A Flash in the Pan – The Migration to HTML 5
The development of online casino games dates back to 1992, when Microgaming and Cryptologic created the first gambling software platform which could safely store online transactions and personal information. However, the software wasn’t commercially available until online gambling was actually legalised in 1994, at which point it was adopted by the very first online casino, Gaming Club.
The end of the 1990s saw the emergence of Adobe Flash which soon became the platform of choice for casino game developers. Built to run animations and videos on large screens, Flash enabled coders to create interaction-based, graphically-intensive games that were designed to be viewed on web pages
Flash was also portable and came bundled with all major browsers of the time, making it accessible to around 98% of all internet users – so it was especially well-suited to online deployment.
That vector graphics could be drawn with Flash and sound files compressed, meant that games were very small and lightweight. This further added to the appeal for programmers who exploited these capabilities to the full.
Yet, Adobe Flash was not without problems. In comparison to some of its competitors, the platform was significantly under-powered. This was due to Macromedia’s initial preoccupation with keeping the plugin as small as possible in order to boost its overall coverage.
While this remained an acceptable limitation among developers for some time, the introduction of more ambitious games and an increasingly demanding target market began to pose new challenges.
Perhaps more significantly, a seismic change in player habits was also being felt throughout the online casino industry as punters moved toward smaller devices for their gambling activities. This obsession with gaming on the go still shows no sign of abating with more than half of players visiting casinos by way of mobile devices.
This eventually spelt disaster for Adobe Flash which couldn’t operate smoothly on smaller devices. Although its shortcomings were overlooked for a time, in 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked the doors in by declaring Flash obsolete.
In an open letter he derided Adobe’s platform citing security issues, lack of touch support, bad mobile performance and frequent crashes. He also cited HTML5 as a future standard when it came to playing multimedia on mobile devices. Despite a raft of criticism, Jobs was eventually proved right.
As Jobs predicted, HTML5 has become a viable alternative to Flash. Having been in the works for years, its eventual launch in 2015 attracted great interest, especially with developers. HTML’s fifth iteration offered improvements in performance, integration and visuals.
Like Flash, it allowed for the playing of video and audio within web pages and didn’t require the installation of a plugin for mobile devices. It also ran more smoothly and placed less of a burden on phone batteries. A straightforward development process also made HTML5 accessible to developers who may have previously been put off by the complexities of Flash.
And so the revolution took hold as the move to HTML5 became widespread. Today, it’s become the standard for mobile casino development and will likely remain so while the industry obsession with ‘gaming on the go’ rattles on. While there are a few kinks to be ironed out, it’s suitability for mobile devices and cross-platform compatibility is undisputed.
The future of HTML5, certainly within the realms of the online casino development, depends significantly on player behaviour. But it’s clear that the novelty of ‘gambling while on the go’ is yet to wear off for upwardly mobile casino players.
With that said, the desktop market remains very popular, which is the reason why many software houses use both Flash and HTML 5 to write their games. It remains to be seen how this particular arrangement pans out, particularly as Adobe announced that Flash would reach its end-of-life by 2020. However, it’s quite clear that HTML 5 is the platform of choice for coders and will remain so for some time to come.