The cost of developing a mobile game can vary wildly depending on the size/scope of the game as well as the end goal of the developer. Do you want your game to have as many players as possible in order to maximize revenue, or is your project more of a practice run that was created ‘for fun’? Here we will break down the different expense categories involved with creating and launching a game app for Android or iOS to better help you estimate and create your own development cost breakdown.
A Game Design Document (GDD) is a document that acts as a blueprint for the development of a video game. Most developers follow some sort of design document especially when creating an online mobile game, so it is probably a good idea to have one for your project.
GDDs can range from a dozen or so pages to hundreds of pages long depending on how large and detailed your game idea is. These documents include important information such as the setting and plot of your game, details on the mechanics and progression, and a description of the audio and graphics needed for the game. In addition, the GDD normally includes details describing the inspiration behind the game and its target audience, as well as any other information needed for the developers to get the clearest picture possible on what the mobile game is supposed to look, feel, and sound like when finished.
The majority of development teams have one or more designated Game Designers. Game Designers do their best to ensure everyone on the team is one the same page when it comes to the game’s design and vision. The Designers will also handle the creation of the GDD. Rather than hiring a game designer full time, some people will opt to hire a designer just to draft them a professional-quality, detailed Game Design Document based on their ideas for the game. Think of the designer as a ghostwriter. You can easily find someone to create a GDD for an online mobile game from a freelance marketplace like Fiverr. The cost to hire someone to create a GDD for you can range from around $30 to $300 and can cost more for further modifications. Hiring a full-time designer for your team can cost approximately $500 to $5000.
It usually takes hundreds of hours to develop a high-quality video game for the mobile. In general, you will need to hire at least one programmer, artist, and audio engineer – though some people are capable of performing multiple roles. It may also be necessary to hire someone to work as a project manager to oversee operations and ensure the game stays true to your vision; oftentimes game designers work as managers. This can help to eventually flesh out a wonderful mobile gaming environment for the players. Lastly, some projects will require hiring one or more creative writers to aid in the development of the storyline/plot, characters, quests, etc.
Larger projects will, naturally, require more developers, which can rapidly multiply your total expenses in this department. To minimize costs, you can either shrink the ‘detail’ of your game or shrink the length of your game (or both).
The total cost to hire a developer (or a developer team) to develop your mobile game can range between $1000 to $50,000. Huge projects that call for developing a game with complex engines, long storylines, high-quality graphics/audio, and multiplayer gameplay can cost even more.
The fees for publishing your app on both the Apple App Store ($99 per year) and Google Play Store (one-time $25 fee) are relatively cheap, but successfully launching and promoting your game can be expensive.
Your game will need to be thoroughly tested for both bugs/glitches and gameplay. Testing for your game can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000+, depending on the length of your game and how many ‘moving parts’ it has to be tested.
If you are looking to make significant profits from developing a mobile game, you will need to set aside a budget for marketing it. From hiring a social media marketing expert to running advertisement campaigns, marketing your game to the masses can be costly. Starting out, most projects will cost around $500 to $5,000 per month to promote. If your game is on the smaller end, it may not be worth it to spend hundreds of dollars or more on advertising and marketing.
If your mobile game has online features, you most likely will need to pay for a web server to host your services. Gaming web servers usually cost around $200 to $15,000 per month, depending on what type of features your game has (a simple news/highscores service will be far cheaper than hosting real-time multiplayer gaming).
After you’ve finished developing your first video game for mobile and are done with the publishing, It will also cost a small amount of money to keep your game’s (or company’s) website up and running.
You may also have to maintain a working relationship with your developer to create updates for your mobile game. These updates can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.
Lastly, you may need to hire a marketing strategist to help keep your game as ‘relevant’ as possible from a marketing perspective. A social media manager may also be needed to run your social media pages. Overall, long-term marketing may cost $500 to $3,000+ per month.
The cost of developing a mobile game depends on a plethora of factors. Below we have a list of example projects and their estimated cost to develop and launch:
Basic 2D Game: $1,000 to $3,000
Example: A brief platformer with a few dozen levels.
Detailed 2D Game: $5,000 to $25,000
Example: A tower-defense game with quality graphics and audio.
Multiplayer 2D Game: $25,000 to $150,000
Example: A multiplayer strategy game with large-capacity servers.
Basic 3D Game: $2,500 to $5,000
Example: A three-dimensional Pac-Man arcade game.
Detailed 3D Game: $10,000 to $30,000
Example: A hack-and-slash dungeon crawler with numerous weapons and enemies.
Multiplayer 3D Game: $50,000 to $300,000
Example: A multiplayer fighting game with excellent graphics and animations.
Your total cost may vary, use the above list only to help you get an idea about how much it will cost to develop your mobile game. Remember to start by having a design document drafted so that you have your ideas sorted out and ready to be submitted to your developer(s).