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Mobile Gaming Trends: The Return of Portals


Mobile Gaming Trends: The Return of Portals

Chris Trottier July 21, 2014

The future of mobile gaming is not necessarily about apps. You read that right. Apps have their limitations and mobile Web-game portals are opening up a new world for the next generation of developers. Picking platforms is killing creativity while portal sites are gaining partners daily. Entrepreneurs and developers are increasingly investigating the rising power of HTML5-based game portals.


Earlier this year, TreSensa CEO Rob Grossberg spoke to a crowd of developers and entrepreneurs at the NJ Tech Meetup about why portals are the future of gaming. Because games make up 40 percent of all activity on mobile devices (67 percent of activity on tablets), the development of mobile tech is bound up in the future of games. Grossberg also pointed out that 70 percent of money spent on mobile is on gaming. The market is expected to top $24 billion by 2017.

Portals, not apps, will be driving that growth, according to Grossberg. He noted that games launched in from portals while chatting is already the dominant social model among the next generation of mobile users.

The First Portals

Portals are a very old concept. They began with the Web itself in the early 1990s. Portals like Excite and Disney’s Go.com dominated the Web as people tried to figure out how to index that vast number of websites that were proliferating daily. The first portals included links to news, search, games and favorite sites. One of the few portals that survived is Yahoo, which has recently roared back to life to become one the most visited destinations on the Web.

The rise of mobile gaming is creating the second generation of portals. Mobile signals the end of keyboards as the primary user interface with the Web. As a result, mobile users turn to portals for rapid access to new games without the typical delays that come with apps, such as downloads and passwords. Because Google Play and the Apple Store are curated sites, users tend to see what is chosen for them, which represents a very small percentage of available games. Portals offer access to original and offbeat games that can’t be found anywhere else.

The Case Against HTML5

There are three areas where native apps excel in comparison with games on mobile Web portals:

Better performance: Apps built specifically for the newest and fastest devices don’t have to depend on the browser’s performance or local download clocking rates. That’s a huge advantage for visual rendering and people will tend to compare apps to HTML5 games based on visuals alone. Apple’s browsers are starting to deal with the issue, but the Android OS still needs work in this area.

Use of advanced device features: One of the strengths of HTML5 is also its weakness. Because it is platform independent, any kind of phone with a Web access can launch games from the portal. That also means that the games don’t know what type of phone they are running on. A great deal of responsive Web work would need to be coded in to access each individual’s phone features, like the gyroscope, haptic feedback or accelerometers. Another big piece that are missing from HTML5 from a developer standpoint are multichannel audio APIs.

In-app Purchase: Games have settled on in-app purchase as their standard business model due to the intense competition for gamer attention and the unlimited upside. The Apple Store and Google Play make it easy to make in-app purchases but HTML5 had nothing comparable until recently. In May, TreSensa announced a deal with Fortumo to make in-app purchases possible for games published on their portals.

The New Monetization Model

While performance is improving on HTML5, games using the special features on individual phones may never work on portals. The monetization advantage for apps is really no longer an issue going forward. Fortumo’s deal with TreSensa means that developers publishing on select portals don’t have to worry about in-app purchase integration. It is provided automatically to every game on the portal. Fortumo is accomplishing this by making the transaction of charging the user’s mobile contract instead of direct credit card purchase. Fortumo’s CEO Rain Rannu explained, “There are over four billion people in the world who do not have a credit card but who are able to make payments online using carrier billing. Because the payment flow of carrier billing is much more seamless, carrier billing outperforms credit cards in terms of conversion, especially on mobile devices.”

Advantage of Mobile Web

Despite its drawbacks, HTML5 works extremely well for mobile gaming even without the coming upgrades. When HBO needed to pump up anticipation of Facebook users for the sixth season of True Blood, they called in TreSensa to build a game for mobile web. Warner Brothers and the World Wrestling Entertainment also turned to a mobile Web-gaming solution in support of their Scooby-Doo and WrestleMania movie release. Portals open games up to a wider audience and provide lower costs for game developers. As higher speed Wi-Fi becomes more available in more places, the advantage shifts to the mobile Web. Apps certainly aren’t going away, but they will find other uses because they have different strengths, which don’t align with the short shelf life of mobile games.