'HTML5 will play an essential role in our future'

'HTML5 will play an essential role in our future'
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

March 4th 2014 at 2:01PM

Spil Games' Robbert Van Os discusses his new role as HTML5 Advocate

Spil Games' former CTO Robbert Van Os has taken on a new role: HTML5 Advocate.

The reasons for the creation of this new position won't come as a surprise to anyone that has been following Spil Games over the last six months. The online games firm has long since positioned itself as a major proponent of HTML5, even managing to secure $5m for the sole purpose of helping developers create new HTML5 games.

Van Os' appointment is clearly the next step on that journey, and Develop caught up with him to find out where that step leads for Spil Games. 

What exactly does HTML5 Advocate mean? What does your role entail?

My role as HTML5 Advocate will focus on helping developers make the transition to HTML5. 

My biggest priority will be to ensure I’m having a dialogue with developers about HTML5 technologies; discussing what’s working, what’s not and sharing lessons learnt and about identifying areas within HTML5 that continue to enable developers to find an audience, make great games and revenue through HTML5. I see it more as an HTML5 industry role than a Spil Games function. Another part is also focused on bridging different game development service providers and building synergy.

Why was this position created and why did you take it?

Spil Games, as well as me personally, believe HTML5 is the future for gaming. For Spil Games, we have the technology and the eco-system. We felt we needed someone in this position to focus on making sure developers can have an easy and successful transition to HTML5 and share learnings to speed up adoption of HTML5 in the industry. 

More publishers see the audience shift from desktop towards touch devices but, it's impossible to run existing content across all of these devices as Flash is not supported. HTML5 is the answer.

I’ve always been a passionate believer HTML5 is the future of gaming. I lead the push into HTML5 for Spil Games when we first started talking about it in the summer of 2009. I’ve always had a lot of passion for talking with developers, “rolling up my sleeves” and learning from them and sharing knowledge. Therefore, the role of HTML5 Advocate seemed perfect. 

Do you expect more studios to create this sort of position and focus on HTML5? Why/why not?

Actually, regardless of any kind of specific role or titles, I’ve been amazed at the speed the industry has embraced HTML5 in the last six months or so. I mean, even at Casual Connect in Amsterdam the other week, I was astounded by the amount of developers that are committed to HTML5. It’s truly not a question of “if” anymore. My expectation is this will continue to grow in the next year.

This focus has of course had a very positive effect on the quality of HTML5 games. Games like 1001 Arabian Nights from Blinzy and for example Tangled: Double Trouble from Disney are proving that in many ways HTML5 is not a future thing; we’re seeing examples that it’s here and now. 

How will you be helping Spil Games' partner studios explore the potential of HTML5?

It’s usually a two-step process. Firstly, it’s important to remove concerns some developers have that HTML5 isn’t ready for game development. This is often easy to achieve, as we already have such strong showcases to share. Then, and more importantly, I support those partners and help them get started developing, publishing and sharing best practices. Basically, making it feasible to start making games in HTML5.

At Casual Connect in Amsterdam, I was astounded by the amount of developers that are committed to HTML5. It’s truly not a question of “if” anymore. 

What role does HTML5 play in Spil Games' future compared to other areas such as the new in-game advertising platform?

Spil Games’ goal is to make sure that people can play games instantly and easily from whatever device they’re using. Therefore, HTML5 will play an essential role in our future.

As part of that we want to make sure developers can make revenue from HTML5 and we see in-game advertising as an ideal way to do that. 

Why is HTML5 growing in popularity?

Well, it starts with the situation that more publishers see the audience shift from desktop towards touch devices like tablets and smartphones. However, it is impossible to run the existing content across all of these devices as Flash is not supported. So, a technology like HTML5 helps answer this consumer trend.

What do you have to say to HTML5 critics, who believe it's a passing fad or just aren't convinced by the technology?

I have a lot of respect and understanding for people that are skeptical of the technology. We’ve seen this with Java and Flash in the past. In my role as Advocate, I hope to share and talk about successes and show what’s possible in a way that will help prove that this technology is truly here to stay.

What challenges does HTML5 present that other forms of development don't, and how are these being overcome?

In my opinion, there have been three challenges; technology, audience and a way to make money. The latter one is being addressed by the in-game advertising revenue sharing announced by us via the Spil Games Platform. The two others are merely a market development/trend that shifts in the right direction. Tooling is probably part of the technology challenges, but I have seen many cool solutions come on the market, like Goo Technologies.

What does HTML5 enable developers to do that other languages don’t?

It runs on any device that runs a browser.