This question came up in a discussion recently.
There’s been a lot of publicity on social media around games built on the PowerApps platform and there’s a legitimate concern that business users won’t understand the value of PowerApps for building business applications as a result. After all, PowerApps are marketed and intended to be used for real-world business applications.
So, the question is, why are we building games on PowerApps instead of compelling business applications? It’s a valid question, but there’s good reasons for building games in PowerApps and it’s not uncommon for new and emerging technologies to be leveraged this way.
Back in July of 2016 a new mobile game came on the scene that quickly became one of the most popular games of all time with users of all ages worldwide. The game has grossed over $2 billion to date. It featured an emerging technology known as Augmented Reality which had been around since the early ’90s but was only starting to be leveraged on mobile devices. The game was Pokemon Go and was the first major success for Augmented Reality as a technology and introduced the world to the possibilities of this tech.
While A.R. is still being accepted as a technology for business it has been featured in just about every Microsoft keynote for the past 2 years. We’ve all seen the demo of the technician on site trying to fix a building’s broken power supply (or whatever) and he puts on his Hololens and calls a colleague to help him figure out which wire to cut or replace. This is an example of A.R. being used in a real-world application. Something that is only starting to seem plausible as a solution despite it’s existence for so many years.
Like A.R. PowerApps have been around for a while but there haven’t been a lot of public success stories around using them, and honestly, not a lot of people know what the capabilities are. That all changed when the Common Data Service and the Power Platform was announced this year. All of a sudden, PowerApps were at the forefront of the “citizen developer” movement and regular developers and “citizens” alike were clambering to figure out how these things work.
What better way to prove out the capabilities, than to build low risk games, rather than pitching it to your client as a solution and potentially having a huge failure on your hands?
What games provide is a low risk, and honestly, more interesting way for developers to start to learn the technology and for users to begin to see the value and possibilities of the platform. There are a lot of technologies that have started this way. Games are a proving ground for new and emerging technologies. In addition, businesses tend to be skittish about adopting new technologies and rightfully so since there is money or even possibly lives to be lost if the technology doesn’t succeed. Games provide a way to show off the possibilities and introduce the user to the technology in a way that starts to make the wheels turn and also gains the interest of the public.
Ultimately, PowerApps will not become the next gaming platform. However, as a proving ground for the technology, it is a great way to start pushing the technology forward. I applaud the community who started the initiative. It’s brought this incredibly powerful technology to the forefront and has begun to show what’s possible.