Browser game

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Freeciv is an HTML5 browser game Freeciv-net-screenshot-2011-06-23.png
Freeciv is an HTML5 browser game

A browser game is a video game that is played via the World Wide Web using a web browser. [1] Browser games can be run using standard web technologies [2] or browser plug-ins. The creation of such games usually involves use of standard web technologies as a frontend and other technologies to provide a backend. Browser games include all video game genres and can be single-player or multiplayer. Browser games are also portable and can be played on multiple different devices, web browsers, and operating systems. [3]

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

World Wide Web System of interlinked hypertext documents accessed over the Internet

The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators, which may be interlinked by hypertext, and are accessible over the Internet. The resources of the WWW may be accessed by users by a software application called a web browser.

Web browser software application for retrieving, presenting and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web

A web browser is a software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web. When a user opens a particular website, the web browser retrieves the necessary content from a web server then displays the resulting web page on the user's device.


Browser games come in many genres and themes that appeal to both regular and casual players. Multiple browser games have developed beyond the online platform to become large titles or franchises sold physically in stores, in online marketplaces like Steam or XBLA, or in decentralized distribution platforms such as Some of those titles are Alien Hominid , Bejeweled , Bloons , Club Penguin , Cookie Clicker , Meat Boy , and Transformice .

Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is a digital video game download service available through the Xbox Games Store, Microsoft's digital distribution network for the Xbox 360. It focuses on smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers. Titles range from classic console and arcade video games, to new games designed from the ground up for the service. Games available through the XBLA service range from $5–20 in price, and as of October 2016, there have been 719 Xbox Live Arcade titles released for the Xbox 360. Prior to the Xbox 360, "Xbox Live Arcade" was the name for an online distribution network on the original Xbox, which was replaced by the Xbox Live Marketplace. website for distributing video games is a website for users to host, sell and download indie video games. Released in March 2013 by Leaf Corcoran, the service hosts nearly 100,000 games and items as of February 2018.

<i>Alien Hominid</i> 2004 video game

Alien Hominid is an independently developed run and gun video game developed by The Behemoth. The game was developed from a Flash game originally released on Newgrounds in August 2002. O3 Entertainment released the game for PlayStation 2 and GameCube in North America in 2004, whilst ZOO Digital Publishing released the game in Europe for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mobile phones and Gizmondo in 2005. The Xbox version is not compatible with Xbox One. A port for the Game Boy Advance, co-developed by Tuna Technologies, was also released in Europe in 2006. A high-definition version titled Alien Hominid HD was released for Xbox Live Arcade on February 28, 2007.


Browser games are often free-to-play and do not require any client software to be installed apart from a web browser or browser plug-in. In some cases a game may be free, but charge for extra in-game features. Multiplayer browser games have an additional focus on social interaction, either between several players or on a massive scale. Due to the accessibility of browser games, they are often played in more frequent, shorter sessions compared to traditional computer games. [4]

Free-to-play video games, also known as free-to-start, are games that give players access to a significant portion of their content without paying. Free-to-play can be contrasted with pay to play, in which payment is required before using a service for the first time.

Plug-in (computing) software component that adds a specific feature to an existing software application

In computing, a plug-in is a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer program. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customization.

A massively multiplayer online game is an online game with large numbers of players, typically from hundreds to thousands, on the same server. MMOs usually feature a huge, persistent open world, although some games differ. These games can be found for most network-capable platforms, including the personal computer, video game console, or smartphones and other mobile devices.

Since browser games run isolated from hardware in a web browser, they can run on many different operating systems without having to be ported to each platform. [5]

In software engineering, porting is the process of adapting software for the purpose of achieving some form of execution in a computing environment that is different from the one that a given program was originally designed for. The term is also used when software/hardware is changed to make them usable in different environments.


In 1995, FutureWave Software, wanting to challenge Macromedia's Shockwave program, modified their SmartSketch software by adding frame-by-frame animation tools. [6] The tools were released in FutureSplash Animator for the PC and Macintosh. In December 1996, FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia and the animation editor was renamed Macromedia Flash. [7] [8] This and the release of the ActionScript programming language, were some of the first ways developers made games for browsers. Sun Microsystems also launched a website in 1997 called HotJava that hosted 'applets' which users could run on any browser that ran Java. [9]

FutureWave Software, Inc was a software development company based in San Diego, California. The company was co-founded by Charlie Jackson and Jonathan Gay on January 22, 1993. VP of Marketing was Michelle Welsh who also came from Silicon Beach Software, then Aldus.

Macromedia American graphics and web development software company headquartered in San Francisco, California  (USA).

Macromedia was an American graphics, multimedia, and web development software company (1992–2005) headquartered in San Francisco, California that produced such products as Flash and Dreamweaver. It was purchased by its rival Adobe Systems on December 3, 2005.

Microsoft Windows is a group of several graphical operating system families, all of which are developed, marketed and sold by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Microsoft Windows families include Windows NT and Windows IoT; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Server or Windows Embedded Compact. Defunct Microsoft Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

One of the earliest popular game websites to run on Java was, the largest selection of Java multiplayer games on the Internet, hosting a wide variety of games like Chess, Checkers, and Freecell. [10] It received attention from companies after rapid site growth, such as the number of registered users on the site jumping from 50,000 to 60,000 in November to December 1997. It was bought out by Yahoo! in 1998 and turned into Yahoo! Games. Vice claims that Yahoo! Games most likely had an impact on the "online poker boom of the early 2000s" as it was one of the first websites to host the game in 1997, predating PlanetPoker which started in 1998. [11] In 1996, Microsoft acquired the small online gaming site "The Village". The site was relaunched under the "Internet Gaming Zone" branding at It first hosted card and board games similar to Yahoo! Games. [10] [11] While acclaimed by the Los Angeles Times in 1997, they also called the site "more complicated than necessary" because users had to download more than 3 megabytes of special software to play the games, and because only Internet Explorer could run the site. [10] It would be renamed many times over the years, to "Microsoft Zone", "MSN Games" and others. A notable series that came out of Microsoft Zone was Bejeweled.

Yahoo! Games was a section of the Yahoo! website, launched on March 31, 1998, in which Yahoo! users could play games either with other users or by themselves. The majority of Yahoo! Games was closed down on March 31, 2014 and the balance was closed on February 9, 2016. Yahoo! announced that "changes in supporting technologies and increased security requirements for our own Yahoo! web pages, made it impossible to keep the games running safely and securely". It was then announced by Yahoo! that its Games section would be dissolved completely on May 13, 2016. However, the Yahoo! Games service is still available on Yahoo! Japan, along with Yahoo! Auctions.

Chess Strategy board game

Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an 8×8 grid. The game is played by millions of people worldwide. Chess is believed to be derived from the Indian game chaturanga sometime before the 7th century. Chaturanga is also the likely ancestor of the Eastern strategy games xiangqi, janggi, and shogi. Chess reached Europe by the 9th century, due to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. The pieces assumed their current powers in Spain in the late 15th century; the modern rules were standardized in the 19th century.

FreeCell Solitaire card game

FreeCell is a solitaire card game played using the standard 52-card deck. It is fundamentally different from most solitaire games in that very few deals are unsolvable, and all cards are dealt face-up from the very beginning of the game. Although software implementations vary, most versions label the hands with a number.

Digital Trends writes that many early Flash games were browser-based recreations of classic video games like Pac-Man or Frogger, and the market grew with the introduction of higher-speed Internet connections. [12] Toby Rowland of the casual game site said in 2007, "Broadband penetration is one of the big drivers on the industry and the other is the advance in quality of Flash technology itself". [13] Some of the more notable websites for flash games were Newgrounds, AddictingGames, Miniclip, and Kongregate. [13] [14] [15] Developers often made flash games because of a model where they were free demos to full games that would come out later, and also because they could create more experimental games than could be allowed onto consoles. [14] [16] Flash games went viral through the use of AIM and e-mail. [17] Humongous Entertainment was a developer that lost players to Flash games in the early 2000s. [18]

In 1996, Tom Fulp developed the games "Club a Seal" and "Assassin" for his Neo Geo fansite New Ground. [19] A year later, after making the sequels to both games, he made a separate site, Neo Geo Atomix, specifically for hosting browser games. In 1998, Fulp began experimenting with Macromedia Flash, and combined both websites into Newgrounds. By 1999, there was considerable traffic on Newgrounds. He added a chat room and message board, along with "The Portal", where people could submit their own Flash creations. Newgrounds would grow to have portals for Games, Movies, Audio, and Art, and would spawn viral videos like the Numa Numa Dance. Google searches for "Newgrounds" peaked in December 2005. [20]

In 2001, Robert Small and Tihan Presbie created the video hosting site Miniclip in London with £40,000 of their own funds. [21] Their first video, about a dancing George W. Bush, became popular after they released an accompanying game. [21] Miniclip would become the world's largest privately owned gaming site, and in 2008, the company was valued at £900 million. [22] [23] Google searches for "Miniclip" peaked in December 2007. [20]

The overall popularity of Flash games has lessened in the 2010s, [24] [25] and Adobe has announced they would discontinue Flash in 2020. [26] The original iPhone famously did not support Flash. [27] In his Thoughts on Flash letter, Steve Jobs said "the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short." [27] Polygon writer Owen Good points to the popularity of mobile gaming as a contributing factor, saying that at the height of flash games' popularity in the mid-2000s, the only popular forms of mobile gaming were the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. [25] Large projects went underway to preserve and archive flash games after Adobe announced Flash would be discontinued, [17] [28] [29] such as archiving games made by Nintendo. [30] [31]

Yahoo! retired the domain in 2006, sold it in 2010, removed the last "classic" games from Yahoo! Games in 2014, and closed Yahoo! Games in 2017. [11] [32] [33] [34]

Browser games written in other formats besides Flash remain popular, such as HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly. [28] The .io domain, which hosts 2015's written in JavaScript and C++, and 2016's was written in HTML, has become a popular way for developers to release individual games onto, because of its short length, the ease of acquiring the domain, and the association with programming because "io" can also stand for input/output. [35] [36]


Many Flash games in the late 1990s and early 2000s received attention through the use of shock comedy or real-world events, like McDonald's Videogame, a satire of McDonald's' business practices, or Darfur is Dying, about the War in Darfur, Sudan. Wired would write in 2017, "Flash games lent themselves to the exaggerated and cartoonish, a style that eventually evolved into an affection-at least amongst its best creators-for beautiful grotesquire. Like much of the younger gaming internet, Flash games defined boundaries simply to cross them; the best titles straddled a weird line between innocence and cruelty, full of gorgeous gore and enthralling body horror". [37] One of the most controversial was Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, released on April 5, 2005, which reenacts the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in a Final Fantasy VI-like aesthetic. [38] [39] Betty Nguyen of CNN labeled the game as an example of a terrorist subculture, and the gunman in the 2006 Dawson College shooting admitted to playing the game on a website. [40] [41] Similarly, Tom Fulp created a game called Pico's School based after the Columbine shootings where the player must take down a goth school shooter. [16] There are a few other controversies involving browser games and real-world events, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting reenactment V-Tech Rampage, [42] and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre targeting the game Kindergarten Killers after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings. [43]


A persistent browser-based game is a video game that is both browser-based and persistent.

Persistent browser-based games usually rely on some kind of server-side code, although some games use technologies like Flash, ActiveX, and Java applets to store data on the client's computer. Games relying on client-side technology are rarer due to the security aspects that must be dealt with when reading and writing from a user's local file system - the web browser doesn't want web pages to be able to destroy the user's computer, and the game designer doesn't want the game files stored in an easily accessed place where the user can edit them. The server-side code will store persistent information about players and possibly the game world in some kind of database.

Sustainability, especially when combined with persistence, is a key distinction of a PBBG. This allows dynamic system modelling elements to develop and allow the game to progress even while the player is offline. Such games often last for several months.


Browser games can take advantage of different technologies in order to function.

Web standards

Standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript can be used to make browser games, but these have had limited success because of issues with browser compatibility and quality. These technologies allow for games that can be run in all standards-compliant browsers. [44] In addition, dedicated graphics technologies such as SVG and canvas allow for the fast rendering of vector and raster graphics respectively. [2] In addition, WebGL allows for hardware-accelerated 3D support in the browser. [45] [46]

Comparison of web technologies [notes 1]
Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer Opera Safari
SVG YesYesYesYesYes
Canvas YesYesYesYesYes
WebGL YesYes [47] Yes [48] YesYes


Browser plug-ins were used to provide game technologies after being installed by the user. As of 2017 most companies (Oracle for Java plugin, Adobe for Flash Plugin) are considering ending support for their plugins. Also web browser manufacturers are leaving the idea of using plug-ins in their products in the future.

Comparison of browser plug-ins
Windows Mac OS X Linux License [notes 2] Installed base [notes 3]
Flash YesYesYes Proprietary [49] 96% [50]
Java YesYesYes Open source (free) [51] [52] 78% [50]
Shockwave YesYesNo Proprietary [53] 52% [54]
Silverlight YesYesPartial (Moonlight - LGPL) Proprietary [55] 62% [50]
Unity Web Player Yes - Also in Unity WebGL [56] Yes - Also in Unity WebGLNo- Works in Unity WebGL Proprietary [57] 1% [58]

See also


  1. Availability refers to the latest stable version only.
  2. Refers to the reference implementation. There may be alternative implementations under different licenses.
  3. Stated as a percentage of web browsers.

Related Research Articles

JavaScript, often abbreviated as JS, is a high-level, interpreted scripting language that conforms to the ECMAScript specification. JavaScript has curly-bracket syntax, dynamic typing, prototype-based object-orientation, and first-class functions.

Adobe Flash is a deprecated multimedia software platform used for production of animations, rich Internet applications, desktop applications, mobile applications, mobile games and embedded web browser video players. Flash displays text, vector graphics and raster graphics to provide animations, video games and applications. It allows streaming of audio and video, and can capture mouse, keyboard, microphone and camera input. Related development platform Adobe AIR continues to be supported.

Website set of related web pages served from a single web domain

A website or web site is a collection of related network web resources, such as web pages, multimedia content, which are typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. Notable examples are,, and

Newgrounds American entertainment and social media website and company

Newgrounds is an American online entertainment and social media website and company. It hosts user-generated content such as gaming, filming, audio and artwork composition in four respective website categories. Newgrounds provides visitor-driven voting and ranking of user-generated submissions.

SWF is an Adobe Flash file format used for multimedia, vector graphics and ActionScript. Originating with FutureWave Software, then transferred to Macromedia, and then coming under the control of Adobe, SWF files can contain animations or applets of varying degrees of interactivity and function. They may also occur in programs, commonly browser games, using ActionScript.

Adobe Shockwave is a discontinued multimedia platform for building interactive multimedia applications and video games. Developers originate content using Adobe Director and publish it on the Internet. Such content can be viewed in a web browser on any computer with the Shockwave Player plug-in installed. Macromind originated the technology; Macromedia developed it further, releasing Shockwave Player in 1995. Adobe Systems acquired Shockwave in 2005. Shockwave supports raster graphics, basic vector graphics, 3D graphics, audio, and an embedded scripting language called Lingo.

A rich web application is a Web application that has many of the characteristics of desktop application software. The concept is closely related to a single-page application, and may allow the user interactive features such as drag and drop, background menu, WYSIWYG editing, etc. HTML5 is a current standard for delivering rich web applications, supported by all major browsers.

Xfire instant messaging service and game server browser

Xfire was a proprietary freeware instant messaging service for gamers that also served as a game server browser with various other features. It was available for Microsoft Windows.

Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) is an application programming interface (API) that allows browser plugins to be developed. It was first developed for Netscape browsers, starting in 1995 with Netscape Navigator 2.0, but was subsequently adopted by other browsers. With the advent of HTML5 many software vendors have removed support for this API for security reasons.

Adobe Flash Player Software for viewing multimedia, rich Internet applications, and streaming video and audio

Adobe Flash Player is computer software for using content created on the Adobe Flash platform, including viewing multimedia contents, executing rich Internet applications, and streaming audio and video. Flash Player can run from a web browser as a browser plug-in or on supported mobile devices. Flash Player was created by Macromedia and has been developed and distributed by Adobe Systems since Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. Flash Player is distributed as freeware.

Adobe Flash Lite Software

Adobe Flash Lite is a lightweight version of Adobe Flash Player, a software application published by Adobe Systems for viewing Flash content. Flash Lite operates on devices that Flash Player cannot, such as mobile phones and other portable electronic devices like Wii, Chumby and Iriver.

A local shared object (LSO), commonly called a Flash cookie, is a piece of data that websites which use Adobe Flash may store on a user's computer. Local shared objects have been used by all versions of Flash Player since version 6.

Adobe Director multimedia application authoring platform

Adobe Director was a multimedia application authoring platform created by Macromedia and managed by Adobe Systems until its discontinuation.

Falling-sand game

A falling sand game is a type of particle simulation video game. They allow the user to place particles of different elements on a "canvas". The particles can interact with other particles in various ways, and may be affected by gravity, in some games. Many complex effects may be achieved. Many versions of the Falling Sand Game have been written since its introduction in 2005.

HTML5 can generally be used as an alternative to Adobe Flash. Both include features for playing audio and video within web pages, It can also be used to play some basic HTML5 browser games and integrated vector graphics are possible with both.

The Internet Browser is a web browser designed for the Nintendo 3DS family system. It was released via firmware update on June 6, 2011 in North America and June 7, 2011 in Europe, Australia, and Japan. Access to World Wide Web site content can now be filtered as of system update 5.0.0-11.

Adobe Shockwave Player software

Adobe Shockwave Player, was a freeware software plug-in for viewing multimedia and video games in web pages, content created on the Adobe Shockwave platform. Content is developed with Adobe Director and published on the Internet. Such content can be viewed in a web browser on any computer with the Shockwave Player plug-in installed. It was first developed by Macromedia and released in 1995; it was later acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005.


PlayCanvas is an open-source 3D game engine/interactive 3D application engine alongside a proprietary cloud-hosted creation platform that allows for simultaneous editing from multiple computers via a browser-based interface. It runs in modern browsers that support WebGL, including Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The engine is capable of rigid-body physics simulation, handling three-dimensional audio and 3D animations.

PlayerScale, Inc. is a Belmont-based gaming infrastructure provider. As of 23 May 2013 it operates as a subsidiary of Yahoo!, but it is still functioning as a stand-alone business unit.

<i></i> 2015 video game is a massively multiplayer online action game created by Brazilian developer Matheus Valadares. Players control one or more cells in a map representing a Petri dish. The goal is to gain as much mass as possible by eating agar and cells smaller than the player's cell while avoiding larger ones which can eat the player's cells. Each player starts with one cell, but players can split a cell into two once it reaches a sufficient mass, allowing them to control multiple cells. The name comes from the substance agar, used to culture bacteria.


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