Platform has three interrelated, and often confusing, meanings:
- The host device on which a videogame is played
- A technology used by a game maker to aid in the development or distribution of their games.
- A brand identity with its own marketing story, of which third party developer games become a part.
The PC is a platform in the first sense, Flash is a platform in the second sense, and Mousebreaker is a platform in the third sense. The iPhone and most consoles are platforms in all three senses.
Platforms used to mostly be hardware devices with unique technologies that required developers to license special kits (with the main exception being the PC), however in recent years a number of software platforms based on more open standards have emerged. They vary in many key areas, such as whether they are owner-operated or freely available, device-specific, open or closed, the business model that they use, economic conditions they impose on developers and compatibility with other platforms.
Platforms should not be confused with platformers, which are a specific genre of videogame.