In 2020, the sales of the console gaming market reached 35.1 billion dollars, the PC gaming market – 37 billion dollars, and the smartphone gaming market was the absolute winner as its worth was estimated at 63,6 billion US dollars back then! Reliable numbers on 2021 aren’t available yet — but it’s clear that gaming is huge nowadays, and most of the successful gaming projects are present in all these three markets simultaneously.
You can join them, too: if you have a game on one of these platforms — consider game porting. It’s “translating” the game from one platform to another.
In this article, you will find exhaustive information on the game porting process, its stages, difficulties that are encountered often, and finally, its cost.
Why Do You Need Game Porting?
By “translating” your game into other platforms, you:
- “Open the gate” for the flow of new players of your game — increase your audience “from the other side” and they’re often already very interested in playing it (e.g., our porting of Angry Birds 2 to Windows got 10 million downloads in just 10 days after release.)
- Increase options existing players can use, which positively impacts players’ satisfaction.
So: the main reason to do game porting is to increase the game’s end revenue and user’s happiness. Now, let’s talk about how porting works.
How Does Porting a Game Work?
To do video game porting, you need to:
- Rewrite the code in the language accepted by the new platform. The game must and feel ok in the new environment. If the engine doesn’t support the platform you’re porting to, developers rewrite thousands of files to fit NVIDIA or AMD PC’s graphic drivers instead of unique APIs designed for consoles and in other porting cases. If the engine does support the new platform, they integrate new APIs and libraries that are specific for this platform.
- Work on the graphics. The graphics should feel the same on all the platforms. (It often isn’t actually the same — but the porting team has to make it feel like such.)
- Strive for a decent performance. Good game performance means high FPS, high-quality graphics support, and a smooth player experience — on PC, or just the latter — for consoles and mobile platforms.
- Adapt the controls and UI for the new platform. The game should feel native to the target platform. So, all the game's code — including controls and graphics — must be tweaked to perform well and fit the new device’s CPU/GPU, its resolution, and user experience.
Understanding the Main Types of Porting
Now that you know how game porting works, let’s look at its types that are categorized depending on the platforms and technologies involved in the process.
Types of Game Porting Based on Platforms Involved
Depending on the platforms involved in game porting, it can be of these categories:
- Porting from PC to gaming consoles and vice versa
- Porting a PC game to Android or iOS and vice versa
- Porting from mobile platforms to smart TVs and vice versa
- Mobile and smart TVs companion apps
The hottest porting type — porting from PC to mobile — might really be challenging. Many studios and publishers — Blizzard, Sports Interactive, Aspyr, Rockstar — still do that, though. The mobile game audience is immense, and mobile games bring the most money compared to other platforms in the industry:
Porting Games into Different Technology
Aside from platforms, there can also be porting a game to a different engine:
- Porting to Unreal Engine. It uses C++ and supports console platforms, PC, and mobile game development.
- Porting to Unity, which uses C# and is suitable for developing both 2D and 3D games on all the existing platforms: web, PC, mobile, consoles, and AR/VR.
Porting to UE and Unity usually happens when the game was developed with mobile SDK/other game engines/for web a long time ago, or if SDK isn’t maintained anymore, or if the owner wants access to monetization/multiplatform opportunities these engines provide.
Video Game Porting to Mobile Is of Many Challenges
Converting Code to a Different Language
If the game wasn’t written to a multiplatform engine (e.g.: Unity 3D, Unreal Engine), porting a game from PC to consoles or vice versa equals rewriting it. Same with porting a computer game to Android or iOS.
Rewriting can be simplified via transpilers — programs that convert code in one language into another — but it’s still major work.
A Lack of Software Compatibility
If you have an old game or a game that was written to a custom-made engine with a lot of programmer acrobatics, it’s often impossible to make sense of source code & tools the previous team has used. If so, no game porting software will help you ship it to another platform. A project would turn into simple game development: a full-blown run-by-reference work.
Balancing Graphics and Performance
With console games being written for less FPS and for weaker hardware — because it’s convenience & UX that matter, not supergraphic — it’s very challenging to boost both of these aspects to ship on PCs without wonky bugs, crushing, and weird twists of graphics. Players remember how the lightning didn’t work in Splinter Cell: Double Agent (2006) which was ported from Xbox 360 to PCs. It broke the stealthy game flow completely.
Harmony between performance and graphics are extremely vital when porting computer game to Android/iOS app, too. Some shades, transitions, and complex visuals must be cut, but the aesthetic feel & smoothness of gameplay to graphic must remain in mobile resolution.
App Store Compliance
Steam, Play Market, App Store, shops at PlayStation, and Microsoft Store have compliance rules for game developers.
For instance, at the latter, games must support different screen ratios, Xbox 360 controller, run on several versions of Windows OS, have an easy installation process, and many others.
Developers have to know these rules to port to the target platform/shops you’ve chosen.
Changes to Controls
Ports for mobile platforms means designing mechanics and controls for a touchscreen: sometimes, both for players who play with two hands and for players who play with one. Porting from console to PCs requires controls for mouse and keyboard (and it’s always better if there’s an option for left-handed players, which makes things a bit more complicated.) Porting from PCs to PlayStation or Xbox means assigning everything to ten-fourteen keys on the gamepad.
It’s a challenge to translate mechanics properly, make them bug-free, tweak the camera controls (if PC players use the mouse to change the views, console players use the keys and iOS players might just tilt the phone), etc.
Besides, each genre has its conventions of mechanics. E.g.: often, when playing on PCs, players aim with the right button on the mouse — and they will expect this to be the case in the ported version of your game. Developers have to comply with these conventions, too.
What Do You Need to Start Porting of a Game?
Game developers, game designers, QA specialists, and artists and animators, probably, too. Or some good technical partners to gather the porting team for you. If you’re porting to consoles, you (or your team) will need to get their development kits — game studios obtain them via partnership deals with console platforms or buy kits, supported by them.
How Costly is It to Port a Game?
The cost of porting a video game depends on multiple factors:
- How fast do you need it to be done?
- How the game was developed (is it possible to pick up Unity3D projects or does it need to be rewritten)?
- What is the state of the source code (is it possible to port a game to a different, well-established engine (Unity or Unreal), if it wasn’t written in them; are there similarities between rendering APIs.)
- What is the source language (e.g. porting between Java and C# is really easy and if the code has enough high-level expressions that are abstracted from the platform, it can be modified relatively quickly; other cases are not that optimistic)
- How much of the code has to be optimized (is it porting from PCs to mobile or from consoles to PCs that requires a significant optimization for the performance required, or is custom C++ code that needs to be ported to Unreal?)
- How deep porting must tweak the graphics?
- How large is the game?
The end price of game porting can make up half or even more of the price of the initial game development. The price for porting even a game with moderate graphics will usually start from more than $50,000.
How Much Time Can Porting a Game Take?
Most indie games’ porting to multiple platforms takes up to six months — and to port a more complex, larger game, you’ll need a year and more, especially if we’re talking AAA+ level. If you want to port a small indie to one platform, though, it can be done in 3-4 months — everything depends on the scale of work to be done and a number of changes needed to make a game work well in another system. Sometimes, even if a game seems to be easy to port, light, and without a large graphics component, porting can still take a long time because of “making a software perform well on a new hardware” issue.
So Why You Should Consider Game Porting?
Yes — especially if players ask for it. There are several main reasons to prove it:
The Player Has No Limitations
More opportunities to play are very good! Console players love convenience, PC enjoyers adore games on the edge of their hardware’s capacity, and mobile gamers play everywhere. All of these people could be one gamer who enjoy your title more than ever, with additional options available.
At first, your game porting can seem quite a costly initiative. But then, you’ll be able to invite new revenue streams into your game — and will see ROI quite quickly (if the porting is good.) It’s also less expensive than developing a new game, so. Worth considering.
Graphical Performance and Quality
Good graphics, performance, and quality are usually a driver for PC gamers, and you can give it to them. That’s a huge niche, and the demand from it quite often pushed developers of console games to port to PC (not always successfully — because porting always requires time; quality porting cannot be done in haste.)
Flexibility for Players
When the game is cool and everyone’s talking about it, many players who usually stick to one platform want developers to port to it desperately. Do it — and provide more options for your audience.
Despite all challenges and costs of porting, it can be a well-landed big win for your game — both in terms of player’s satisfaction and your revenue.
At iLogos, we port games almost as often as we develop them — it’s exciting to build foundations for a title’s new life and help game studios find new people to connect with; read more on our porting process here.
Last, but not least: successful release of a ported game is skilled game development combined with a significant marketing effort and community management; we help with the latter, too. If you have questions about porting that aren’t answered in the FAQ section below, don’t hesitate to contact us.
What is Porting a Game?
It is the adaptation or a “translation” of the game into another device’s environment, for example, to the language of PC, mobile platforms, or consoles.
How Much Does It Cost to Port a Game to Android or iOS?
To port a game to mobile can cost half or even more than the original cost. Adapting most projects to Android or iOS can cost over $50,000.
How Long Does the Porting Game Process Take?
It can take up to 6 months or more. Everything, first of all, depends on the game’s complexity, its size, the source language & SDK you’ve used to develop it, the urgency of the project, etc.
How Does Porting a Game Work?
Porting a game is mainly about adapting the original game interface and controls to the new environment.