamic mobile games built solely in HTML5.
Boom Town is not exactly original. It is much like Triple Town from Spry Fox, a highly addictive experience that allows players to build a town by combining ingredients on a game board. But the game itself is beside the point: Boom Town was created using one set of HTML5 tools and it was deployed to the Apple App Store, Android Google Play and Facebook all at the same time.
Have you ever download a game on an iPad and wished you could save your progress and then pick it up on an Android smartphone? Maybe later you wanted to continue in the browser on Facebook. Native apps do not behave that way on iOS and Android. An iPhone game is limited to iPhones and iPads; an Android game is limited to Android devices. Part of this is by design. Apple and Google want to keep you within their own environments.
This is where HTML5 becomes extremely important. Developers and publishers want to be able to play within Apple, Google and Facebook environments, but they also want to be able to cut across them. The opportunities become significant. Marketing and tracking through analytics services have more power if they can reach the player on any device. By engaging users wherever they are, publishers can attempt to monetize them through ads and in-app purchases. Other apps by the publisher can be cross-promoted within apps on any device.
In addition to serving as a proof-of-concept cross-platform HTML5 app, Boom Town is intended to showcase appMobi’s broader offering. A product called appSync makes it possible to save a gaming session on one device and open it in the same spot on another. The company’s 1Touch Universal payments handles in-app purchasing, and playMobi provides analytics and leaderboards.
Of course, enterprising developers can create these capabilities within HTML5 apps without having to use appMobi’s tools. Analytics, engagement and payments are offered by a variety of services such as Apsalar and Flurry, through PlayHaven or directly through mobile platforms themselves, including iOS and Facebook.
Beyond the question of how to build, deploy, market and monetize mobile apps, Boom Town speaks to bigger concerns. For instance, where does HTML5 lead? At one time, it seemed to promise the ability to strong-arm Apple and Google out of the deployment environment entirely. Yet, as more apps and games are created with HTML5, they are being deployed within the App Stores as well as outside of them. If HTML5 does not disrupt the app store model, what will it contribute to the mobile ecosystem?
The easy answer to that question is the ability to deliver quality apps, such as Boom Town, that communicate across platforms. Write once, run everywhere. Hasn’t that been the promise of new sets of programming tools for more than a decade?