Installing or creating an online game is a great way to reach new users, establish yourself as a developer, or make money with paid access or ads. There are several ways to go about offering a game through your website or application. Whether the game you’ll be providing is the focus or your web project, or simply a bonus offering to users, you’ll need to make a few basic decisions in the process. This includes deciding whether to offer gameplay on your website through the user’s browser, or to require the user to download your game to their device and play locally. There are reasons to either route, and after a quick review here you will be ready to setup your own online game.

The Main Benefits of Browser Play

Users who want to access your game from work or school may not have the option of downloading or installing anything due to security restrictions. Therefore, browser play is the best option to reach the most users possible.

In-browser games are appealing to those who don’t want the hassle of waiting on a download and perhaps installing software packages or updates to make the game work. Browsers are a great way to ensure universal compatibility and let your players get started without any obstacles.

Browser play also keeps users connected to your website, offering the distinct advantage of allowing you to make your game a great advertising platform. You can install ads between levels, before the game gets started or during load times. If you want to charge for an online game but still want to user browser play, consider installing a paywall in front of the game.

When Downloads are Better

If your game works offline and you don’t need to ensure a connection for serving ads then offering downloads can be a better option. That’s because downloaded games take less resources from your web server and allow users to play your game at any time or place.

Download systems also have the advantage of easier pay. You can charge users a one-time fee to download your game and not have to worry about maintaining an ad-based revenue system later on. Many users prefer to pay for a game upfront and not be bombarded by ads throughout the gameplay.

Games that can be packaged for download also have the benefit of being accessible to mobile marketplaces such as those for Android and iPhone. This can help you reach even more users, while still maintaining the revenue options of in-game ads or paid downloads.

Web Hosting for Games

Part of your decision must be based on the web hosting package you subscribe to. Read the terms and specification of your host to know if you are allowed to offer a large amount of downloads to users, as games sometimes gather unexpectedly large user bases.

Some hosts will allow you enough resources to keep your game completely in-browser. If you have a dynamic shared plan or a virtual hosting server, browser play may be a great option, as an influx of gamers on your site shouldn’t really cause a slowdown in these scenarios. More limited or restricted hosting plans may fair better with downloads.

Make sure to utilize browser cache to save on your hosting resources if you’re on a limited hosting plan. This will help tremendously, as some or all of your game can be stored in the users browser, eliminating the need for them to use any more of your bandwidth. This option is somewhat of a mix between browser-play and a download system and may work best for your game.

Speed and Compatibility

Two of the most important factors in your decision should be speed and compatibility. These are affected by things such as your hosting capabilities, what code your game is based on and how large the files for your game are.

Games that are simple and lightweight make excellent candidates for browser play. They can easily be loaded into a browser’s cache without slowing your user’s system down. Classic games like Snake, Pong, and Moon Lander style games often load in a second or two with any modern browser, and a download option may seem excessive or turn users away.

Games with larger files may do better as a download. That’s because browsers can be slow to load such files, leaving huge wait times between screens. Users are less likely to be annoyed by the delay of a pre-game download since they can walk away or read through your website while they wait.

Optimize your game by selecting the best method for speed, as well as compatibility. Many browsers are turning away from Flash, so downloads may be the best bet for flash based games going forward. Games built using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and other web-based languages work great as browser play games. Larger games requiring advanced coding, upgraded GPUs, DirectX or PC based platforms can easily be offered as a download for ensured compatibility.

Online gaming draws millions of users into websites and apps every month. You can get in on the cash cow of web- or download-based gaming with a little marketing effort and a good web hosting plan. If you’re offering a game for profit or just to share your creative efforts with users you can ensure the best return on your investment of time or capital by carefully reviewing the pros and cons of each platform.