Adobe to kill Flash Player plugin in 2020

Flash, the browser plugin which massively helped shape games as we know them today, is retiring. Adobe have announced that they will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player “by the end of 2020”. The main browsers will remove their built-in support. Browser-based Flash will die in 2020. I will fondly remember it for so very many tower defense games, puzzlers, and platformers, as well as standouts like Frog Fractions. Flash heralded this wondrous age where we don’t need to go to shops or mess with disks to play games and anyone at home can release their own.

Abode say they “encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats”, but I imagine the vast majority will be lost. Deprecated and end-of-lifed. So much video games history gets lost and Flash’s is worth remembering.

QWOP! Desktop Tower Defense! N! Canabalt! Samorost! The Dream Machine! Dys4ia! You Have to Burn the Rope! Hexagon! Grow! Line Rider! Auditorium! GemCraft! flOw! Nanaca Crash! Wonderputt! Don’t Shit Your Pants! Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure! Bejeweled – oh my gosh I forgot PopCap started with Flash games. I’m sure I’m forgetting so many more. We’ve posted a whole load ourselves. What else have you dug, gang?

(And a decade before YouTube, when watching actual video online involved horrible guff like RealPlayer, Flash Player gave us cartoons in our browsers.)

At a time when I couldn’t afford to buy games, sites like Newgrounds gave me so many for free with but the click of a mouse, my dear boy. And these were often weird, personal, experimental games unlike anything in the shops. As much as I adore the mod scene and go on about its interesting creations (I even keep a blog of readme file snippets), Flash browser games really mainstreamed the strange and personal.

Click a link and twenty seconds later (dialup allowing) you’re playing a game. Magic.

Adobe said in yesterday’s death announcement that Flash was once “an essential part of the web”. It was.

“But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web. Over time, we’ve seen helper apps evolve to become plugins, and more recently, have seen many of these plugin capabilities get incorporated into open web standards. Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.”

Adobe will continue to update the Flash Player for now but by the end of 2020 it’ll be dead. Browsers are already starting to nudge Flash out, making it ask for permission to run. Google’s plan for Chrome, the most popular browser, comes in three steps: make it ask permission more and more; disable it by default; then remove it completely.

It is true that browsers can now natively do a lot of things that would’ve previously required plugins. Flash isn’t as necessary. But the Flash Player vanishing means a huge chunk of our history will become inaccessible without jumping through hoops and hoping kind souls keep archives alive.

43 Comments

  1. StevieW says:

    Best Flash Game. Ever.

    link to helicoptergame.net

  2. Eraysor says:

    Dicewar…no…never leave me!

    • dontnormally says:

      Please please please check out kdice if you like dice wars – it’s a multi-player version with a thriving community. I keep hoping some RPS chap or lass will catch wind of it.

      Edit: any time I include the link I am spam’d, despite having been an RPS commenter for years. It’s okay, you can find it by googling the name!

      It’s fantastic, cut throat, diplomatically complicated multi-player free for all area control distilled into 15 minute games. It is the only game I can think of (including board games) that puts enough value on doing well but not taking 1st to create complicated negotiations and tension around settling peace.

      It has been in my top 5 games for a decade.
      Really, give it a try.

      Tldr kdice

      • dontnormally says:

        Here’s another way to sell it:

        Neptune’s Pride but 15 minutes

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        phuzz says:

        It was sounding fantastic until you got to ‘multiplayer’.

        Fortunately there’s an HTML version of Dicewars now.

        • dontnormally says:

          FWIW I agree on anti-multiplayer almost across the board. but for kdice-

          On one side: The chat box is an incredibly powerful tool.

          On the other: Ignore the chat box and it’s essentially a single player game.

          There is no downside to this being multiplayer.
          Just try it, yo!

  3. BooleanBob says:

    I’m guessing/hoping they’ll still maintain a standalone player so the, what, trillions of hours-worth? of flash content in existence can enjoy some sort of legacy support.

    Flash was in many ways, terrible. It’s the only software that seemed to perform worse every time it updated. Despite this creative types managed to wrangle it to do incredible things (as well as some of the most obnoxious web adverts this side of revcontent).

    Not just games, either. I think I still have zips of the entire runs of Bonus Stage and Spacetree somewhere on a harddrive.

    I don’t think I’ll miss Flash, but I do owe it for a lot of fond memories.

    • Zorgulon says:

      Yeah, it certainly defined an era of internet culture, even though it had all sorts of problems.

      I remember dabbling with Flash animation myself as a kid- it was a pain in the arse, but a wonderfully open format that really allowed a lot of creativity to flourish.

      I’m not sure I’ll miss it, but I hope there’s some sort of legacy support for those ancient animations and games.

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      Godwhacker says:

      Even with that there will be huge amounts of stuff that has dependencies on outside assets that will only have been configured to work in a browser. I did professional Flash development for a while (for my sins) and can guarantee a load of stuff just plain isn’t going to work any more.

    • goodgeorge says:

      It was about time that Adobe announces this. As a web developer I have waited for this a long time. Don’t worry about forever losing all the existing Flash content. In Adobe does not provide a standalone player then someone else definitely will.

      • MrBehemoth says:

        Just what I was going to say. Somebody surely will, even if it leaves the mainstream forever. You never know, it might even end up becoming a bit more robust in the process.

  4. Spacewalk says:

    The first ever Flash animation that I can remember seeing was Xiao Xiao 2 on Stick Figure Death Theatre an entire life ago.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I remember playing endless edgy tripe on newgrounds, as a teenager. While there’s nostalgia, I sincerely doubt any of it holds up.

    That said, I feel like there’s still amusing content being made in flash, and having it disappear is unfortunate.

    But hey. Progress, I guess.

  6. Herzog says:

    Mausland :(

  7. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I will not miss Flash but I do hope existing Flash games will be preserved through some sort of open source effort, because those games should remain playable.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      This. Unfortunately the track record of tech companies when it comes to archival preservation is, well, almost non-existent.

    • Person of Interest says:

      Maybe the Mozilla Shumway project will be revived. More likely though, .flv files will become as useless and unplayable as .rm did a decade ago.

  8. Sojiro84 says:

    If we need to lose some of that legacy stuff to finally kill flash, then it will be worth it.

    Flash should have died years ago. 2020 can’t come soon enough.

  9. The First Door says:

    Goodness, this is quite sad news! I recently found a cache of prototypes I made in Flash a few years back and had quite the moment of reflection and nostalgia. Sure, Flash was a bit rubbish and ActionScript was patchy and odd sometimes, but it allowed me to quickly create and play around with games in a way I never through was possible before. I will be sad when those prototypes in some way die off, as they represent an important part of my life!

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    Iamblichos says:

    Flash did enable a lot of games to be made, but at a terrible cost. Security-wise, it’s a dumpster fire in a nuclear waste container. Even worse, the things that made it insecure were the things that made it valuable – it literally couldn’t be fixed without invalidating its existence. 2020 isn’t soon enough.

  11. rondertaker says:

    and lets not forget the original binding of isaac aka the greatest game ever after x-com was made in flash

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    MajorLag says:

    The Binding of Isaac was a flash game too. Other notable experiments: One Chance, Every Day the Same Dream, and Cursor*10. There was a pretty ok flash Portal game. Several entire genres were, if not invented, at least popularized by flash games. Clickers, tower defense, and whatever the heck flappy bird and angry birds count as. Flash was also big for a lot of young animators.

    As much as it was a horribly perverted to make annoying ads, implement crappy website animation, and as a vector for malware, it is also an important part of our cultural heritage.

    I expect someone will make a flash player that runs in HTML5/WebGL, which is itself a horrible abomination that will one day be shunned in favor of the next “lets make the web into a platform” abomination.

  13. Stargazer86 says:

    Man, I haven’t thought about Newgrounds in years. I watched so many great Flash animations back in the day. There She Is! was quite probably the best. There were so many creators using Flash to create so many neat things that it’s almost a shame that it’ll be going the way of the dodo. I say almost because Flash has become a huge vulnerability-laced behemoth of a mess to the point that it really does just need to go.

    But jeez, I remember those years before Youtube when getting actual video to play was a pain in the butt. I remember the awfulness of Realplayer. I remember attempting to use Windows Media Player in… 2001, I think, to watch Weird Al’s Phantom Menace music video. It was the absolute worst.

    Really, it’s amazing to me that the web is at a point where you can watch people do things in real time now on Twitch and livestreams when a mere 15 years ago you were glad you could get a simple video to work.

  14. mujie says:

    There are loads of older flash games though that won’t ever get updated. How are we gonna play those?

    • goodgeorge says:

      Someone will make a standalone player. I don’t see any reason to worry about forever losing the existing Flash content.

  15. Abacus says:

    Two words:

    David Firth.

  16. geldonyetich says:

    Flash was a great platform, but all things in life are transient. Apple sort of stuck the fork in it awhile back when they barred it from iOS, but perhaps their reasoning was good: Flash was getting rather bloaty and unstable.

    I imagine that once Flash is no more, somebody will have released some kind of Flash emulator, so it’s not like those old games are necessarily gone.

  17. apa says:

    Adobe provides a standalone Flash player. Just Google that and it’s the first link.

  18. Vanderdecken says:

    First Flash games I remember playing were the Lenny Loosejocks series on Ezone.com. God that’s a blast from the past.

    I only realised the other day that Machinarium was originally built in Flash.

  19. castle says:

    Don’t forget everything from Detarou and Eyezmaze–would be a real shame if these were lost.

    Also worth checking out: Discovery, Fear Less!, Gravity Worm, Impasse, Pause Ahead, Tower of Heaven

    (As apa mentioned, Adobe provides a download to a standalone flash player. If you’re truly concerned about losing a specific game, download the SWF and install the standalone app from Adobe)

  20. sosolidshoe says:

    Well hopefully by 2020 the Firefox devs will have pulled their finger out of their metaphorical collective arsehole and actually made HTML5 and Web(X) content function properly, because right now it can’t reliably play HTML5 videos, .webm files, or display that annoying new image format some of the wikis have started using.

    I still don’t trust Chrome fully and it doesn’t have the same breadth of security and privacy addons as Firefox.

  21. Premium User Badge

    weregamer says:

    While I might remember what Flash enabled fondly, it was always craptastic at many things, especially including security. There were performance and security bugs found when Flash 3.0 was new (something like 7 years ago?) that were never fixed.

  22. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Heli Attack 2 on Miniclip was my jam. Looks like you need an app to play it these days but man that was a good game.

  23. racccoon says:

    I been creating stuff from flash since its birth, the great way this tool allows you to flow with ease creating all kinds of shapes and being able to create awesome movies for website development is amazing, with the added plus of full screen projection it was “THE” perfect dream for beginners web devs, professionals web devs, & the like.
    The untold amount of content available from a great community of hard core programmers & creators made it a fantastic place to be. Over the years I have learnt mountains of code and also received the same amount for learning more. Which I am glad I have in storage.
    The shear power of this tool was not met at all by the many but by just the few. I am lucky to of been involved in such a powerful medium for the PC and web, I still use it and I think its by far a better option for graphic work on ideas than most paint programs and movie makers out there. The Flash tool is so awesome it will always be awesome.
    Of course it did have it problems, & where they arose from was one of most baffling questions for web visitors, uses, and devs, why these occurred at unforgiving times was mind blowing, overriding these problems became a challenge, we soldiered through & overriding them, we all do.

  24. Iainn says:

    My earliest Flash game memory is Spear Toss by Makai Media. The simple premise and fast reset was key to it’s success at my uni. Best I just got was 337.816.

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