First, let’s once again pay tribute to the great and ever-expanding segment of mobile games. It has long overtaken PCs and consoles, which will not be able to catch up with it even if they join forces: the 55% share speaks for itself.
Almost every person today has a smartphone, which means there is open and hassle-free access to millions of games. Making mobile games is faster and less expensive than developing large titles for consoles and PCs, and the mobile audience is much broader and more supportive of even the simplest and seemingly primitive hyper casual games. But there is one but.
You are not the only person who has noticed all this.
The tremendous boom of mobile games has made their development a tasty morsel for many who want to hit the big jackpot as quickly as possible. This has created fierce competition and oversaturation of the market with virtually identical entertainment products, unsuccessfully trying to copy the most successful pioneers of different genres. Seeing that they were being offered more than they asked for, the players became much more demanding and capricious. Now they are ready to give a verdict to the game based on the first 10 seconds of gameplay, and it can no longer be changed.
Without understanding what the players need, you can create dozens of games one after another and waste huge budgets, but none of them will bring you the desired results. Disappointed with mobile development, you simply leave it, leaving competitors to celebrate.
But this will definitely not happen today.
Today in this article we will tell you how to make a game app that can work its way into the eyes of players through hundreds of analogues. We will tell you the secrets of building a game app with the most relevant and interesting design for players. We will educate you about the best monetization models, the cost of creating a game app, and, of course, choosing the best vendor to create a game.
Let’s start, there is a lot to do.
Three Technical Sides of Mobile Development: What You Should Know About
Before diving into the classic swirls of ideas, genres, target audiences and platforms, it’s important to understand some key points.
Firstly, the technical side of development. Before making a game app, you need to decide on the engine. Note that not all engines allow you to deploy the same code to multiple platforms. So you need to understand in advance what operating system your programmers are running on. Engines such as Unity, Corona and Cocos2d are cross-platform.
Secondly, the technical side of testing. In order to guarantee the viability of your application, the best option would be to test it on several smartphones of different generations. Not all people have ultra modern devices that just hit the market. Many people have been using one smartphone for about 5 years and this must be taken into account.
Thirdly, the technical side of publication. You can’t just go to Google Play and the App Store and say “hello, here’s my application, host it, and I will receive income from monetization.” Stores have their own policies for accepting and approving apps. There are special rules that you will be familiar with. Also, in order to publish in these stores, you need to purchase developer accounts, thanks to which you will get access to various goodies like the SDK. App Store subscriptions come with an annual price of $99, and Google Play charges a one-time payment of $25.
Types of Mobile Engines
The engine is the foundation that provides the tools and capabilities to build on any designs to create a game app. Three types of game engines can be roughly distinguished:
- Drag-and-drop game engines. Often these engines are about so-called drag-and-drop interfaces where the right elements are moved to the right places with one click. They are great for beginner programmers as they allow them to avoid a lot of cumbersome code. At the same time, the games created can be complex and colorful and not at all primitive. For example, Blueprints visual scripting from Unreal Engine gives you the ability to manage all the gameplay elements without writing a single line of code. GameMaker and GameSalad are other examples of such engines.
- Visual scripting game engines. This is another category that allows developers to avoid complex code work. The point is that they create a kind of graph by dragging and dropping nodes into it that display the necessary logic and actions taking place in the game. Thanks to this approach, even designers can independently test their ideas and make changes to the project. Everyone’s favorite Unity, as well as Game Maker and Construct 3, fall into this category.
- Coding-based game engines. You can also always choose to code your game from scratch. This is the most difficult option, as the programmers will have to do every little detail themselves. But the result, with a successful outcome, can exceed all expectations, since the game will be absolutely unique. The most popular languages among game developers today are C ++, C # and Java. Sometimes Python and PHP are also used to implement specific elements of game code.
Since we are talking about how to create a game app, we cannot ignore the indication of the absolute leader in the direction of the engines. At this stage, no engine has managed to knock Unity off its pedestal. It is considered one of the best game engines in the industry. Unity currently supports over 50% of mobile games and 60% of all AR and VR content.
Types of Gaming Applications in General and Those You Should Pay Attention To
Google Play and App Store has a special classification of game types that allows players to better navigate the genres of interest. There are 17 game categories on Google Play:
- Role Playing.
In the App Store, they are slightly different and there are 18 of them:
- Role playing.
The variety of genres often brings confusion to the developer’s head: which one to choose, which one is more popular, which one resonates better with the players? Statistics for 2020 show the following genre leaders:
Since the classification of stores lacks the division of casual and hyper casual games, they count as one category. However, it is important to note that it was hyper casual games that led their category to an unconditional victory over all other genres.
In our detailed research of hyper casual games, we have already said that 2020 was a record-breaking year. In the first quarter, in March alone, the number of installations of hyper casual games in the world grew by 103%, and the session length – by 72%. Keep in mind that this was the start of another impressive year – hyper casual games made up 78% of all mobile game downloads in 2019. The hyper casual market is worth over $ 2 billion and has brought 100 million new mobile gamers to the gaming ecosystem.
Four of the top 5 grossing mobile games for December featured real-time multiplayer gameplay from PvP battles, co-op to MMORPG, proving that the genre can be as popular on smartphones as it is on PC. What’s more, MMORPG, MOBA and Battle Royale games will continue to show increased resilience in 2021, and we already talked about this in our extensive study of game design trends for the current year.
Puzzles and arcades also perform well. The trends in preferred genres will not change much this year, so you should also pay attention to them. Remember how popular puzzles like Sudoku or Dots are and how hard it is to turn away from arcade games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.
The revenues of the developers of the most popular games are amazing. For example, Tencent, the creator of PUBG Mobile, one of the top downloads of 2020 and top mobile game by income, has earned over $ 2.6 billion from its highest-grossing mobile game worldwide for 2020. Honor of Kings from the same Tencent almost caught up with its counterpart with almost $ 2.5 billion spent by players. The legendary puzzle Candy Crush Saga, which has been on the market for over 8 years, brought its developer King over $ 470 million in 3 quarters of 2020.
Strong Crew For Mobile Game Development
Even one person can make a kind of game in one day. But do you really need this? After all, we are here to discuss serious pressing issues: we are creating a game that will stand out and be profitable.
So, what should be the composition of the team in order to infuse the game with all the necessary juices?
This person thinks over the whole game concept. He or she draws up a special game design document where absolutely all the details regarding the future game are prescribed. There are a huge number of areas of responsibility:
- game world;
- game mechanics;
- quests and tasks;
- rules and restrictions;
- victory and defeat conditions;
- user interface, etc.
Sometimes game designers are divided into separate teams responsible for one of the above areas. The lead designer coordinates the work of everyone else and polishes the final version of the game design document in order to approve it with the customer.
If the designer thinks over the idea, then the artist visualizes it. There are 2D and 3D artists whose workflows differ due to the different approach to creating 2D and 3D graphics. 2D artists are most often involved in concept art, environments, sprites, and user interface. 3D artists are focused on creating 3D models of characters and assets. But the objectives can vary depending on the goal. This category also includes animators who bring the drawn art to life and bring dynamics to it. The team of artists is led by an art director who makes sure that their work matches the game design document.
Not to be confused with the definition of the entire development company. A developer or programmer is a person who makes a game playable. This team deals with the logic of the game and turns a set of visual components created by artists into an interactive world where the player can create anything and reap the consequences of their actions. Programmers can also be divided into categories, each of which is responsible, for example, for physics, gameplay or network communications. The team leader will make sure that all the disparate components can ultimately be combined into a harmonious canvas.
As the name implies, a level designer deals with the design of the structure of different levels, as well as the tasks and obstacles on them. Dedicated software and upfront work by programmers save them from having to work with code. A level editor can be composed of special high-level scripting languages for interactive environments or AI. Also, designers work with prototypes and placeholders, striving for consistency and clear layout before the required illustration is completed.
Sound designers are responsible for sound effects. They make sure that the right sounds correspond to certain actions or events in the game. It may seem that this is not so important and the players do not pay attention to the sounds, but if the slightest problem or dissonance arises, it will immediately come to the fore. As for the game soundtrack, this is usually done by a dedicated composer who is hired separately through an outsourcing scheme.
The finished game could have been an unexpected surprise for the team if there were no testers. Their task is to protect players from possible errors and shortcomings that arose during development. They thoroughly check the entire game up and down to timely document defects, check compatibility, localization nuances, and more. Their verdict is the final point, after which the game gets to the players.
Despite the fact that we have already listed the core of the team, it would be unfair not to mention the project manager. Most often they are also involved in the development of the game since they are the link between the customer and all teams. They oversee all processes, form milestones and structure work processes so that intermediate results are in line with the set deadlines. The absence of a project manager can significantly delay the process, because if no one is breathing down the necks of artists and developers, they may start working a little slower than they could.
Don’t Miss the Profits: Monetization Strategies For Mobile Games
Successful monetization is delicate work similar to the work of a jeweler. Aggressive or, conversely, passive methods of promoting paid features lead to a drop in gamers’ interest in the game or lost profits. Much depends on the optimization model.
If you decide to design a game app, then you should know that mobile apps have several monetization paths. There is no precise and approved classification, but the following directions can be distinguished:
- Freemium. The bottom line is that the basic features of the application are provided for free, and for the advanced ones you need to pay extra. Most often, advanced levels or additional missions are provided as extensions. This model usually does not give players the opportunity to complete the game without completing a single transaction. In this model, it is very difficult to balance the functionality and game mechanics so that the players are interested in buying and do not produce negativity for the fact that the game does not allow them to fully enjoy it without constant reminders of the possibility of buying something.
- Free-to-play. This is the most requested business model in mobile gaming. At the moment, it accounts for 90% of the market revenue. As part of free-to-play, players gain access to all game levels, but the gameplay includes in-app purchases that make it easier to complete the game. The big advantage of the free-to-play model is that such payments are optional. This keeps players loyal and helps popularize your app.
- Premium. This is a model in which for unlimited game possibilities you need to pay a fixed amount in the store. This model is popular among business applications and educational programs, but in the gaming industry, it generates less than 10% of the revenue in the mobile market. The reason is simple: a large number of users are not willing to pay for a game before they are convinced that it is worth it. Therefore, this model is more often used by large brands, whose name guarantees the quality of the manufactured product.
- Advertising. A popular model for hyper casual games. Users of applications with embedded ads pay for the extended functionality with their own time – the application offers an in-game bonus for watching the video. The advantage of this approach is the relative technical ease of implementation and the fact that users are used to ad integrations on other services and are tolerant of a moderate amount of such content in the application.
- Subscription. The user pays a certain amount once a month/year and gets access to all game content for this period. The model is popular for services that integrate into the daily life of users – music services, access to software, educational or entertainment content. In the gaming industry, the subscription model is suitable for loyal gamers and games that are able to retain users for a long time.
Many developers use several monetization models at once so that different segments of players can be profitable. For example, someone views an advertisement, and someone pays to turn it off. Someone unlocks an improvement in the game by watching a commercial, and someone prefers to buy it.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mobile Game? Estimated Prices & Examples of Famous Titles
We have already discussed the cost issue of building a game app in one of our previous articles fully devoted to factors affecting prices and clear estimates. Let us briefly recall what stages the development consists of, how long it will take and how much it will cost.
So, gaming app development often includes the following stages:
- Market research. You define your target audience and competitors. (1 week)
- Game design document. It describes all aspects of the future game from platform and storyline to monetization and online opportunities. (1 week)
- Platform selection. The question of how to make iOS games and their Android counterparts is important, so you need to decide on one of them or a cross-platform option, as well as the game mechanics. (2 weeks)
- Prototyping. This is a rough draft of the game without art, allowing you to assess the vitality and fun of the gameplay. (1 week)
- Art creation. Artists draw 2D / 3D assets, characters and environments, work on the interface and form the visual image of the game. (3 weeks)
- Development. Programmers make the game playable by introducing graphics and other necessary elements. (2+ months)
- Sound design. Creation of sounds and music. (1 week)
- Testing. Troubleshooting and detecting bugs. (1 week)
- Publication. Placing the game on the Google Play Store or App Store. (1 day)
Total: on average, development takes 4 months, while complex projects can take 6+ months.
The cost is influenced by many factors, in particular, the platform, type and functionality, the professionalism of the performer, testing and marketing policy.
Note that it costs 10-20% more to develop a game for iOS than for Android. So if your priority is to answer the question of how to make an iPhone game app, then be prepared to pay more. Why is such an injustice even here in mobile app development?
Working with the iOS system is more expensive due to the integration of the payment system and the admin panel, as well as due to a large number of restrictions on applications allowed in the App Store. Thus, if an Android game costs $ 25,000, its iOS counterpart will cost about $ 30,000.
The approximate cost of developing different types of mobile games is shown in the table below.
It will not be difficult for an experienced company to estimate the price of your game. Kevuru Games knows how to make a game app for iPhone and how to build a game app for Android so that players don’t want to stop playing. Our team has developed 50+ mobile games of various genres from match-three to quests and is well versed in modern trends and players’ expectations. Drop us a few words and we will quickly and accurately calculate the cost of your future game.
A few words about the big titles you know and the cost of their development.
The world-famous colorful birds from the game for Android and iOS Angry Birds, invented by the Finnish company Rovio, were created in 9 months and cost $ 140,000. The game topped the App Store charts for over a year and ended up making nearly $ 70 million in sales including stuffed toys and other merchandise. At the moment, the application continues to be modernized, gaining new functionality and captivating players. Considering that the first game was released in 2009, such skillful retention of an interest in such a competitive environment is respectful.
More complex games involving augmented reality like Pokémon GO will cost more. It took over 2 years and $ 600,000 to create the game. Released in 2016, the game has generated over $ 4 billion in revenue since its inception, with $ 1 billion in 2020 alone. It is also the # 3 mobile game in terms of money spent by players in 2020, which once again demonstrates the power of constant updates, exciting events, tracking factors that can affect game performance, and fast action to stay on top.
How to Choose a Mobile Game Development Company?
Choosing a bad contractor is a waste of time and money. And among a large number of people willing to sell their services to you, the problem of choice may be much more acute than you expected. But we will not leave you here either: catch 5 tips that will help you to make a mistake:
- Mobile development experience. You must view the experience through the lens of mobile development. The studio should have a separate section dedicated to this service, a detailed description of it, a list of platforms with which they work and the composition of the team that deals with mobile games. Pay attention to the number of years on the market: the older the company, the more it has seen and the more it will be able to offer you.
- Mobile development portfolio. The company can talk about itself in words as much as it wants, but the most eloquent will be its portfolio of mobile projects. Look at what the team has already worked with, what genres they are familiar with firsthand, how it approaches the implementation of graphics, game mechanics, monetization, and more.
- Mobile development cost. An experienced company with a portfolio of mobile projects will be able to make a rough estimate of the cost of your project during the day. The figure should not be too low, because most likely it will mean poor quality. But the inflated amounts are also suspicious: be sure to find out on the basis of what the company is asking for a price above the market average.
- Mobile development terms. Be prepared for the fact that a good result does not come quickly. A large team will work on your project with a clear structure and sequence of necessary procedures. If you get a suspicious response like a month or less to a question about the timing, think about how the team is going to accelerate so much. Maybe by depriving your game of important functionality or by using pre-built constructors to create games.
- Mobile development communication. A company worthy of your project can provide clear and clear communication. You will immediately understand this at the first contact when you explain to the team what exactly you want and what are the features of your future game. Interest, clarifying questions, interesting suggestions met and the ability to concisely and concisely formulate the most important thing are important indicators of your contractor’s management and communication abilities. You can also learn a lot from previous customer reviews: there is often useful information there.
At Kevuru Games, we have been engaged in mobile development for over 8 years and we understand well the requirements and desires of the players. We know an unconventional, fresh and authentic answer to the question of how to create a mobile game and we are ready to share it with you if you are ready to create beyond the limits.
Even though it is becoming more and more difficult to please players, we always have a few secret tricks and tactics up our sleeve that will allow us to make a game with simple uncomplicated mechanics a real catcher for the eyes, mind and hands. We will advise, help, prompt and implement: do not postpone the implementation of your project until tomorrow, because tomorrow we could already start bringing it to life.