Plenty of people are bullish about HTML5. And several companies are big fans of HTML5 gaming as well, Facebook and Google in particular. But it seems that the technology just isn't ready yet.
Sure, HTML5 is great for a lot of things and in much better shape than it was a year ago, but it's not good enough for games, at least not on the mobile front.
That's the conclusion of Wooga, one of the top developers on Facebook, which announced that the result of its year-long experiment with HTML5 gaming will be open-sourced and that the company is abandoning efforts for the time being.
Wooga was initially enthusiastic about HTML5 gaming and decided to experiment with it, mostly pushed by Facebook.
Facebook has a big reason to want HTML5 games and apps in particular to succeed, it needs them to power its budding app platform which launched on mobile in October last year.
More recently, Facebook also debuted the App Center, an app store of sorts which sends users to the native app markets on their devices, the App Store on iOS, Google Play Store on Android, or, crucially, directly to the app if said app lives on the web.
Facebook is counting on HTML5 gaming to pick up to enable it to escape from Google and Apple's control of their app platforms.
Wooga was surprised initially with the progress, HTML5 was more advanced than they expected, in some cases.
But as their project, Magic Land Island, neared completion, it became clear that it would never have the polish of a native app, unless they spent several more times on it than they would on a native app.
Even then, there were some inherent limitations to HTML5 that there was simply no getting away with.
There were, of course, also the limitations that come with any web-based game. Some of the biggest problems the developer encountered were slow loading times, the need for an always-on internet connection and audio issues.
Add to this the fact that users found it hard to return to the game since it didn't get a shortcut in the app screen, like native apps would.
So, for now, Wooga is done with HTML5. It is open-sourcing all that it did so far, for interested developers. It's important to note though that all of the limitations that the company complained about have solutions.
On the one hand, the technology is always evolving. It's not quite there yet, but offline access will become a reality soon. Likewise, audio is not going to be a problem for long thanks to the Web Audio API.
On the other hand, companies like Facebook and of course, Google and Apple, need to do a better job at enabling web apps to look, feel and work more like native ones. This can be done, it's a matter of companies wanting to do it. Apple and to a lesser degree Google prefer native apps.