Someone may think that building a mobile game is easier than building other forms of games. However, regardless of the platform you choose to release your game on, each process comes with its own set of challenges. In general, building games is difficult. We will look at what makes building a mobile game unique.
So, is it hard to make a mobile game?
Building a mobile game has several challenges, such as limited resources on mobile, that make it challenging to make a mobile game. However, the process is not much different than building for other platforms.
If you were hoping that making a mobile game would be easy, I am afraid its not. However, it’s not an impossible feat. We will look a bit deeper into how to build a mobile game. In addition, we will look at some of the skillsets you may find necessary to build a mobile game.
What tools are necessary for a mobile game?
I may be a bit bias, but there is no doubt that Unity owns the mobile platform. Unreal has the capability and there are other engines out there that do a fine job, but Unity was really made to work with a variety of platforms. Unity really blossomed through the mobile market and there is no sign of slowing down on keeping that control.
I like Unity for mobile game development specifically, but it has applications for other types of games you may want to build in the future. It is the most universal game engine on the market right now and certainly the leader in mobile game development.
Art Asset Creation Tools
If you really want to make 2D art, I highly recommend Photoshop. If you prefer to make a 3D game, then Blender is a great tool with a lot of awesome resources available.
Photoshop has a little bit of a learning curve, but it is the industry standard in terms of raster based graphics. There are other free options available out there that may do just as much in terms of painting, but when it comes to an overall general tool for 2D, I wouldn’t hesitate to learn a little bit of Photoshop to get started. It is extremely versatile and has application as you get further into game development as well.
I like Maya and Blender for 3D, but Blender has recently got my vote for 3D asset development. There are so many awesome plugins available for the free tool, that I have decided to move away from Maya. And trust me, it was extremely hard for me to make that decision!
What skills are necessary to make a mobile game?
Asset Creation Skills
Whether you wish to do 2D or 3D, games almost always have some basic assets that give the game some visuals.
If you are a bit worried about this area, then I would recommend looking to games like Tetris for inspiration. Tetris has extremely basic graphics but is still an awesome game. I have seen a lot of simple games graphically that work well in mobile.
However, you still need to be able to create some basic shapes at minimum.
You may be a phenomenal artist, but somehow a programmer / developer has to be able to put those together to turn visuals into a game.
If programming scares you, then there are some visual scripting options in Unity such as Bolt. I have a basic tutorial released by Unity below. For those with no programming background, visual programming is often a great introduction to the logic of programming.
Truth be told, if you get comfortable with visual scripting, you could make a transition to C# programming relatively easily.
I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that you really do need to market your game if you want to be successful in the mobile market. There are SO many games being released on all of the mobile platforms that without a little bit of an audience, it’s going to be pretty difficult to make any significant income. If income isn’t your primary motivation, then having people at least play your game is. Without bringing awareness to your project, people simply will not know it even exists.
I have an article about marketing games that I believe is universal for any platform. It’s more about building an audience and establishing a routine early that will help you do that.
What are the disadvantages to building a mobile game?
- The mobile market is currently saturated. It’s more difficult to get noticed on this platform.
- Duplicating an idea such as Flappy Bird, Crossy Road, or Temple Run will not cut it in this market. You need a unique and fresh idea.
- You can make money, but generally it requires thousands of downloads and hours of playtime. Other platforms support bigger purchases. As an example, on Steam an indie game can sell at $14.99 pretty easily. However, on mobile, it will be nearly impossible to sell a game at that price point.
- Free to play is King. Again, a business model that can and does work for some game types, but you need to plan how to implement this model into your game since it’s so difficult to make money off of sales alone.
- Playtesting is a bit more difficult on mobile. If you are building a game for PC, it’s quite easy to play test often. Luckily, Unity has some tools to make this process much easier, but it requires a bit of setup.
- Building an audience of people excited about the release of your game is going to be a bit more difficult. Generally you find more casual gamers on this platform or those that are serious gamers might just be looking for a few games to play over a plane ride, not so much looking to play for months or years.
What are the advantages of building a mobile game?
Mobile games are not necessarily easier to create than PC games. However, there are some benefits to building a game on mobile, especially as a solo and new developer.
- Mobile games generally do not need as long of playtime to be considered great games. A few hours of playtime on a mobile game is generally pretty successful. In contrast, a computer game that only has a few hours of playtime would be considered too short and may even make an audience upset.
- Mobile games require a developer to be less resource intensive. This means a little lower expectation of graphics quality is generally acceptable. There are some games that simply would not be marketable outside of this platform due to the aesthetics but work great in mobile!
- Getting players is easier due to the availability of the platform. It’s easy to tell your aunt, uncle, brother, cousins and everyone in between about your project and help them download a copy of your game. This doesn’t necessarily translate as well on other platforms.
- Mobile games are likely to have less time in development. Due to the limited gameplay time and often the simple nature of many successful mobile games, you may be able to release a game in a matter of months. In comparison, a PC game that is of high-quality may take years to develop as a solo developer. I am a firm believer that the longer the project takes, the more likely it is you will see it thru to be finished.
Are mobile games easier to make than computer games?
To tell you that mobile game development is easy would be a flat out lie. Mobile game development is not easy, it has it’s own set of challenges.
That being said, I do believe that mobile games should not receive the same length of time in development. In fact, from a business standpoint, you should always weigh out the time investment versus the potential reward. The moment that it begins to look grim is the moment I would consider a project finished.
As an example, if you plan to invest 400 hours into a project. How much money would you need to make in order for you to consider that project successful? Keep in mind that success looks different for everyone, of course. For some it might be $1,000. For someone hoping to do this as a living, it might be closer to $8,000. Only you can answer this question.
When it comes to computer games, if you sink 3000 hours into a project, which may at times be a modest number depending on your project, you have a lot more to lose there. Doing the math, only making $1,000 off those hours seems extremely rough and there are countless developers in that exact boat. That’s why it’s so important to build an audience and continuously receive feedback about your project.
Indie development logs are a great way to receive feedback about your project. There are a lot of people, including me, that just like watching people build cool stuff. I have gotten excited and began following a project purely based off of devlogs in the past. Here is an example of one that went viral:
Making mobile games has its own set of challenges, but it should not keep someone from building for that platform. It is well-suited for new developers who may wish to get into game development but do not want to commit to a project that will take years.
That being said, if you wish to have people play your game or wish to turn your project into a commercial success, you will still have to build an audience. The oversaturation of games on the platform is still a major problem. However, a little marketing on a regular basis may go a long way in you finding success in the mobile market.
If you have recently released a game on mobile, please let me know! I would love to hear about your project and may even give you some feedback if that is something that would appeal to you! I love seeing others creativity!