Do you remember Homestar Runner, RuneScape and Newgrounds? Think back to the days where browser-based gaming rivaled its console counterparts. Days where games didn’t necessarily have to have a storyline to be fun – back to the days where all you had to do was click the mouse and keep a plane from crashing. They were simpler times for sure, but, as it turns out, they haven’t really disappeared, they’ve just moved over to the mobile platform. This has taken a generation that grew up with all of these games and has given them the power to play anywhere.
So, how has this affected playing habits? Well, before we move on to the mobile front, let’s first take a look at where it all started: gaming on the PC, and see just how often people still play browser games.
According to stats by statista.com, online gambling, unlike other browser games, has only grown since 2009 having gone from a 20.51 billion dollar industry to a 37.91 billion dollar industry in 2015. Projected numbers show that the number is likely to reach 59.79 billion dollars by 2020, almost tripling its 2009 numbers. One reason for such growth is an increase to providers’ offerings. The online casino 32red.com offers not just live poker and blackjack, but also live slot machines based on existing franchises such as Tomb Raider, Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones, so in that it appeals to a multitude of players. This extends to similar sites like partypoker.com and coolcat-casino.com that also use a variety of games to bring in a variety of players, some looking to gamble and make money and others just looking to have fun.
Now, if we compare these numbers to PC gamers, we’ll see that plenty of people are still playing games on the computer. It’s just that the titles people spend time with now are more competitive in nature thanks to the rise in popularity of eSports. Big Fish Gaming reports that the top eSports games in descending order are DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, with DOTA 2 bringing in $37 million dollars in 2016 tournaments alone. Keep in mind that each of these games are available only on the computer. Combine this then with the fact that DOTA 2 had an average of more than 500,000 players in July, a number that has been known to break a million at peak times according to steamcharts.com. This eSports explosion has also propelled the industry from $194 million in 2014 to $463 million in 2016, a 239 percent increase in just two years. A huge accomplishment in comparison to browser-based gaming.
While it’s difficult to come by hard numbers on how many users browser-based gaming, findings by Gamasutra’s Mark Klocek shows that the most popular browser-based websites have severely dropped in Alexa standings since 2013 with the most popular site, miniclip.com, dropping 800 places overall. While Alexa rankings only show how popular a certain type of site is on the internet as a whole, it still indicates just how much the demand for these types of entertainment has decreased. The study goes on to mention a sharp decrease in the number of games even being developed for online purposes alone. This is largely due to the fact that these games can now be developed for cell phones, a market that has only seen growth within the past few years. This is also because while mobile games do indeed have ads present in their design, they are few and far between in comparison to what we see on browser titles. It’s because of this and the ease of mobile gaming that browser-based gaming has seemed to stagnate.
Finally, we have mobile games. Gamesindustry.biz reports that the global games business has generated $108.9 billion in 2017. Of this, mobile gaming has brought in a monstrous 32 percent of that figure compared to browser games which brought in 23 percent, a number that has been and is predicted to decline even further into 2020. This makes it painfully clear that people have traded in Homestar Runner for their iPhone as mobile gaming also gives players more options to play and compete with others – a facet that we’ve seen eSports has taken straight to the bank for years now. This is also another way gambling sites cover more bases as they create an app that goes along with the website. 32red.com achieves this with an app that can be downloaded on both iPhone and Android, essentially giving interested players a plethora of options. Although browser-based websites also employ this technique, it seems where they fall the hardest is in a general interest for the software.
After 2020, predictions indicate that browser games will drop to 15 percent. The switch to mobile games and eSports PC games is complete. So unless the medium that got us into quick gaming makes a change to be more competitive or apps start to link to the official website (a move that would render app games unplayable for those devoid of a mobile data), the point-and-click, stick figure, flash games of the past will be just that. Maybe this time old habits are dying easily.