How Much Does Mobile Game Development Cost? A Complete Guide

Author: Mehreen Saleem | June 15, 2021 - Tekrevol Team
  • Web & App
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Gaming applications are undoubtedly fun, very successful, and high-revenue generating, but have you ever realized what goes into developing a successful mobile app? Or, more specifically, how much does it cost to make a mobile game?

As an entrepreneur or marketing strategist, you would agree that evaluating the approximate cost of your next app idea is one of the most essential aspects of your business. How much are you required to invest, in what ways you may optimize your overall costs, and what areas and aspects to prioritize more? It all comes along.

But before that, let’s have a look at some important stats.

Mobile Game Development: What Statistics Suggest?

Analyzing the overall industries driving the US market right now, the Technological sector ranks as the second most influential industry. As per Cyberstates, the industry, in the year 2019, was one of the top five industries and top ten industries in 23 and 28 states, respectively.

What’s more interesting is that other top 4 industries are equally investing in mobile applications to improve connectivity and customer services. Which ultimately makes the mobile development industry a leading one.

CyberStates

Image Source: CyberStates

As a significant part of this comes down to the ever-growing rise of mobile and gaming applications development, I have the ultimate investment guide for all the entrepreneurs, app developers, and investment strategists to help you through mobile game app costs.

If you are in any way linked with mobile application development, you would know it’s simply not child’s play, and a lot goes into it. Moreover, just in case if you are not, reading through how to make a mobile app can be very helpful.

Now, let’s talk business! Understanding the game development cost breakdown and distribution of investments requires understanding the entire mobile game design and mobile game development processes.

Analyzing the overall cost of your mobile gaming application includes a lot of major and minor aspects, and mobile game design and mobile game development processes are just one of them.

Well, to give any concrete figure, I can say that Game development can start from $1,500 for a simple shooter or any high-level mobile game; the game development cost may reach up to $120K to $250K.

However, what’s best is to walk you through every detail and cost breakdown in developing mobile game apps. Moreover, it also helps you analyze the essentiality of every aspect of the game development app and gives insight into understanding and optimizing the cost of professional strategies.

Mobile Game Development – The Process

The process of how to make a mobile game app may include everything you think of and more. As the entire idea is to think, evaluate, and jot down all the critical aspects of developing an app, the focus is to leave no stone unturned.

Therefore, the first, foremost, and most crucial step is WHY. What I mean here is to speculate, highlight, evaluate and then further evaluate why you want to develop this app or game. What is the purpose of developing the gaming app, and so on?

Speculate Your Game App Purpose

Well, the answers do not have to be anything critical or technical. Plus, this step certainly won’t cost you a kidney. Instead, they will help you better understand what the entire app development idea is about.

For instance, it might be as simple as to promote brand awareness or assist customers in connecting with the business products on an extended level. On the other hand, you might be thinking of creating that game app to incorporate a newer technology for users to have a better user experience, etc.

A clear example of this can be one of the most successful AR-based games Pokémon Go, which gained immense popularity among players and banked more than $1 Billion. Besides, there is no doubt about how Augmented Reality in mobile game apps has completely altered the user experience.

As they say, time is money; spending some quality time penning out all the reasons, prospects, and dimensions of developing an app or a gaming app helps you optimize your investment significantly.

The ideal time for the research and market analysis step, in my opinion, should at least take one week. Therefore, I would suggest that before speculating how much does it cost to make a game app, understanding and evaluating why you plan to develop this mobile game is rather essential and quintessential.

Well, we always have more for you in-store. At Tekrevol, we have several essential and noteworthy mobile application development tips that help you save time and optimize the quality of your work.

Still, have queries? 

  • As one of the leading game app development company, Tekrevol has a solution to all your queries.

Now, let me walk you through the more detail-oriented and technical steps of developing a mobile game app.

Game Design Document

A Game Design Document is precisely what it sounds like, everything about your game written in words. However, it does not just cover the design instead everything about the app. A typical Game Design Document (GDD) is divided into sections and subsections to clearly detail every important aspect of your app.

To list the sections of the document, it majorly consists of

  • General game descriptions
  • Design essentials
  • Technical and business-related information

General Game Descriptions

This section includes all the general information about the game. Majorly it consists of the basic plot or story the game is based on. For instance, if we talk about a few of the famous game apps like Call of Duty, that is a first-person warfare shooting game.

The entire game plot is about combatting against the terrorists of the Al-Qatala Group. Now when the game developers and professional strategists at Infinity Ward would have created the GDD for Call of Duty, they would have written all about the story, game mode, user interface, and so on.

Now, if you have played the game, you would have seen that the game is set in a warzone and incorporates reality-based audio and graphics. This setting and special effects are referred to as game setting and mechanics.

The GDD of the developed call of duty would incorporate all the information about the game environment, game mechanics, and details about every level. The more detailed the document would be, the better would be the next steps in the procedures.

Game Design Document

A Game Design Document is precisely what it sounds like, everything about your game written in words. However, it does not just cover the design instead everything about the app. A typical Game Design Document (GDD) is divided into sections and subsections to clearly detail every important aspect of your app.

To list the sections of the document, it majorly consists of

  1. General game descriptions
  2. Design essentials
  3. Technical and business-related information

General Game Descriptions

This section includes all the general information about the game. Majorly it consists of the basic plot or story the game is based on. For instance, if we talk about a few of the famous game apps like Call of Duty, that is a first-person warfare shooting game.

The entire game plot is about combatting against the terrorists of the Al-Qatala Group. Now when the game developers and professional strategists at Infinity Ward would have created the GDD for Call of Duty, they would have written all about the story, game mode, user interface, and so on.

Now, if you have played the game, you would have seen that the game is set in a warzone and incorporates reality-based audio and graphics. This setting and special effects are referred to as game setting and mechanics.

The GDD of the developed call of duty would incorporate all the information about the game environment, game mechanics, and details about every level. The more detailed the document would be, the better would be the next steps in the procedures.

Now on the basis of this, if you wonder, “how much does it cost to make a game like call of duty,” well, this is just the beginning of the process. Furthermore, as this step sets the basis of the entire process, I would suggest that you spend 2 to 3 weeks developing a full proof and detailed GDD.

Design Part

The next part of this document is where all the information about the design resides. This part basically includes the wireframes of the entire app. Plus, it has all the UI/UX specifications and design-related aspects.

Now, when I talk about the design and UI/UX interfaces of the game, I mean everything that the user may come in direct with. For instance, if we talk about any popular video game that is available on both desktop and mobile, the design would speak about creating an experience that feels and looks the same on both mediums.

Such as Candy Crush Saga, which is all about matching candies and winning points. Honestly, you would agree with the way it says “Fantastic,” it sounds terrific, right?

Technical and Business Part

Next up in the GDD is technical and business-related information. From programming technologies and frameworks to marketing and monetization strategies, this is the section that explicitly answers, “how much does it cost to make a video game.”

This part is a tell-all for all the essential questions to be catered to before developing an app. For instance, you are specifying on your development platform, analyzing your target audience, chalking out game strategies and marketing plans, etc.

In this part of the document, you mostly list down the major components of the entire app development project, including app planning, strategizing work, shortlisting on technical skills and technologies, marketing plans, investments, and so on. So, it is advisable to invest around a month to jot down all the relevant details.

Talking about how much it actually costs game development companies to create a concrete and robust GDD varies from a few thousand dollars to $25K. Here’s what different companies prefer doing when researching their app idea.

Clutch

Source: Clutch

Game Prototyping

From an entrepreneur or a marketing strategist’s perspective, prototyping your app or, more specifically, your mobile game app is one of the most intelligent and cost-efficient ideas. I would always suggest going for app prototyping before starting with the actual product.

Once you have your GDD ready in an extensively detailed manner, you have a clear picture of how your mobile app game is supposed to look and work like. At this point, when you employ some app prototyping tools like Adobe Experience Design, Sketch, InVision, etc., you develop a practical blueprint of your app to evaluate its performance, agility, and quality.

From a developer’s point of view, developing a prototype before starting with the app helps evaluate the possible weaknesses and potential loopholes in the design. While from an entrepreneur’s perspective, we can say that it helps optimize the overall time and average cost spent on the actual mobile app.

Having a detailed GDD in hand, prototyping the app becomes relatively easy. In that case, spending up to a week or ten days would help you have a bigger, more precise picture of how your app will look.

Here’s what companies prefer when it comes to investing in the prototyping process of game app development.

Clutch2

Source: Clutch

Game Design Specification

Now, this is that one step from where all technical works begin. In any PC or mobile game, whether it is a board game or triple a game, the interface, graphics, 2D/3D images, and visual features play a rudimentary role, specifically when it comes to attracting the audience.

Therefore, when specifying on game design and wondering how much does it cost to make a board or triple a game more attractive and interactive, you are supposed to prioritize the app features that improve customer interaction with the app.

This may include you to specify whether you would employ 2D or 3D graphics, characters involved in the game, game setting and location environment, and everything pertaining to the game’s visual effects.

However, I believe this step is more about the technical design specification of the game, which means identifying your game story, studying your user’s requirements, and then laying down the technicalities that could help you achieve them.

Now, this would initially include whether you plan to develop your game based on a modular architecture or monolithic style. As I have commonly observed, from operating systems to applications, the most preferred architecture is based on modularization as it allows greater flexibility and agile performance.

Another important reason for including architectural specification in game design layout further helps in narrowing and refining the overall performance and speed of the game app. Spending around three weeks finalizing your game design and architectural technicalities can be plenty of time for this step.

Analyzing the individual cost of this step, the range of investments by various businesses in the design process differs.

Cost of Game design documents

Source: Clutch

Coding the Game App

Finally, the most anticipated step of the game app development process, programming the app. The step basically includes implementing all the ideas, techniques, and specifications onto the app in a systematic and streamlined manner.

The process requires choosing the right platform, frameworks, and programming languages that meet the actual need and specified criteria of the game app. In this part of the game app development process, the project managers, developers, designers, and SQAs, etc., sit together to put the written ideas into action.

As the development step is the most crucial one in the process, spending around ten days to 2 weeks is entirely justifiable. In this process, the significant cost pertains to who you are working with; developers.

Developers or app development companies have different charges for developing apps with different natures and specifications.

Developers or app development companies

 

Testing The Final Version

Once your app is done and all functional, evaluating it against the initial idea and game plan is highly essential. The process may also require you to ask random users to try out the app and share their views and thoughts about the game.

On a more technical side, the Quality Assurance engineer plays a vital role in testing the app on different levels and from various aspects such as unit testing, performance testing, load testing, and usability testing.

The prime reason for doing so is to ensure that the game app is highly functional, without any bugs and loopholes, and completely ready to hit the market.

Once, you are done with your testing publish your app on the Google Play Store or App Store for your app users.

I am taking an example of one of the most successful and popular games, Angry Birds. The game was launched back in 2009 and was developed in almost nine months, and is one of my favorite game app success stories. It entails the importance of undergoing the step-by-step mobile development process to assure quality-driven results.

Narrated by the designer, it entails how the team undertook research, brainstorming, prototyping, and evaluating the user’s experience before ultimately launching their app to the market. Once they were done and launched the app, there was no turning back. The app within a year reached 10 million downloads, and the team was on cloud nine.

The story is an excellent example of why it is important to understand and evaluate the entire game app development process before speculating on how much it would cost to develop a game app. The process not only helps in streamlining the whole app development process but it also helps in understanding the game development time and cost breakdown effectively.

  • Are you wondering how much would it cost to make your mobile game app a successful one? We might have an answer for you.

Moving on, there are several other aspects that help in evaluating the cost spend on developing a gaming app. One of which is the game engine. Now assuming that you are well-aware of what a game engine is and what it is used for, let me describe how it can add to the cost and overall budget of game development.

Which Technologies to Use for Game App Development?

Opting for a specific gaming engine to develop your mobile game app has undeniably an essential share in the entire app development cost. Although there is a list of successful and highly preferred gaming engines, my personal favorites that I would talk to you about are Unity and Cocos2D-X

Unity

The most preferred game engine in the world with all the essential features and functionalities, Unity is one of the favorite game development engines at Tekrevol. Developed for multi-platform gaming app development, it comes as a complete package and is free for start-up-level app developers, having annual earnings of less than $100K.

However, with additional features and more technical business requirements, it incorporates additional subscription charges.

  • Unity Plus edition: $40 per month
  • Unity Pro edition: $150 per month
  • Unity Enterprise edition: $200 per month

Despite the subscription charges, the engine works well for all mobile, desktop, web, and console platforms and is highly compatible with 2D and 3D games. To name a few, Escape Plan, Angry Birds 2, Wasteland 2, and Temple Run Trilogy are some of the high-level games developed on Unity.

Cocos2d-X

An open-source, cross-platform game development engine based entirely on C++ language, the engine is widely preferred for GUI-focused game apps. Also, incorporated with JavaScript and Lua bindings, it is easy to learn, fast and stable, and highly functional.

One of the significant reasons Tekrevol highly prefers the game engine is that it is lightweight, robust, and highly result-driven. Plus, it speeds up the game development process by optimizing the overall app performance.

Castle Clash, Dragon City, Clash of Kings, and Badland are some of the most played games developed with Cocosd2-x.

Until now, I talked about the technicalities and procedures that play an important role in determining the actual cost. However, let’s now dig deeper into more specific features and aspects that add up to the cost of mobile game development.

What is the cost of Mobile Game development?

As I talked about earlier, every step, procedure, tool, and specification either adds up to the cost or helps you optimize it. But, a simple and undeniable fact to be developed and acknowledged by now is that developing mobile gaming app does cost you a few thousand dollars and plenty of time.

Speaking about the individual factors and functionalities, another noticeable fact is that the charges vary from developer to developer on the basis of region and location, as shown in the chart below.

Game developer Hourly rate

But what adds up to the cost? Well, there are several factors such as preferred platform, added functionalities, technologies used, testing and deployment features, and marketing strategy. Now, if you would have noticed closely, these are all those features that we have already discussed in the first part of the article; the game development process.

Now, while you type in the question “how much does it cost to make a PC or mobile game app?” you might also wonder to choose technologies and functionalities that are functional and budget-friendly. No, you cannot. The choices you make and the information you add up in your GDD decides the fate of your mobile game and, consecutively, of your business.

Now, I am not saying that the technologies and tools that do not cost you a kidney are completely not worth it. Rather, all I wish to say is that do not entirely focus on mobile game cost and prioritize adding the right features to make it worth your time and effort.

So, instead of questioning how much would it cost you to develop an interactive aaa or triple a game? Think about what basic features and functionalities you can add to make your mobile game app stand out from the rest.

We have discussed up till now about investing your money to put your game idea into action. However, did you ever wonder how you can earn back from that app? This is where comes in an effective and functional monetization strategy.

How to Monetize a game app?

The entire purpose of including a monetization strategy into your mobile app is to make sure that every time a user downloads your app or uses it frequently, you earn some bucks. Generally, there are different app monetization strategies you can opt for when developing your app.

However, a few of the most preferred and highly employed monetization strategies include;

Game Monetization

While I talk about each of them in detail, my sole intention is to help you understand how each of these methods works differently and has specific implementations.

Subscription Method

An extremely simple and most preferred monetization method, subscription charges require users to pay specific amounts of dollars monthly to continue using the app. The costs may vary from $0.99 to a few hundred, but if your gaming app has that edge, your users would definitely not mind paying the amount.

In-app Purchases

Another standard monetization method mostly used by mobile app developers is to include features in the app requiring users to pay for real. Now, the exciting thing about these apps is that they are available to the users without any charges, but the developers keep a few features locked that would require users to pay with real money.

Freemium

You might not like it when I say this, but this one is my personal favorite. So, the premium apps are those that are initially available to the users, as a free version, without any extra or additional charges. But, once the users get the hang of it and start acknowledging the features and efforts put in the game, they ask you to buy the paid version.

The reason I prefer this monetization strategy over others is simple; it helps users to evaluate and understand the worth of your mobile game and keeps them hooked to it.

Advertising

Now, if you are an avid mobile game user just like me, you would agree, this one is the least favorite; I mean, who likes to get disturbed with these advertisements in the middle of your game, right? However, this is one of the monetization strategies that developers use to make money with their gaming apps.

Plus, it can always be a great motivation source for the users to move towards the premium version of the game apps with no other advertisements.

Like what you read? We always have more for you. Read the article How Do Free Apps Make Money to get further insight into mobile application development.

Wrapping Up,

Woah, that was some great discussion we had about mobile game development, wasn’t it? But an interesting thing about the game app or mobile app development, in general, is that it’s never enough. As the industry keeps growing and evolving every minute, we can only know and talk about it enough.

Over the last few years, the mobile game development industry has seen a new rise among the audience for all the right reasons. Whether it is about adding up new technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual reality, catering to the ever-growing needs and interest of users, coming up with more unique and trending ideas, or just going with the flow, game apps significantly run the show for the mobile app development industry.

However, one highly quintessential and inevitable part of this mobile game application development is the investment that goes in. The noteworthy thing here is that when we talk about investment, I am not just regarding it as financial investments. But I am also talking about the time invested to ensure that the final product is what we expect.

Along with that, to ensure that the development process is streamlined and hassle-free, following through the standard game app development process helps in focused and targeted performance. While it also helps the team to further refine the development process, every step adds additional costs.

Further, the tools, frameworks, and additional technologies that are often employed to make sure the game app has an entirely user-centric feel and performance keep on adding up the dollars to your budget.

However, in the end, it’s all worth it if the mobile game app is loved by the target audience and does well in the market. One of the factors that can further improve the whole experience is to add a good monetization strategy to your app so that for every increment in the number of users of your app, your profit also increases.

  • Do you have a new mobile game app development idea? We always ready to hear and help

Author : Mehreen Saleem

A tech-savvy individual with a keen interest in how emerging technologies are reshaping the world, specifically the tech industry. Mehreen loves to share her insights and reflections on the latest technologies. During her free time, you'll find her reading novels and spending time with her family.

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USA,

39899 Balentine Drive,
Newark, CA 94560
1301 Fannin St #2440,
Houston, TX 77002
501 E Las Olas Blvd Suite
230, Fort Lauderdale, FL
44 Tehama St, CA 94105, San Francisco 400 NW 26th St, FL 33127, Miami 740 15th St NW 8th Floor, DC 20005, Washington
Canada,
4915 54 St 3rd Floor
Red Deer, ABT T4N 2G7
Dubai,
R5 Retail Level, Cluster R, Jumeirah Lakes Towers,Dubai
Pakistan,
3/25, Block 5, Gulshan-e-Iqbal,
Karachi, Sindh 75650
USAusa
CANADAcanada
PAKISTANpakistan
DUBAIestonia
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