Are you thinking about creating your own mobile game but unsure about the financial part? Explore our comprehensive, step-by-step manual!
The average cost of developing a mobile game from scratch ranges from $3,000 to $500,000. Depending on the type of game, promotion costs, and development team, you can expect different price tags.
Mobile games market in 2023
The fact that the game market is growing by leaps and bounds has been undeniable for a long time. According to the Mobile Gaming Global Market Report 2023, the global mobile gaming market increased from $118.34 billion in 2022 to $138.63 billion in 2023. And it's not the limit. In 2026, the mobile gaming industry is expected to reach $209.12 billion.
Top factors influencing the cost of mobile game development
A large market helps many to break through, but it also requires some effort in competition. The type of game and the team/studio price make the most cost difference. The game's promotion, subject to high-quality functionality, will require less money. Thus, before starting your mobile game-making, consider the following cost factors.
Game type and complexity
Mini-Games. Mini-games are easy-to-play single-players without special complex artwork and scenarios. They’re usually feature-light, 2D, and short or endless. For example, the 2023 list of the top mini-games includes Dumb Ways to Die 2, Pocket Arcade, and 101-in-1 Games. Their development costs may vary from $3,000 to $150,000.
Small games. These games can have multiple players and levels, featuring a user interface that combines 2D and 3D elements. They may also offer in-app purchases. Typically, the cost ranges from $90,000 to $300,000. However, if the game is in 3D, the price increases to approximately $100,000 to $500,000 due to the higher expenses associated with 3D art and animation.
Middle-Level Games. These are phone games with more complex designs and structures. The game design within this genre encompasses a variety of levels, characters, storylines, and visually appealing graphics. The typical development cost for such games ranges from $300,000 to $800,000.
High-Level/AAA Games. The development process and market entry for high-quality games require significant time. The cost of developing such games ranges from $500,000 to $4,000,000. AAA Games are a particular game type that has a big budget and excellent quality. According to Steam ratings, some of the best AAA games are DOOM, Call of Duty, Monster Hunter Rise, etc.
Game engine and platform
The mobile game cost depends on the engine and platform you pick. In official Steam statistics for 2023, you can see that the most used SDKs and engines for game development are Unity (35,678 games), Unreal (9,461), and GameMaker: Studio (3,846).
Unity and Unreal are both almost costless for the project. Unreal is a pricing-free and open-source 3D computer graphics game engine. Unity is extremely easy-to-learn and also has a basic free version. They also support game development for IOS, Android, PC, PS, and Xbox consoles.
GameMaker Studio 2 combines editors for sprites, objects, rooms, scripts, timelines (sequences of actions with time reference), movement paths (routes), and constants. But for all these options, in addition to the free version, it provides multiple subscription levels designed for independent developers and businesses. The pricing begins at $49.99 per year.
Team and studio
Based on your project's complexity, you can collaborate with either a freelancer or a reputable studio such as HitBerry Games. While working with a freelancer may help reduce the cost of mobile game development, engaging a team of professionals becomes essential for more complex projects.
The list of options the studio can help with includes game prototyping, UX/UI design, testing, and ongoing support. Success stories confirm that a professional team ensures more polished and fast results.
Budget for marketing
While having an entertaining and appealing mobile game is crucial, effective marketing is necessary to gain visibility. Therefore, once you have invested a considerable sum in the mobile game development costs, consider allocating funds towards advertising to recoup your investment and generate profits.
Sometimes publishers spend more on advertising than on development itself. But if you follow the usual scenario, the marketing expenses should be up to 30% of the overall budget to reach the intended audience and achieve profitability effectively.
Note: AAA games can make a noticeable difference in the cost of a mobile game. A massive advertising campaign usually accompanies the release of a AAA game. At the same time, all participants bear significant risks since millions of copies must be sold to pay back the costs.
How to reduce the cost of game development?
There are several ways to reduce development costs, such as simplifying the game or having offshore development. The first option should be considered depending on the specific project. For example, you can simplify the graphics, minimize the storylines, or even change the type of game size. In the second case, it's about outstaffing - hiring development teams from different countries where the price tag for development is lower.
Outsourcing from foreign countries can significantly impact the overall cost of game app development. If a team from Europe or America will cost you $400-500 per hour, then a team from Ukraine, for example, can cost you $150-300 and 2 or 3 times cheaper for the final product.
How to calculate mobile game development costs?
If you already know the approximate project budget, you have to calculate the final price, considering all the game features. Most often, this can only be done by hiring a developer or searching all the particular costs. However, you can also use the HitBerry Games calculator to quickly find out the price of building the game.
HitBerry Games is a mob games studio with strong game development expertise. With this calculator, you can consider the game's features as gameplay time, genre, engine, modes, graphic style, etc.
For example, a hybrid-casual single-player game on Unity 3D engine for Android, iOS, PC, and Xbox can cost you around $82,105.
What factors affect the cost of mobile game development?
The game cost will depend on the game's complexity, hourly developers' rate, 2D or 3D animation and engine for the project, and marketing campaign. Also, the price will depend on the game's specific features, such as gameplay time or music author rights.
Why is mobile game development so expensive?
Usually, the costs for mobile game development are so high due to the complexity of the game and the large number of specialists integrated into the project. But, of course, the price can be much lower if you order the work of a small game from freelance developers and complicate the functionality as the profit per game increases.
What is the lowest price for game development in 2023?
The lowest price you can pay to develop a mobile game in 2023 is around $3,000. It will most likely be a mini-game or demo as they require the least amount of budget.