Chrome has been the supreme ruler of the browsers for years, and there are a few challengers springing up to either challenge the king or find their own space. Edge has made a decent enough effort with its recent release. Firefox has historically attracted those who want the privacy and speed Chrome started lacking, but now they’ve gone to Brave. And Safari is its own thing in Apple land.
None of these challengers is Opera, but it wants to fight its way back into contention, or at least find a good enough niche. This year it pushed all its chips into the middle of the table, with its bet on one thing: Opera GX, the “world’s first browser for gamers.”
That presents us with an interesting question: Assuming it’s possible and worthwhile to optimise a browser for gaming, is that something the community would adopt?
An important point to make here is that while a big part of what Opera GX intends is gaming in the browser, it also aims to assist your PC gaming by throttling your browser tabs. It boasts CPU, RAM, and network limiters which presumably use much less hardware grunt while your main monitor (and main priority) is a clutch defuse.
As for the rest of it, Opera is certainly putting its money where its mouth is.
The biggest move it’s made is acquiring YoYo Games, the makers of GameMaker, one of the better-known development engines. GameMaker is a favourite for quick 2D prototyping, but is also behind hits like Undertale, Spelunky, Hotline Miami, and Hyper Light Drifter.
I’ve used GameMaker for years, and it’s great. It went “free” earlier this year, in that you could make games for free, but had to buy the product if you wanted to export them. Later on YoYo switched to a subscription model, which is expected these days, but probably caused a few sidelong, flirtatious glances at the open source Godot.
GameMaker could already export to HTML5, but Opera is building an easy, one-click export to the Opera browser where a GameMaker game will enjoy the kind of placement and promotion an indie could only dream of on Steam or an app store. One click, says Opera, can connect you to 10 million gamers.
It’s easy to see the appeal from the developer point of view. What’s less sure is if a Kongregate-style game space built into the browser is solving any pain points for gamers, who are already inundated with indie options on websites and stores.
Do the mostly-2D, mostly-indie-AF games that normally appear on a browser need optimised software? If developers were to really take advantage of this power, would GameMaker be the engine to make that in?
Opera also recently ran a competition where anyone could submit a game idea, and the winners would have their idea made for them in GameMaker. Normally this type of competition involves doing the work and giving up IP rights, but this seemed much better. Ideas generally aren’t currency in game dev circles – execution is – so this was a good way to pay some developers and get an idea made that wouldn’t have otherwise.
There’s also a new competition which is aiming to function as a “Game Awards” for the GameMaker community, and there was a first-party hosted game jam.
All of this, I dig. It seems like developers are getting love and attention, which isn’t always the case. Opera, through YoYo, seems to have an “if you build it, they will come” philosophy, and “building it” requires the developers. Whether they will come, we shall see.