Phaser creator Richard Davey launches Phaser Studio to modernize browser-based game-building

Published: Dec 11, 2023
By: Erica Lindberg

When Steve Jobs published his 2010 open letter “Thoughts on Flash” - calling Flash “no longer necessary”, Richard Davey was working as a technical director of a digital game studio that relied on Flash. “Everyone used to make their games in Flash but then came the famous Steve Jobs’ love letter where he basically killed it one fell swoop,” explains Richard. “Then everyone thought, ‘What are we going to do instead?’ And I figured if I was going to keep making browser games I needed an alternative, but nothing existed. It was the Wild West in terms of web games.”

Like many open source projects, Phaser was created out of a need: nothing existed to fill the gap Flash left behind. Taking everything he had learned from years of making games, Richard decided to work on a solution and sat down one weekend to start writing the JavaScript library that would become Phaser. “I had been a strong advocate of open source and sharing knowledge all my career, so it was just natural for me that the very first version of Phaser would be open and free. Once I put it on GitHub, people started downloading it, and popularity just skyrocketed from there because it was one of the first ones,” said Richard.

Today, Phaser is listed as one of the top 100 most popular projects on GitHub, over 1,000 people have contributed to the project, and the JavaScript framework is considered a standard for browser-based game development.

After 10 years of open source development, Richard Davey has partnered with Open Core Ventures to launch Phaser Studio, an open core company built around Phaser. Leading the company as CTO, Richard intends to modernize the Phaser framework and release Phaser 4, and make it easy to create browser-based playable ads on desktop and mobile. With OCV’s $2M investment, Richard plans to hire a team of engineers to modernize Phaser to take advantage of new technologies and accelerate product development.

“The way you build for the web is constantly evolving. The tools we use, and the features browsers make available to us are changing on a really fast basis right now,” said Richard. “This investment is all about making sure that Phaser 4 sits perfectly on top of the new tech stacks that exist and works flawlessly with all of the new ways in which developers make things.”

Extensive time and effort has already been put into research and development for Phaser 4 and now, with a team of engineers to support, Phaser Studio will bring it to market. “Phaser 4 will take 10 years’ worth of knowledge and experience of building a web game framework, and completely modernize it,” said Richard.

Playable ads everywhere and anywhere

In addition to releasing Phaser 4, Phaser Studio will focus on creating tools for companies to create playable ads across desktop and mobile. “We’ll make it easier for companies to embed games into their products and to make playable ads off of it,” said Richard. “The goal is to make it seamless for them, no matter what systems they have behind the hood, with a tiny focused runtime dedicated to just their needs.”

While the HTML5 game industry market size is estimated to be USD 23.4 billion, and expected to reach USD 31.89 billion by 2030, none of the major game engines focus on browser-based games. And with smartphone usage continuing to grow, in-game advertising is also expected to grow, boosting the browser-based game industry even more. Unity and Unreal both allow users to export games for the browser but neither of them focuses on it, according to Richard. “They’ve all had these features in for years and years, and they’ve never really done much with it. The builds they produce are often quite large and not very well optimized for mobile, if at all.”

Playable ads are taking over text and video-based advertising and browser-based games are no longer beholden to a single browser space: “The playable ad space is huge,” said Richard. “Browser games are showing up everywhere, especially in non-traditional browsers like Discord and Facebook Messenger. Allowing Phaser 4 to fit easily and compactly into all of these environments is absolutely the goal.”