Continuing to target the arcade gaming niche with my HTML5 games

Ever since my first foray in to browser gaming I’ve stuck to my goal of creating the kind of games that I enjoyed in my youth. Generally speaking this means classic “pixelled” sprites and the control of an on-screen character / spaceship / vehicle of some kind. Ideally I’d also throw in bombs, lasers and explosions a plenty. 
If I’m honest it’s also a pretty easy style of game to write.

I guess right now I’m wondering whether it’s right for me to continue to target this niche in retro gaming or whether I should move on a bit and challenge myself with a different genre.

There are benefits to maintaining a niche and also several drawbacks.
The benefits clearly come in the form of brand association and search relevance. The more I can focus on writing about a specific area of mobile gaming the more I improve my chances of being returned favourably in Google et al.

But sticking to a niche also narrows my opportunities in the wider field of attracting work. Whilst I’m always going to favour working on my own projects and my own designs I can’t disregard the fact that there is some value in being a coder for hire.

Arcade games, the classic ones (which I guess we now refer to as retro arcade games), offer some wonderful pointers for achieving an optimum in designing games for casual mobile play.
Arcade games almost by definition were games that you could play and access quickly and each “go” would last for little more than a few minutes. This is what your single coin gave you and if the experience was a good one you’d possibly sink another coin. If not you’d move on and find something else.
This has real parallels with today’s online games scene. Especially the mobile web gaming scene.

HTML5 game portals tend to target mobile devices. The good sites are clean and optimised for display on the smaller screens. As such they are pretty straight forward to navigate around and generally uncluttered. The same cannot be said for the desktop equivalents which in many cases are more of an excuse to litter the screen with advertising than offer any kind of a gaming experience.

My stats continue to show me that my games are popular. When somebody visits the site they generally play around 3.2 games per session before they disappear. 6% of visitors exit via an advert. I’m not actually sure whether those 6% have enjoyed their time on the site and played that average 3.2 games or whether they’re simply hacked off with the experience and were looking for a way out. I guess there’s every chance this is the case.

Regardless mobile arcade games  and mobile game design (HTML5 game design) continue to challenge my brain cells. I’m always thinking of new elements to games that I scribble down for later reference and often draw upon them when I’m thinking of the finer details of a game’s execution. 

I use SNES and Arcade emulators (ZSNES and MAME) on a regular basis to research gaming styles, challenges, reward systems and every other vital element of a good gaming experience. 
MAME generally offers that throwback to the mind boggling and dazzling array of cabinets that beeped and zapped at me as I stalked the arcade for that perfect way to spend 5 minutes and 10 pence. I suppose it gets me in the mood :)
The SNES games on the other hand are showing me the visual style that I’m aiming for. Especially in my most recent game Jumpin’ Jasper which was every bit a SNES inspired game.

I’ve not set out to find any magic solution here it’s really just a Sunday morning blog update with a coffee and some thoughts. 
I have to say that playing and designing retro-styled arcade games still thrills me. There’s a lot to be said for this.
I may be missing a trick or two by not becoming a more high profile game developer but maybe that’s not for me. 

An old manager once said to me “Stick to what you know by all means but do it well. Do it very well. Be the best at what you do well and above all enjoy it.” 

Some Friday data from the Playstar arcade

Over the last six months I’ve paid a lot of attention to the visitors statistics generated by my HTML5 game portal. Particularly interesting are the figures for iPad.

The rise in popularity of the iPad as a mobile web gaming device is wonderful news. iPad is an HTML5 game developer’s dream in many respects. Super fast performance and a beautiful display. I have in the past had issues with the way that my spritesheets were rendered on iPad. Specifically pixels from neighbouring frames glitching intermittently in the animation loop. The same code on other iOS devices didn’t present the same anomaly. On later models this is fixed.

iPad is not the leading device to visit the arcade. That honour (of the identifiable devices in Google Analytics) goes to Samsung’s Galaxy Y handset. By contrast a fairly terrible device to develop for.

Here are the figures for iPad traffic.

Month (2013) % of portal traffic # iPad visits
July 1.82% 4,031
August 1.8% 4,492
September 4.1% 9,062
October 4.3% 11,985
November 7.56% 25,539
December 11.48% 48,885

Christmas certainly helps. I imagine that iPads have been a popular gift globally. As you can see the holiday season also presents a significant increase in traffic.

PlayStar.mobi Free Mobile Arcade Games

It has for a long time been my intention to create my own mobile gaming portal.
I had been using the m. sub-domain from spacemonsters.co.uk (m.spacemonsters.co.uk) with some success but I really wanted to shift everything on to its own dedicated domain.
Furthermore I didn’t want the domain name to bear any resemblence to an HTML5 gaming resource since the technology really ought to become transparent.

So I now have great pleasure in presenting PlayStar.mobi. A dedicated mobile-only resource for free-to-play arcade games.

Just now it is a simple case of click to play the game but over time I hope to develop the site to include simple registration, high score tables, social functionality and achievements.
PlayStar will also be my project for testing integration with Facebook which as you may well know is on a huge drive to embrace mobile and HTML5 this year.