A browser game, commonly known as a flash game (although some games using flash technology are not run through a browser), is a video game that is played over the Internet using a web browser. Browser games can be run using standard web technologies 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. 
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, or in online marketplaces like Steam or XBLA. Some notable titles are Alien Hominid, Bejeweled, Bloons, Club Penguin, Meat Boy, itch.io, and VVVVVV.
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.
In 1995, FutureWave Software, wanting to challenge Macromedia's Shockwave program, modified their SmartSketch software by adding frame-by-frame animation tools. 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. This and the release of the ActionScript programming language, were some of the first ways developers made games for browsers.
In the same year, Tom Fulp developed the games "Club a Seal" and "Assassin" for his Neo Geo fansite New Ground. 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 at December 2005, and has an Alexa rank of 598 as of February 2017.
In 1996, Microsoft acquired the small online gaming site "The Village". The site was relaunched under the "Internet Gaming Zone" branding. It first hosted card and board games like Hearts, Spades, and Backgammon, and would be renamed many times over the years, to "Microsoft Zone", "MSN Games" and others. It received competition from similar sites made around this time, like Yahoo! Games. A notable series that came out of Microsoft Zone was Bejeweled.
In 2001, Robert Small and Tihan Presbie created the video hosting site Miniclip in London with £40,000 of their own funds. Their first video, about a dancing George W. Bush, became popular after they released an accompanying game. Miniclip would become the world's largest privately owned gaming site, and in 2008, the company was valued at £900 million. Google searches for Miniclip would peak at December 2007, and as of July 2017, has an Alexa rank of 1,572.
For many years, the Classic version of Minecraft was available to play on Mojang's website, but was unsupported and the link was removed at various points from 2012-2015 before being removed entirely. Minecraft's stand-alone launcher would remain the same, however, and is how Minecraft would become the 2nd best-selling game ever released, at 121 million copies (including consoles).
The Google Doodles featured on Google's front page are often games, the first one in May 2010 being a playable version of Pac-Man on the Google logo, which got a permanent site at google.com/pacman. There are other notable games like the side-scrolling dinosaur game that appears in Google Chrome whenever a device has lost an Internet connection, or a playable Breakout easter egg in Google Images.
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. Designer of Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen, made many Flash games about dead babies for Newgrounds in 2001. 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. 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. There are a few other controversies involving browser games and real-world events, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting reenactment V-Tech Rampage, and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre targeting the game Kindergarten Killers after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings.
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; though some will 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 progress (stuff happens), 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.
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.
|Windows||Mac OS X||Linux||License[notes 2]||Installed base[notes 3]|
|Java||Yes||Yes||Yes||Open source (free)||78%|
|Silverlight||Yes||Yes||Partial (Moonlight - LGPL)||Proprietary||62%|
|Unity Web Player||Yes - Also in Unity WebGL||Yes - Also in Unity WebGL||No- Works in Unity WebGL||Proprietary||1%|
- Availability refers to the latest stable version only.
- Refers to the reference implementation. There may be alternative implementations under different licenses.
- Stated as a percentage of web browsers.
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