If you’re looking for a specific mobile game development cost, you won’t find it in this article. Or any article for that matter. Every mobile game development process is unique and has various factors influencing cost, so there is no universal formula or algorithm you can use to get an accurate estimate.
However, the good news is that we can offer you a general price range for projects of different scope and list some things that have an impact on the total sum. For a more accurate total, we suggest asking the developer/studio of your choice for an estimate.
Test prototypes and demos are usually made as a stepping stone towards larger projects, or simply a way to prove a concept. As such, they do not require any complex functionality or beautiful artwork. Such releases require minimal investment of time and resources, so they are the most affordable to make.
At Game-Ace, the demo creation process goes like this: at the beginning, a client approaches us with an idea for a game. Our game designer reviews the idea and its various implementation options, and also checks the market for the existence of similar or matching concepts and titles made by competitors. The findings are presented to the client for further review.
Once this is done, the FDP (First Day Prototype) phase begins. We determine the minimal time it will take to check the viability of the proposed mechanics and prepare 2D concept art to demonstrate a visual style. Once the concept and mechanics are approved, we move on to the TP (Test Prototype) phase.
The Test Prototype phase involves the creation of playable builds to be advertised on mobile marketplaces and/or several short video clips to gauge interest towards the game on the market. This is precisely what constitutes our demo.
$10 000 – $35 000
Hyper-casual games are often called the easiest ones to play. This is because most hyper-casual titles can be played simply by tapping the screen at the right time or making other effortless movements. Each round of gameplay is very quick, and it takes just a few seconds to start over.
Though these categories offer more content and variation to the player than MVP/Experimental, the mechanics are very repetitive, so less content is needed and the development price is still quite low.
$20 000 – $150 000
Casual games are those targeted at a particular type of player. This player does not play regularly or for very long stretches of time – they may just need something to entertain themselves with on the way to work or to take their mind off tasks during a break. As a rule, casual games are very easy to play and do not require a significant investment of time. They have a few straightforward controls and appeal to adults and children alike.
Casual titles tend to take up more memory, have more content, and implement more advanced features than hyper-casual ones, so their costs also tend to be greater.
$150 000 – $500 000
In the eyes of developers, midcore is the first “serious” category of games. These titles are played by people who have a genuine love for gaming and are willing to dedicate time to this activity. It might not be hours, but it certainly won’t be minute-long rounds like with hyper-casual titles. Besides time, midcore titles require a fair amount of thought and strategy. You can expect story arcs and advanced features, such as networking and hidden mysteries.
These types of projects have substantial costs attached, but are still quite accessible and appealing to small and mid-sized studios.
$500 000 – $1 000 000
The hardcore category applies to titles that force users to devote significant time and effort to their playthroughs. In the process, they develop specific skills, apply strategic thinking, and make big choices that affect the narrative. These titles keep people playing for hours at a time just to complete a level and quest, and this achievement is one of many along the way. It is not uncommon for multiplayer to be implemented, as well as additional play modes that add to the initial experience.
Due to the extensive and advanced features added to hardcore titles, along with the vast amount of content available, they are very expensive to make, and usually require the backing of major investors and distributors.
$1 000 000+
An AAA game is the gaming equivalent of a blockbuster film. With tremendous sums of money poured into AAA projects, they provide the whole shebang: the best graphics, days’ worth of unique content, a complex and well-planned storyline, character customization options, and different forms of online and multiplayer gameplay. Thus, this is not so much an indicator of genre as one of budget. These releases correspond to the biggest hits (and misses) of the gaming world in the past several decades.
Not only do AAA titles require a large and capable development studio, but also tend to be accompanied by a costly marketing campaign and widespread distribution by one of the titans of the entertainment world.
It is also worth mentioning that these blockbuster games are often released simultaneously on multiple platforms, so a mobile version may be a port of a PC game and vice versa. In these cases, the cost may be bundled into the total budget of cross-platform development.
The costs of game development can be distributed into several key categories:
Most of your spending will go towards paying the specialists that make your app happen. Most such projects involve a team of at least 10 people – developers, project managers, QA engineers, DevOps engineers, designers, 2D/3D artists, and other experts. When you take into account the hourly rates of these experts (which can exceed $100 for some professions), the total sum spent on salaries can reach a truly staggering amount. For example, a single experienced developer working on a project lasting one year can normally cost you over $100k in salary payment.
You might think that the only hardware needed for building mobile software is a computer, but there is truly so much more. For example, artists often create art with the help of graphic tablets, while QA engineers and testers need various gadgets and mobile devices to check and determine how well the software works on them. Hosting servers and infrastructure are another hardware element that incurs significant expenditures. Not only will you need storage space to store the data of your project, but also access to a server if your application has any network/connectivity features.
In terms of software, a company applies a wide variety of tools to develop their project and build assets for it. In most cases, the software used throughout the development process is professional and requires purchasing a license. An entire team may use a dozen or more professional tools, adding up to several thousand dollars for a year’s subscriptions.
In a perfect world, the quality and uniqueness of a product would be enough for it to gain the recognition it deserves. However, this is not how business works in our current age, and it is almost impossible for products to achieve popularity and prominence without promotion. Thus, you will probably need to engage one or several marketing campaigns to help your app reach a wider audience and catch on.
Although it is certainly possible to create all of the assets you need from scratch, it sometimes makes more sense to just purchase some ready-made ones. For example, it is difficult to make a game without some sort of speech or sound effects, so you can purchase audio assets instead of figuring out how to make the proper sounds yourselves. The same principle applies to stock images and 3D assets, purchasing which can save you a lot of development time.
We have listed some of the biggest costs involved in mobile projects, yet there are still dozens of minor other costs. Taken separately, these expenditures might not be significant when compared to the big ones, but if you add them up, they amount to a substantial total.
For example, you might need to spend extra to translate and adapt your content to different regions, to travel to different places, to file copyright claims and legal paperwork, and to perform accounting. In addition, you have the operating expenses of running a company, including rent, electricity, utilities, taxes, etc. All of these things are funded by your projects, so they should factor into price estimates.
Every project has a lot of moving parts, and the circumstances of development can change drastically from one month to the next. To illustrate this, we have listed some of the factors that can throw a wrench into your plans or conversely help you meet your budget, depending on the situation.
Generally speaking, 2D assets and animation are both faster and easier to make. Thus, a lot more work will go into 3D releases, corresponding to greater spending.
If your game is set in one location that it never deviates from, you will probably not need to create too many models. On the other hand, if there are a storyline, different locations, levels, and characters, it will take more time and money.
The more people you have on your team, the more money will go towards their salaries. On the other hand, a team that is too small will take longer to complete stages of the project, so finding the right balance is important. Additionally, more experienced specialists will generally be paid more than other team members.
The rates of payment to developers and other specialists vary from country to country. Thus, if you find the standard rates in your country too expensive, you might consider outsourcing or outstaffing the project to a company in a more affordable region.
While it is commendable when projects meet their projected deadlines, it is not unusual for there to be some delays. In the end, all of the extra time that goes into your initiative will also correlate to expenditures.
After you build a complete game for one platform (e.g. Android/iOS), it will take more time to port it to others and make sure it works as expected.
It will be up to you to determine how much you want to spend on marketing. You may choose not to do any marketing at all for your release or take every opportunity to promote it. In large-scale releases (AAA), marketing often accounts for a third or a fourth of the total spending.
You may find certain tools and calculators on the web claiming that they will calculate the cost of your project, but they are an unreliable choice. The smartest course of action is to provide a thorough analysis based on the project plans. You may entrust this task to an in-house team of business analysts, but it will be easier in most cases to ask a game studio to do it for you. As long as you are serious about possible cooperation with a development partner, any interested studio will not hesitate to draw up some estimates for you.
Game-Ace is one of the many studios that perform such appraisals, and we would be more than happy to take a look at your project. We offer decades of experience in game development and design, which have has allowed us to get a very good understanding of game costs and the finest development practices that reduce costs while maintaining a high level of quality. It is a point of pride that we hold the largest team of Unity developers in Eastern Europe, and our experts have worked on projects of various scopes, from MVP to Hardcore. For example, our most recent release is an aforementioned hyper-casual title called Knight- Stack Jump, which is available for free both on Android and iOS.
It all starts with a message. Contact us today and we can start discussing how to deliver the project of your dreams.