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The death of an HTML5 game breeds an open source project

Why Wooga stopped developing its HTML5 Facebook game "Pocket Island," and how the open source community could bring it back to life.

German social gaming company Wooga has thrown in the towel on its HTML5 project after seeing little return on the increasing amount of effort put into its "Magic Land Island" game.

In a blog post, Wooga laid out a timeline of the project back to its beginnings, when its original "Magic Land" game existed solely as a Facebook app for PCs. The company admits that it reacted to the industry buzz around HTML5 and began what it says "was strictly an experiment – a quick dip of the toe into the vast ocean of possibilities that is HTML5," becoming one of Facebook's first partners to establish an HTML5 game that can be accessed on Facebook via multiple devices.

Some early success convinced Wooga to devote additional resources to the game, which was launched in October of last year. However, as the chart below shows, the following months would provide insufficient return. The game saw 5% of users returning to the game after first trying it. By comparison, Diamong Dash, another game operated by Wooga, typically sees a 50% user return rate, the company said.

The blog post sheds some interesting light on HTML5, as Wooga hardly holds back on any of the details behind the game's failure. The biggest barriers to HTML5's entry to the mainstream include internet connectivity.

"If their connection is too slow, or drops out, many users will simply give up and return to playing a native app with an almost instantaneous load time," the company's blog post reads.

An attempt to get around that problem - an internally developed iOS app for playing the game offline - would lead to "a static user experience." Then, when the company attempted to fix the problem with content loading on a game that was not connected to its servers, Apple's screening process for updating apps got in the way.

The pursuit to solutions to these challenges is what prompted Wooga to make the game open source, the blog post says. In the hopes that some fresh eyes from the HTML5 community can find innovative approaches to resolving the issues that plagued what is now called "Pocket Island," Wooga has posted the source code for the game on Github.

The announcement provides an important glimpse into the state of HTML5. Wooga, for the time being, surmises that the time for the technology will come; it's just not quite there yet.

The reason we’re making Pocket Island open source is so that talented developers all around the world can learn from the team’s work here at Wooga, before breaking and improving on it. The promise of HTML5 is still an exciting one and while the time for mass market implementation may not be in 2012, we’re confident its time will come.

This is the future though and we’re not quite there, yet. That’s where the Pocket Island open source project comes in.

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