Browser games have boomed alongside the social networks like Facebook,
where many of the most popular reside.
The daddy of the Facebook or "social" games was FARMVILLE - popular with
women, it's a kind of farm management game. It's since been toppled by THE
SIMS SOCIAL - the social network version of the horrendously ever popular
Sims franchise - and by CITYVILLE, think Sim City.
In the kids space, MOSHI MONSTERS - think Tamagotchi - has been one of the
the success stories of the year. It is a social network for 7-12 year olds.
Boasting, 50 million players who pay for membership,
it also spawned a DSi game that sold big this Xmas.
All these games are essentially single player experiences but importantly
they have "social" features which allow players to co-operate and share
their experiences with their social network friends. "Gifting" virtual
items is a key element of many social games.
Traditionally Facebook games represented the more casual end of gaming and
were largely played by women, but that's changing with the rise of
hardcore games pioneered by the likes of Kabam. There are many start ups
in this area operating innovative games like I AM PLAYR.
There are of course browser games that don't reside within the social
networks such as the wildly popular RUNESCAPE - probably the West's
biggest free-to-play MMO RPG - which has been around for over 10 years.
Before Facebook, portals were the big home for browser games and still
are. Popular portals include:
And running alongside all this is of course the phenomenal rise of
free-to-play gaming, which goes beyond the browser space and covers all
forms of pc and mobile gaming. It's already killed the traditional
subscription-based MMO business, with nearly all the major MMOs having
gone free-to-play in 2011.
Other genres will be effected in time as the traditional publishers take their franchises
in to the Freemium space and start-ups produce impressive games that grow audiences
of millions almost overnight.
Recent successes in this area include FIFA ONLINE, MINECRAFT and WORLD OF
TANKS. Notable future releases include GHOST RECON ONLINE, which is
looking to take a chunk out of the huge FPS market.
Making money from Freemium is based on huge audiences who pay nothing and
then a dedicated hardcore who will pay lots to receive boosts and benefits
that put them at the top of the leaderboards and give them status in the
community. For example, EA have reported that top FIFA Online players can
spend upwards of $5,000 per year on the game.
As they offer much richer gaming experiences and yet are still free to
play, ultimately the rise of free-to-play gaming must have an impact on
the popularity of less sophisticated browser games .
ZYNGA - the big boys. Phenomenally popular Facebook games including
Farmville, CityVille, CastleVille and Texas Hold'em.
PLAYFISH- bought by EA. Now responsible for taking EA's mega franchises in
to the social space with titles like Fifa Supetsars, Madden Superstars,
NHL Superstars and Sims Social. Also seem to be majoring on licenses, with
the likes of RISK: Factions and Monopoly Millionaires coming late 2011.
BIGPOINT - One of the top 3 portals, also develop their own titles.
Pushing hard with free MMOs based on licenses like Battlestar Galactica
JAGEX - UK based. Now employ over 600. Phenomenal growth largely based on
the success of free-to-play MMO RPG Runescape.
KABAM - the pioneers of hardcore browser based gaming. These guys have
been hot, hot, hot with investors.
YOOGAMES - old school free browser games portal with some of the year's
hottest games like Call of Gods and DD Tanks.
GAZILLION - newer entrant, well funded, creating Marvel Universe, free to
USEFUL LISTS OF BROWSER BASED GAMES
Top Browser Games of 2011 Poll
Really useful snapshot of what's hot. Hundreds of thousands of votes polled.
50 Browser Games
Some of these are not technically browser based, but more evidence of the
range of popular free to play stuff.
This is a bit sparse.
Free MMO Gamer
News and a weekly video podcast on free MMOs. Has a useful section on free
browser based MMOs.
Fanboy newsite with a slightly wider remit than the title suggests.
One of the big sites for MMO news, from the guys behind Joytsiq. Covers
some of the more hard core RPG-based browser games.