So: you have your idea for a game, you visualize the story and characters, you’ve almost figured out the genre… Now, the next question to address is: how much does it cost to develop a mobile game?
An average iOS/Android game development budget lands between $50,000 to $200,000. But It could get as high as $1,000,000+ and higher, depending on the complexities of mechanics, art assets and visual effects, plot, types of player involvement, etc.
Let’s go over a mobile game development cost breakdown so you’ll get an estimate on how much you’ll have to invest depending on your idea. But first, a bit of research.
Take a Look at The Mobile Gaming Market Snapshot
The Global Mobile Game market is expected to reach $153.5 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 11.5%. Research in the cost of mobile gaming says the global number of mobile gamers is 2.6 billion (78% of those play on Android.)
In 2021, there were over 230 billion apps downloaded across various stores — and an estimated; out of those, 21% (Android) and 25% (iOS) are mobile games.
It’s a promising market, as you can see. So how much does a mobile game cost to make?
Mobile Game Budget Breakdown - Top Factors Affecting The Costs
The following factors will help you determine your mobile app game development cost.
Genre Of The Game
Different classifications of determining a game’s genre exist: they can be divided by platform (and here we’re obviously discussing mobile games) by mode (single, multiplayer games, PvP games, etc.), and by narrative (horror games, mysteries, and so on).
Genre impacts the cost to make a mobile game: it’s harder and more expensive to develop a multiplayer open-world game than a single-player puzzle.
Categories of the Game
The genre alone won’t give you an accurate estimate. There’s also a classification into adventure-based games, fighting games, puzzles, RPGs, simulations, sports games, strategy, and many other categories.
They will determine a lot of mechanics you’ll need to build: an extensive economy system in strategies, fighting styles for different characters, etc. Those will add to the mobile game development costs.
Each of those types requires not only design and development, but also the storytelling work of narrative designers who would build mysteries for players to solve, make characters in RPG likable, write quests, and so on. Their work impacts the cost, too.
Type Of Games
Categories of the games branch into different genres.
Simulation games can be divided into life simulation (Sims), racing simulation (NFS), etc. Sports games — into all kinds of sports. There are Action RPG (Yakuza series), MMORPG (World of Warcraft), roguelike RPG (Hades) — and, as you imagine, each of them includes specific features, mechanics, and narrative choices that inform the final product and its cost.
Selecting a Mobile Platform
People usually develop Android- and iOS-based mobile games, but you could ship for Windows Phone, Tizen OS, fire OS, and so on.
Using stores as a marketplace also comes with a price. Both App Store and Google Play take 30% of your revenue from in-app purchases (there are ways to cut it to 15%, but if your games make more than 1 million, it’s all back again). Payment systems are also more expensive to integrate for iOS than for Android.
Apart from publishing on these, there aren’t a lot of options to deliver your game to the people, get visibility and profit, so, an overwhelming majority of mobile game developers make their peace with the fees.
The classifications above can fit into one of the following categories.
Mini-Games. Mini-games are single-player games without special effects. These are games like ping pong — they might cost about $15,000 to $100,000 to develop. They’re largely 2D, have simple gameplay, and these are the games people often craft for mobile.
Small games. Could be multiplayer & multileveled, have a 2d/3d interface, and contain features for in-app purchases. Usually cost about $100,000 to $400,000, but if that’s a 3D game, the cost multiplies and lands between $150,000 and $600,000 (art and animation are much more expensive in 3D.)
Middle-Level Games. One of the most popular games in this category includes Angry Birds. The game design of this category includes different levels, characters, plotlines, and good graphics. They usually cost $300,000-$1,000,000 to develop.
High-Level or Large Games. High-level games take a lot of time to build and get into the market. They cost $750,000-$4,000,000k to develop.
AAA Games are games with a large budget and large profits that are typically produced and released by mid-sized or large publishers — for instance, that’s GTA 5 and Call of Duty series. They can cost up to $265m to develop (GTA 5 did, hey), but:
a) AAA title usually comes after success (is Genshin Impact AAA game? Who knows, but it had the highest first-year launch revenue for any video games),
b) in other cases, an AAA title is automatically assigned and then tested by players if it comes from already established publishers.
Experts estimate the cost of developing mobile games that can — with quite high chances — become AAA — to be from $400,000 and up to infinity because the ceiling is near $20-30 millions.
Mobile Game Engine
The idea is to go for cross-platform engines to push the game on iOS and Android more or less at the same time. Some of the top game engines optimized for multiple platforms are:
- Unreal Engine
- Construct 3
- Game Maker Studio 2
Game Development Time
It takes between 2 months to years to develop a mobile game. Small mobile games with no complex storylines can be developed for 2-4 months. Large games take from one year and up.
In the US, game development services’ costs per hour are between $100 to $150, depending on the game’s complexity. For Europe, rates fluctuate between $80 and $50.
Apart from that, if your game is intricate, grand, and complex you’ll also need game and narrative designers, producers, artists, writers, testers, and many, many other people.
Mobile Game Testing
Testing can be costly as well — especially if you’re not only hiring QA specialists (or a QA team, perhaps) but also conducting beta tests and inviting future players to try out what you’ve built.
The bigger the game, the more necessary are beta tests. Even expert studios fail to predict players’ behavior — and it’s better if you’ll notice miscalculations pre-release.
Mobile Game Development Cycle
When calculating mobile game development costs, it’s important to take into account all stages of the work cycle.
In the pre-production stage, you convert your idea into a realistic, plausible game design document (GDD). GDD covers core areas like the game’s concept (hero saves the world from a terrible cosmic monster), the plotline, design of characters, visual interface and aesthetics, and specific levels that constitute the game. It also outlines the game's target audience and the monetization mechanics to be adopted upon release. Sometimes, at this stage, the team also builds a prototype.
Here goes designing, coding, writing, and testing. Also, here you work with voice actors to figure out what your characters sound like and with marketing — to start preparing a community for the shipping. (It’s important! We’ll cover it next.) When you figure your game is ready to be tested with the real players, you do a soft launch for the small segment of the audience — test the idea, mechanics, story, etc. After gathering feedback, your team polishes the game. After addressing concerns, inconsistencies, and errors soft launch has helped to spot, it’s time to do a global launch.
3. Post Production
After the game's debut, the maintenance phase kicks in. You’re introducing new features, levels, upgrades, etc., to keep gamers engaged & continue developing your plot. Also, you respond to their feedback & fix bugs here.
Make Sure There Is Room In Your Budget For Marketing Costs
Now, marketing. Gamedev is so competitive “build, and they come” never works here. It’s vital to start building community and promoting your game — with, like, a snapshot of the process of you crafting it, new character designs, plot teasing, and so on — early.
Usually, the game developer has to dedicate not less than 30% of the mobile game development budget to marketing to boost their game if it’s an indie. For full-blown mobile titles, the budget allocated to promotional activities and marketing can get as high as 10x the cost of game development. The community of early fans is a top factor that pushes your game up in app stores, — so don’t forget about putting money into social media, advertising, community management, etc.
The game Wordle, famously recently acquired by NYT, was boosted this much because it included a tiny feature: users could share their results on Twitter via emoji. It had a gigantic impact.
Outsourcing Strategies And How They Affect The Costs
Is efficient. Within game development, efficiency and pace are a must. The outsourcing team you’ll be contacting has — very likely — completed projects in game development, and knows its intricacies and common pitfalls.
Saves costs of hiring and training. You don’t have to search for candidates, onboard them, and provide them with equipment.
Saves costs of HR and management. You don’t have to manage teams. You also don’t have to worry about people’s engagement and retention — the management of the company does that.
Allows access to untapped talent. Know how there’s a shortage of tech talent? Well, there isn’t if you outsource. This is why so many big companies — Ubisoft, Blizzard, Disney — outsource their projects.
How To Ensure You Are Reducing Game Development Costs
As you can see, the budget for a mobile game depends on many factors — and the task can be very daunting if you’re to approach it alone.
If you’re considering outsourcing the work or collaborating with any third-party vendors, make sure to check your candidates for partnership are the experts they say they are.
Check their portfolio (you can look at mobile games we’ve developed here, for instance), play the games they’ve created, and ask the people they’ve worked with for opinions. Make sure they have expertise in building games for a genre, niche, and platforms you want to work with.
A list of outsourcing pros listed above often outweighs the potential risks — but only if you’ve chosen a good vendor. Freelance developers could also work, but the same due diligence applies in this case.
Understanding the factors that determine the cost of making a mobile game is at least a quarter of a way towards success. Of course, the cost will fluctuate as you’re progressing in the development — if you’d want to add new storylines, features, characters, — but the starting point should be clear enough for now.
Mobile gaming is the fastest-growing niche in the gaming industry — but there’s room for new exciting titles, for more growth; and you can take it.
What Is the Mobile Game Budget?
It’s a cost of all providing all services necessary to create, launch, and maintain the game.
Why Is Mobile Game Development so Expensive?
Because there are a lot of people involved in making games, they need to get paid. And anyway, the big numbers you see adorning AAA+ games’ stats aren’t the average: a small, engaging mobile game could be developed for $20,000 — and, with the right concept and promotion strategy, it will rock the market.
Why Does It Cost So Much to Make a Mobile Game?
Again: because you’re paying people who make the game happen.
What Is The Average Cost of a Mobile Game?
It ranges from $100k to $400k for small mobile games, $400k-$3m for mid-level ones, and $750k and up to millions for the big ones.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a AAA Mobile Game?
$3m-5m if you’re a mid-sized publisher, and up to 20-30 million if you have a lot to invest in marketing.