Book a Demo
News & Updates

Is the Web a Viable Gaming Graphics Platform?

A question we often get from prospective customers when discussing the idea of porting their mobile game to the web is whether or not the web is *really* a viable platform for high quality 3D gaming.

Digging into this question, there are number factors that contribute to lingering assumptions about web browser technologies and their ability to deliver a high-quality gaming experience.

Historical Context: From Flash to Mobile

First, let’s start with a bit of historical background. While there are still nearly a billion active browser gamers in the world today, the big web gaming boom began in the late 1990’s and continued for another two decades, providing an easily accessible, zero friction method of playing casual Flash-based games. Not surprisingly, many people we speak with still equate the web gaming experience with that 20-year old platform which hasn’t, until fairly recently, evolved on a global scale.

Shift to Mobile

With the launch of the AppStore in 2008, and Google’s Play Store in 2012, smartphones were able to deliver a native experience with better performance, better graphics, and more innovative gameplay for a far broader range of games spanning from hyper casual to AAA. Web gaming quickly became less relevant as the convenience of playing casual and even mid-core games anytime and anywhere drove massive worldwide adoption.

Trends Driving a Return to Web Gaming

Fast forward 15 years and a number of mobile industry trends are influencing a shift back to web gaming. High mobile app store rev share fees, high advertising costs, increasingly difficult discoverability, and marketing restrictions have many mobile developers and publishers looking to additional platforms where they can monetize their games.

The Appeal of Browser Gaming

Obvious candidates for cross-platform expansion include console, native, web, and arguably XR (although the latter still struggles to make significant gains as a gaming platform after over a decade). That said, there are a number of important factors game makers must consider when expanding a mobile title to additional platforms.

Game genre, classification and target player audience can all influence this choice. For instance, a casual puzzle game may not be a great title to port to native PC for distribution on Steam, as Steam’s core audience typically gravitate toward harder-core AAA titles. Porting a mobile game to console could also be an instant non-starter if it depends on swipes that simply don’t translate well to a gamepad.

For the lion share of revenue-generating mobile games, the web presents an interesting, hybrid environment for a wide variety of mobile games looking for a second home. Browser gaming appeals to the casual to mid-core gamer as a low-friction gaming environment that requires no installations, launchers, or downloads.

In addition, many of today’s most successful mobile game genres were originally born on the desktop, making RPGs, strategy and simulation games a natural fit to return to the big screen.

Advancements in Web Graphics Technology

But what about the graphics? Last time most of us were paying attention to browser games, they couldn’t come close to delivering a native 2D or 3D gaming experience. Well, times have changed with the (albeit slow) adoption of the Javascript rendering API known as WebGL, which was launched in 2011, with a v2 released in 2017.

In short, this web advancement allows for web applications to access CPU and GPU hardware on the client desktop machine directly, meaning that anything rendered in the browser can use hardware acceleration for better quality and performance.

Admittedly WebGL isn’t the silver bullet to delivering a AAA native PC experience in a browser, as it does have some limitations around multi-threading as well as rendering large photorealistic 3D models.

Big Rig Racing powered by Pley

But for most mobile games, which still typically run hardware that performs at a fraction of their desktop counterparts, most mobile games aren’t complex enough to challenge what WebGL can support today.

With WebGPU being announced in 2023, and support rolling out on multiple platforms this year, graphics performance on the web will only improve as the new API introduces more flexibility and communication efficiency to client hardware with native support for multi-care architectures.

Pley's Commitment to Web Gaming

Pley has been on the forefront of web graphics technology since we launched the company in 2017, with a firm belief that browsers can provide the most flexible, approachable, and satisfying gaming experience for billions of gamers looking to play their favorite casual to mid-core games on a big screen.

This belief has never been stronger than now, as we are working with the mobile industry’s top publishers and developers to distribute their high-quality games on desktop web browsers.

We’ve been up for the challenge of testing the limits of what WebGL can deliver and to date we’re proud to announce that it has thus far passed with flying colors. Just for fun here’s an eyeful from one of the most recent game releases on the Pley platform to prove our point.

Can the web deliver a near-native visual gaming experience? Yes it can.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to stay up to date with news and updates about something about the gaming market.

More reading

Get to know Pley

Book a demo to see first-hand how cross-platform can unlock new revenue streams for your mobile games!

Schedule a demo