Do you know that 3D graphics-based Unity was actually released just three years earlier than Cocos2D — and right now, it’s one of the most popular toolkits for video game development? Let’s figure out which one of them is better to develop games.  

Understanding How the Platforms Work

So, Unity vs Cocos. Let’s take a first look at them. 

Cocos2d-x

The first version of Cocos2D was created in 2008. Right now, Cocos2d-x:  

  • Is open-source and free. 
  • Allows creating small-sized, 2-10MB games. 
  • Runs on C++, but there are tools to build with JavaScript and Lua. 

Cocos2d-x heavily relies on coding and is focused on the mobile games market, but with the latest versions, it’s extending its functionality towards PC games and 3D graphics. Shadow Fight 2 and Strongest Demon Fighter were built with Cocos2d-x. Geographically, it’s quite popular in China. 

Unity

Unity is a proprietary game development engine that is monetized through freemium. Unity

  • Runs mainly on C#. 
  • Offers advanced rendering and graphic tools that are integrated into the engine. 
  • Provides additional features for game monetization, analytics, and advertising. 
  • Offers Unity Multiplayer for building multiplayer games. 
  • Has services for LiveOps and DevOps.  

Unity is The Game Engine, it’s the most popular tool for creating games in the world. Launched in 2005, it continues expanding what it can do, covering tools for building titles for mixed reality, large industrial apps, and games for multiple platforms including consoles. Games like Pokemon Go and Among Us were created with Unity, and DeepMind uses the engine to train its AI.  

Let’s See the Unity vs Cocos2d-x Comparison

So, what engine — Cocos 2d or Unity — is the most suitable for your purposes? 

Unity Cocos game engine

Let’s cover more details related to some of those factors. 

Features

There are a lot of features available on both platforms. Both the engines have good support and are steadily updated. 

The functionality of Cocos2d-x’s newest version includes GUI, which is a change from its previous code-based approach to game development. It’s easy to integrate audio with it, integrate physics, edit the animation, etc. 

Its “package alternative,” Cocos Creator, is a rich gamedev tool that introduces an animation system and more comprehensive 3D support, though Cocos frameworks have usually been focused on 2d. Cocos Creator is great for quick prototyping and is also open-source. Its main language is C++. 

Unity is a high-class tool, and its functionality allows you to do almost anything gamedev-related. Among great features:

  • Bolt tool for visual scripting; 
  • Tools for deployment directly to Nintendo Switch and other consoles;
  • Render pipelines both for high-fidelity high-quality titles and high-performative, quick-to-build games; 
  • Multiple toolkits for VR/AR integration in games.

Both game engines have sufficient capacities for the production of small-sized, indie games to large projects.  

Complexity

Any framework’s complexity mainly depends on two aspects:

  • Intuitiveness of the program’s design, which makes many functions self-explanatory and doesn’t require additional learning.
  • Accessibility of learning materials providing an in-detail explanation of both basic and advanced functions.

In terms of the program’s intuitiveness, Unity seems to be a winner, because it has an in-built design environment. In Cocos2d-x the situation is more complex because there are not many in-built design features, and to integrate elements, such as character models and textures in a game the use of C++ code is nearly obligatory. (This is not the case, however, in Cocos Creator). 

Cocos2d-x has an extensive library of learning materials, but they are a bit chaotic because the library is collected and organized by the community. Unity has rich documentation, too. One can find online video tutorials, training workshops, and courses available online for both engines. For some people, Unity’s UI seems hard to learn and not straightforward, and others report that Cocos2d-x has too much coding — there are both challenges and things that make them easier in mastering both engines. 

Cross-platform game development

Both Unity and Cocos2d-x are suitable for gamedev for multiple platforms at once. Both cover mobile games (in fact, both Unity and Cocos toolkits have been developed partially to meet the rising mobile games market, so they’re really good for making those.) Both allow development for macOS, Windows, and Linux, plus create browser games. 

Cocos2d-x isn’t supporting console development as of the time of writing this article and doesn’t have functionality for creating VR/AR/MR titles. Unity does allow developers to build those. 

Longevity and Support

Unity’s constant updates and Cocos2d-x’s community’s activity allow assuming that both engines have good chances to stay in demand in the future. Unity gets updated once in several months. Cocos – less regularly, but at least once a year.

Cocos2d-x users also constantly update the open-source code of this program, and the best of them get included in the program’s core. Users play a significant role for Unity devs, too, — the engine gets updates based on their feedback.

Additional information

Both Unity and Cocos2d-x can be used for developing non-gaming apps. Unity’s functionality is more flexible, some of its extensions and toolkits are built specifically for businesses — e.g., Unity MARS. It’s a tool for building apps for industries that want to use VR/AR in their workflows — like retail agencies, logistic companies, art galleries, and many others.  

Cocos2d-x vs Unity Game Development Frameworks

Cocos2d-x vs Unity Game Development Frameworks

Let’s define which one of them is easier to use and more advanced in the next stage of the Cocos vs Unity competition. Both the frameworks are unique and can be compared based on the seven main factors. 

Previous Programming Knowledge

A lot of developers say knowing C# is non-essential when working with Unity — and the engine does a lot of technical routine on its own. But! Expertise in programming is helpful for building complex games in Unity.

Knowing C++ is nearly mandatory for the successful development of games via Cocos2d-x. Despite having a GUI now, it still requires coding (lots of it — in comparison to Unity.)

It’s generally a good idea to know the basic principles of programming when working with all popular game engines.

Low-end development support

Many developers-beginners consider creating tiny, simple games a good starting point — and Cocos2d-x is perfect for that. Lighter games are also convenient for people with devices that don’t have big memory storage, so it is a more accessible option. 

In contrast, the small games and apps developed in Unity are unlikely to be less than a few dozens of MB in size — and it often occurs to be too heavy. 

Learning Curve

Unity is more user-friendly than Cocos (but, as we’ve mentioned, some consider it cranky). Its GUI allows developers to learn quickly and start building games within 2-3 days after the first launch of the program.

Cocos2d-x has a simple graphical user interface complemented with command panels. It’s created for people who know C++ and know it well, so for people who aren’t used to coding in C++, adaptation for getting started with a Cocos2d-x project requires more time than with Unity’s GUI.

Cocos Creator vs Unity fight is a bit different, though. Cocos Creator’s GUI is very similar to Unity’s, and people who tried both even say the former is more comfortable. 

Quantity of Manual Coding

Generally, the more complex the game, the more code you’ll need to manage. There are, of course, scripting tools in Unity and a lot of pre-made assets that require no coding, but advanced games do require additional coding efforts. Sometimes, a lot of them. 

Cocos2d-x is, from the start, a code-driven engine: in previous versions, people wrote their games and then compiled them to see results. Right now, there’s GUI, but still, a lot of coding needs to be done. So, in terms of manual coding, Cocos2d-x requires more of it.  

Time management

Both Unity and Cocos are tuned to save developers’ time and enhance performance via automating time-consuming processes (like visual scripting tools in Unity and mesh sprites in Cocos2d-x). 

Unity, though, has a more extensive library of additional ready-to-use assets for gamedev, and it’s easy to integrate them into the game. The only caveat is that they’re paid. Cocos2d is open for 3rd-party assets, too — they’re free but much clunkier. 

Customization

Users of both Cocos and Unity game development engines manually setup the layout of their workspaces via the programs’ menu. 

Appropriateness for Custom Mobile App Development

As it’s been mentioned earlier, Unity can be used for the development of mobile apps as well as mobile games. Both support iOS and Android, — but Unity allows development for Windows Phone, too. 

Unity also has toolkits for setting up monetization mechanics into mobile games — which are vital to integrate into the structure of the game naturally from the start — so, in terms of convenience for mobile development, Unity wins. 

What Tools Integrate with Cocos2d-x and Unity?

Both Unity and Cocos2D-x’s projects can be integrated within XCode and Android Studio, and the reverse is true, too. Cocos2D-x supports DIY mods and additional 3rd-party tools for gamedev because it’s open. Unity offers to purchase and integrate the ones from their asset store. 

Tools Integrate with Cocos2d-x and Unity

Find the full range of 3rd-party tools and assets for Cocos in their blog, for Unity — in their store

Pros and Cons of Both Platforms

Now, let’s summarize both engines' strengths and weaknesses. 

Pros and Cons of Cocos2d-x and Unity

Some Alternatives to Cocos Creator and Unity

Apart from the obvious alternative — Unreal Engine —  people develop UI for games with Blender, Cinema 4D, G2 Deals, Maya, and many other tools.

So, What is the Best Platform for Game Development – Cocos2d-x or Unity?

Is Cocos or Unity better? 

Depends on your goals and resources. If you already know C++ (or have someone in the team who does) and want to quickly build a small mobile game, use Cocos. Cocos2d-x being free makes it a good tool to start with and get a feel of gamedev — what you like, what you can do, what you lack, etc. Although Cocos is perfect for lightweight games and prototypes, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used to build long, complex titles, especially with the addition of 3D graphic/advanced GUI into its Cocos Creator compartment. 

Unity is a high-end game development engine, the most popular in the world. It offers the most advanced features for large games. The commercial version of Unity is expensive, but it is worth it if you plan a long-term development for a high-end title. But Unity is good for indies, too! Its free version (that comes with small shortcomings — like Unity’s splash screen on every game) remains free for users for as long as they make less than $100,000 in the previous 12 months with their game.

As an outsourcing game development studio our specialists are constantly working with Unity and Unreal engine. If you are faced with hiring a developer or programmer to help you with Unity engine or full-cycle game development services, we are ready to help!

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FAQ

  • What Is The Best Platform For Game Development: Cocos or Unity?

As we said, it depends on your goals. Large organizations typically favor Unity. Developers who want to try developing games, want to build a quick prototype, or have deep expertise in C++ often choose Cocos. 

  • What Are The Differences Between Unity Or Cocos2d-x?

The main difference is that Cocos2d-x is an open-source engine, while Unity is a proprietary project. Cocos2d-x also requires more coding from the start and has less functionality than Unity (e.g., it doesn’t support development for consoles.) 

  • What Are The Unity Advantages Over Cocos2d-x?

It allows deployment for more platforms, offers monetization options, has an extensive list of ready-made assets, more automation tools, visual scripting, and so on. Unity is more suitable for large games that are heavy on the visual part. 

  • What Are The Cocos2d-x Advantages Over Unity?

Cocos2d-x is an open-source game engine, which means that it can be tuned the way you want and it’s free. It’s also good for creating lighter games.