The cost of full cycle game development can vary widely depending on a number of factors. Software is only one component and the other elements that go into making a game are the design, marketing, distribution, and maintenance. On average it costs about $3,000 to $150,000 to develop a simple mobile game depending on the genre. In this article, we will look at the elements that are driving the game development cost and what decisions you can make to reduce the cost of your game
1. Which Development Methodology Will You Use?
There are two main approaches to mobile game development: the Native/Hybrid approach and the Web-based approach.
Native/Hybrid Approach: This approach will require you to set up a software development team and write code natively for specific devices. This can be very expensive as you will need to hire a large team of programmers with varying specialties in order to create an application that works across all mobile devices. You can reduce the cost by using smaller teams or outsourcing your development.
You will also need to tailor your game to each specific device, which is time-consuming and increases the cost.
Web-Based Approach: This approach involves writing the code once and then deploying that code on multiple devices using a Web browser. You only pay the cost of developing once and can then deploy it across all devices with very little cost. However, this approach has limitations since you are only limited to what HTML5 (the language used to develop Web Apps) supports on mobile devices.
2. Scenario Complexity
Scenario complexity is defined by the number of story branches and dialogue paths in your game. It is measured using a “time-weighted scenario complexity” metric.
- High Complexity (4-5): These are adventure games, with lots of choices. The branching factor of a typical role-playing adventure is around four, where each decision will take around five minutes to resolve. In an FPS game, the branching factor might be around two since the player moves quickly through areas and encounters many enemies and targets to shoot.
- Medium Complexity (1-3): This level will be the most common and will include most mobile games. The branching factor might be two to three, where each decision takes a few seconds to resolve. In this case, the content needs to be authored in a particular way to enable it to scale. For example, a linear storyline with several parallel branches is easier to design than one with many parallel branches.
- Low Complexity (0-1): This level will be the least common and will include all other games. The branching factor might be one, where each decision takes a few seconds to resolve. In this case, content needs to be written in a particular way to enable it to scale. For example, a linear storyline with several parallel branches can be hard to design since no content can get distributed at the same time
3. The Animations
Even though mobile devices have become more powerful, they are still limited in terms of processing power and therefore the amount of animation, audio and graphical effects that can be produced in a game. Hence most games that run smoothly do so by simplifying the overall look of their game. Therefore, you will need to decide how detailed you want your target devices to be based on their processing capabilities.
You will also want to consider the design of your characters and the graphic level that is needed. Complex characters can be more detailed, but they will also take more processing power therefore you may want to consider introducing some simpler-looking game characters.
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Testing on different devices can be expensive time-wise for a developer because there are literally hundreds of mobile devices on the market and each device might have its own idiosyncrasies. However, it is a necessity in order to make sure your game is functioning properly across all devices.
5. User Interface (UI)
The UI design and functionality of your game can have a significant impact on the cost of your mobile game. A simple interface will be cheaper to develop than a complex one, so it is essential to choose wisely based on target device capability and player preferences.For example, a mobile device’s screen size might not afford a lot of space for you to use, so users might not find certain buttons easily or at all.
The content of your game will also have a significant impact on the cost. The number of characters/ organisms in your game will have a direct impact on the amount of content, as will the complexity and size of the environment itself. The more complex the content is, the more processing power it will take to create and therefore you need to increase your budget accordingly.
7. Simplifying the look and feel of your game
One way to cut costs is to simplify your game. The game elements that you do not need for the gameplay (the rule set, the scripts, the models, etc) are a very good source of cost reductions. This will not always be financially viable but it is a worthwhile option to consider.
8. The mobile device and its platform
Choosing the correct mobile device for your game is essential. You will need to take into account the target audience, their preferences, their limitations and finally their price point. For example, if you have an older male audience then you would want to consider a more complex game that takes advantage of a touch screen. However, if you are targeting a younger female audience with less disposable income then you will want to consider a simpler-looking game that works well with just buttons.
The bottom line of an App is to provide an entertaining experience for the user. The game should be simple with a well-defined user interface and features. It should offer usability, convenience, and accessibility and should meet the needs of the end users. Hence you need to consider if it can be ported to other platforms such as PC, Android, iPhone, etc.