When you play a game, how do you play it? Monopoly or Settlers of Catan around the dining table? Mario Kart on your Nintendo Switch? Assassin’s Creed on your Xbox? Among Us on your phone? Usually, they are games with a physical form, a console or an app. Artie is gearing up to shake up the games industry with another option, bringing high-end games back to the browser. The advantages are obvious: No apps to download, and you can launch straight into a game from a link-in-bio, whether from TikTok, Instagram or, well, wherever you can find links. Also: Sidestepping the apps means not paying Apple the in-app purchase finder’s fee for transactions.
“We realized that with 5G, device maturity and the GPUs we could access through the browser, you don’t actually need to download a game to run a high-quality game anymore,” explains Ryan Horrigan, Artie’s co-founder and CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “We thought, is there a way to do something that isn’t pure client side… is there a way we can leverage Unreal or Unity, and do some sort of elegant asset streaming and optimization where we’re kind of streaming data from the cloud, but we’re rendering locally on your device?”
Yes, there is a way of doing it, it turns out, and that’s the market Artie is taking a leap into. The company refers to it as “over-the-top game streaming.”
“The idea being I’m in my TikTok feed where I see an influencer or an ad, and I click a link. I play the game instantly in the pop-up browser and TikTok, but then I have two choices,” says Horrigan. “I can either follow the game there and return (akin to Farmville back in the day and Facebook) and go back to social to play, or I can save a bookmark or a progressive web app to my phone screen and have a pseudo-app at my finger tips.”
Being a progressive web app makes it indistinguishable from an app, but has the benefits of being discoverable in a multitude of ways, particularly via social media, and not having to be downloaded. TikTok and Instagram are now the equivalents of an old-fashioned arcade.
“I used to play at the arcade as a kid,” says Horrigan. “What if the modern arcade is just TikTok or Instagram? We’ve been saying that we’re trying to build the game console of the future on social media, which is maybe a weird thing to say. But if you think about it, a console was hardware. Then more recently, it’s been software, like with Steam on the PC, or the Epic game store. But, there isn’t really the equivalent of those on mobile, because there hasn’t been the access point to reach players.”
Reaching players through social media, obviating app stores and rendering on the client side makes sense for both gamers and developers, Artie believes. Without having to pay app store fees or cloud rendering costs it provides developers with the financial ability to make new games that appeal to different markets.
“We can afford to have a different sized audience,” says Horrigan. He maybe right, and if that means a wider variety of games for wider audiences, available without the friction apps (and in-app purchases) add to the experience, that may just turn out to be a win all around.