I've heard many people saying that it makes games more successfull if you can just play them on your browser without downloading a file at all.

Has there been any research about this? Because i find it hard to believe that the people are so lazy they cant click one download button and just unzip the game.

I find it hard to believe because: i have never played a (good) browser game from a browser; i've always launched the Java or Flash directly in its own window, because the webpages are always full of adverts with flashing stuff that distract me too much. I hope others feel the same and i can just forget this "problem" and focus on making games on normal Windows/Linux/Mac executables instead. But i would like to see some evidence on it before i decide to do so.

Edit: I dont care about the target audience or etc, just in general, are browser games more popular than downloadable games? and is it really because the users dont want to download any files? more specifically: is there correlation between success and capability to play on a browser?


There's an important distinction to make between in the psychology of the player between free games and paid games.

With a paid game, people are already invested in the product by the time they get around to installing it. Clients are willing to go through more rigmarole to get your product working because they've already made the decision to use it and just tossing it isn't really an option because they've already spent the money.

With a free game, there is no investment by the player. Every gate that you put in front of your user is going to result in a percentage of players not continuing to use your product. Even page load times are an issue. I don't know if this is a reliable source, but Amazon found that every additional 100ms page load time decreased sales by 1%.

Even the Unity plugin, which as far as I'm concerned has a near seamless installation process (no admin rights required, no browser restart required) only has a 60% plugin install success rate.

In the freemium analytics world, this is called "funnel tracking". You want your player experience to be as seamless as possible. That means, for the most amount of exposure, you want:

1) No installation process 2) No sign up process 3) Fast loads 4) Clear, brief menus

Now there are a couple of exceptions to this, obviously. After a certain critical mass people will come seek your product out. But if you're trying to go wide, you're not doing yourself any favors by requiring any additional player steps.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth mentioning that these gates negatively affect players in paid products, too. There's been a fair amount of anecdotal data from developers supporting that each additional click required to get from a game's web page through the purchase process and to the download of an online game dramatically decreases the number of people who will actually go through the process and actually play the game. Reducing the number of clicks required has often been shown to have a big effect on the total number of sales. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Dec 9 '11 at 0:07

In general, games playable in a browser will have a higher player count. Unfortunately, I cannot find any hard data on this, though a few by the numbers posts suggest that it's really easy to get a few million plays on a Flash game, whereas even top selling AAA games only sell a few million copies. Additionally, I've heard from many other developers who used to do downloadable games that they received higher player counts when they switched to Flash or Unity games. Additionally, compare the reviews and comments on games at competition sites like Ludum Dare for browser games and games that require a download. On average, browser games get more reviews and comments (and thus, likely, more plays).

So why is this? People are lazy. Generally, the more work required to play your game, the fewer people that will play it. Add to the general rule a lot of users receive of "never download an .exe file" and you might turn away even more casual users. Offering the absolute lowest barrier to entry (a game that can be played by clicking a single link in the browser) will get you the absolutely highest number of plays.

That said, there are plenty of people willing to download and unzip a game to play it, but there's definitely going to be fewer of those than people who will simply play a browser game.

Finally, popularity is a factor of a lot of things. Advertising your game on various sites is probably going to be more important to player count than what platform you're game uses. Again, this is where browser/flash/unity games excel, since there's thousands of Flash game portals, and only one site where people would have to find to play a downloadable game. (and of course, having a game made is also important to this whole thing)


It depends on your target audience. Casual gamers are more likely to choose a game that can just be played in your browser, while hardcore gamers might be more willing to install a game client.

Providing your game as a browser based experience makes it possible to play everywhere, then again, not every user has flash/java installed.

You not only need to make sure your players have the needed plugins installed, their browsers might be lacking certain capabillities your game needs. For example, lynx ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynx_%28web_browser%29 ) runs on the console and lacks most graphics capabillities of other browsers. (ok, extremely overdrawn example, but not so far fetched.)

So, if providing a browser based game works for you and your audience, go with it, otherwise, don't.

  • \$\begingroup\$ well, my point was in means of success, no matter what the target audience is, just in means of how many people would play it. i dont care anything else than how many people will play and/or pay for it. \$\endgroup\$ – idev Dec 8 '11 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ for example, the world most played game FarmVille, is it casual game? i dont think so. but yet, its the most popular game on earth, and its a browser based game. even though its simple, it requires some time and commitment. \$\endgroup\$ – idev Dec 8 '11 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm fairly certain that Windows' default Solitaire game has the "world's most played game" distinction, probably by a very wide margin. No Internet access required, no commitment required, no learning of unfamiliar game rules required. Of course, its player base is very different from FarmVille's. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Dec 8 '11 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @trevor, okay, that wasnt my point though, windows solitaire doesnt make any money on its own. but farmville does. \$\endgroup\$ – idev Dec 8 '11 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @idev And so does World of Warcraft. I don't really understand what you're getting at. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Dec 8 '11 at 21:43

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