Game Design

How To Make A Mobile Game: Our Mobile Game Developing Guide

Photograph of the blog post author, Tom Steel

Tom Steel

4.6.2021

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Mobile games. We’ve all played one at some point. It’s the perfect way to pass the time. Whether you’re out and about, or stuck indoors. They come in all shapes and sizes. They range from the free-to-play to the slightly more expensive. But for the most part, they are all designed to be addictive and get hours of gameplay out of each and every one of us; the players.

person playing mobile games

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look into mobile games. We will look at what they are, some examples, and how to make a mobile game.

Be sure to stay until the very end so you don’t miss out on any key information!

What Is A Mobile Game?

fortnite mobile games

A mobile game is a video game condensed into a mobile device. Many mobile games are free to play and even the more expensive ones are rarely more than £10.

With video game consoles and their games becoming alarmingly expensive nowadays, people seem to turn to mobile games for an alternative mode of gaming

While the main consoles can restrict a player to playing in their living room, handheld consoles allow freedom to play anywhere. Mobile games apply this same idea for a significantly smaller cost. 

What Makes A Good Mobile Game?

among us mobile games

A good mobile game must first and foremost be a good value for money. If a game is £10, then it implies that by mobile game standards it should have a lot of content. Alternatively, if a game is free or around £1, then in-game purchases can be better justified. 

It is then not just making gameplay exclusively available to those who have money. Although players who spend money will ultimately have a more in-depth.  

These in-game purchases, or micro-transactions can be used to purchase items to improve gameplay and make it flow more like a regular video game. The potential downside to these can be that mobile games are normally designed to be addictive.

As soon as money is involved, it could become as dangerous as gambling, so play responsibly!

A game being addictive is in fact another sign of a good mobile game. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the difficulty level is as no matter what, there will be a demographic for it. 

However, an easier to play game is more likely to get more enjoyment and more playtime out of a player, unless they are a player that thrives on the frustration of losing and the thrill of bettering themselves.

Popular games such as Pokemon Go and Clash of Clans are perfect examples of games that have attracted millions of consumers and players over the years. The list of similar games in this regard is too enormous to write here!

What Types Of Mobile Game Apps Can You Develop?

mobile games on iphone home screen

There are a number of varying genres within video gaming in general. So it only makes sense that this applies within mobile gaming too. While there are several genres of game apps you can publish on both the Google Play store and the Apple store such as action, adventure, role-playing, racing, and many more. 

The Google Play App store seems to allow more genres such as arcade, casino and educational games. 

This variety really goes to show that the possibilities, while obviously not endless, are not limited by any means. 

How Much Money Can A Mobile Game Make?

money in mobile apps

The gaming industry has well-and-truly boomed over the past few years. Technological advancement has allowed for state-of-the-art next-generation consoles, eSports has burst onto the scene. This has made starting a career as a professional gamer an attainable concept.

This certainly carries over to mobile games and apps. They don’t cost the consumer as much money as say a new PlayStation 5 or Nintendo Switch title.

Additionally, they can generate a substantial amount of money through in-game purchases and ad revenue. Of course not forgetting income through a sheer number of sales. 

This essentially sets the guidelines for how to make a profitable mobile game. But new game ideas are admittedly a risk as there is never any guarantee that a game will be a massive success and make millions of dollars. It is all about knowing the market and what the people want and standing apart from the crowd.

A unique game app done well that is successful and played globally, could make millions or even billions of dollars each year, if marketed well and kept fresh with updates and new features.

How To Make A Mobile Game App

In this section, we will run through the steps you need to take in order to make a mobile game. Let’s dive in!

Plan

game developing idea plan

How to build a mobile game is no easy task. First things first, what is your goal here? Who is your main demographic and target audience you are aiming this product at? What genre will this fall under? These are a small fraction of the questions you will need to ask yourself before you actually get started.

A mobile game nowadays can be anything from a 2D puzzle moving shapes around, to a 3D village with fully interactable features and UI. Decide on a genre, the main spine of the content (whether that includes rich storylines or focuses on brain-teasing gameplay) and the general size and scale you want your project to be. These are the great steppingstones to get you started.

You must also consider if this is a solo project or if you will bring in other people to help. This might sound like a small detail as the chances are that you thought of this idea and want to do it yourself. 

It’s important to note however that working on making any kind of game can potentially require knowledge of or skill in; coding, art design, music and sound dev, and game design itself to thread everything together. 

This isn’t even considering narrative and creative design, along with a plethora of other areas that the big games will have several people in each. 

Monetization

money from mobile games

It is important to plan around and account for the worst-case scenario where very few people buy your game. Also, it’s worth considering how to maximize the total amount of money you can make from those who do in-fact invest in your product.

In-App Purchases

Freemium model is the most common method of monetisation within mobile games. Though these account for less than 5%, it is an effective additional way of getting extra money from players in video games in general; arguably even more so within mobile gaming.

Ads Within The App

Combining specific and relevant adverts with in-app purchases is an advised strategy when releasing a mobile game as neither can necessarily bring in substantial revenue by themselves.

Premium Versions

Premium versions offer potential customers a free taste of the game. Be that in trial or demo form before being prompted and asked if they want to purchase the game to save and further their achieved progress.

Essential Equipment & Purchases

developer equipment computer

How to make a mobile game app for free is extremely difficult as you will need some equipment to get you started. 

Let’s take a look at what you will need!

Computer

Game engines themselves don’t work on mobile phones so you will need to be using a computer. This is in order to install and utilize a game maker studio.

It is important that you commit to either PC or a Mac as several game engines don’t allow for cross-platform use. So once you’ve picked one, you’re essentially locked in.

Mobile Devices

Assuming the plan is to release the game on multiple types of phone, it may be a good idea to have at least 2 of these phones to play-test your creation at any point, preferably one iPhone and one Android.

App Developer Account

Google Play and the Apple Store both require potential developers uploading to their services to acquire developer accounts prior to submitting apps for review and approval.

These will vary in cost so be sure to research this in advance.

Choose Your Desired Game Development Path

mobile game developing

During the planning process, you should hopefully have decided on the general route you want to take on this journey of learning to create a mobile game.

You will essentially need to make a choice between 4 types of development processes. 3 of these being as follows:

Native Mobile Game Development 

This form of game development involves using languages native to a device platform for coding, such as using Java for Android.

Native development should be the primary focus and concern if optimal performance is your highest priority.

HTML5 Mobile Game Development 

This approach uses more standard web technologies such as HTML5 and JavaScript. HTML5 uses a write-once-run-anywhere approach that works well for cross-platform development.

This would certainly save time if such a platform-change is deemed necessary and required.

Hybrid Mobile Game Development 

Hybrid mobile game development combines the benefits of both native and HTML5 models. It uses HTML 5 design inside a container cell to run the game on any platform.

Game Engines & Game Development Kits

game engines

The fourth road you can go down is using development kits; software and game engines that tend to be more efficient in running smoothly and speeding up the process. There are many out there to choose between.

This includes Drag & Drop game engines such as GameSalad, which is perhaps the easiest way to make mobile games. But, the main heavyweights within the game engines field are Unreal and Unity, which revolve around coding. 

There are many others, each with their own perks and quirks. However, these are the two that are most tried and tested. Especially within the overall video game development scheme of things. If money is no object then you have a vast number of routes to go down. 

But if you are wondering how to make a mobile game for free, then it is definitely worth doing some digging, as it is possible.

Unity

unity engine logo

Unity Engine is used by many aspiring game developers no matter whether they are new and upcoming or already established. For those that are only just dipping their toes into this environment, Unity is free for an individual account.

The terms of eligibility are that any game produced has had less than $100K in terms of revenue or funding in the last twelve months. 

It’s essentially as simple as, if your game blows up and does well, then you will have to pay for your subscription. When you think about it, it is a pretty fair deal!

While using Unity itself to a good standard is easily achievable, its editing capabilities do present some limitations. Also, other than basic shapes, assets will need to be purchased or made elsewhere.

For a deeper dive into Unity, check out our informative Unity Game Engine Review.

Unreal Engine

unreal engine logo

Epic Games, known for Gears of War and Fortnite, developed the Unreal Engine. The success of this development company should speak volumes and how widely used it is.

It is a perfect rival for Unity and arguably offers more powerful performance from a finished product. This is due to the fact that it has more tools to perfectly refine topics. 

Like Unity, Unreal Engine can also be used for free, with 5% royalties required if or when the games produced using it rake in those big bucks.

There are a multitude of coding languages that are used. C# and C++ are the most popular when with Unity and Unreal especially. There are loads of courses you can take on Udemy to help get you up to speed with the coding aspect within game development. Along with everything else of course.

Begin Development

mobile game developing stock image

Once you know what software you will be using, and if you are using code which language you will be proceeding with, it is time to proceed.

Code, art and gameplay are the core aspects that will take the most time to get right, so you’d better get to it.

Create Assets & Art

creative artist working on computer

This could go several different ways depending on firstly your plan for the game. And secondly, your creative level of expertise and skills. You could very easily just use shapes and templates on offer within whichever program you have opted to use.

You can pay for additional assets on various stores. Or you can use external apps and programs to create your own. 

For 3D art, Blender is a perfect that springs to mind. It is very accessible and there are a multitude of courses out there on how to become good at using it. Not to mention YouTube videos. 

The main thing is terms of your assets and art is that the art style should be consistent. As say polygon assets being used as well as expensive and detailed character designs would just not match up at all well. 

Trial & Error Will Get You The Gameplay You Desire

mobile game development process

Once you have your scenes and moving parts to inhabit them, and the means to thread it all together with code, now is the time to experiment. It’s up to you to find ways to bring every relevant thought and idea you have to fruition. 

Some of these won’t work but that is the whole point of trial and error. You may uncover something unplanned that works especially well. As for how long does it take to make a mobile game, it really depends on your mindset, goals, skillset and so much more. 

There are ‘Game Jams’ that exist within the community to make games within a specified topic and time limit. They can range from 1 day, to a week, or even longer.

How To Submit Your Mobile Game To The App Store

mobile gaming image with pikachu

Once everything is in place and has been threaded together to make a functional game, it is time to release and launch the game. An important thing to remember is that if you have a predetermined launch date for the game app in place, then you need to stick to it and ensure it gets released on that date. 

Depending on where you are uploading it to, it may not even matter if it isn’t a finished product. It’s important to just get the game out there and see where the wind takes it. 

Updates exist for a reason if your game needs some fine-tuning post release. You should look up the terms and conditions regarding the platform that you are looking to release. This is due to the fact that it varies, with Apple especially wanting a completed product.

Submitting the app itself to the Google Play store and Apple store is a complicated process and your final product submissions will take time to be reviewed, so it is important to factor this into your release date, perhaps submitting for review at least a month before launch to avoid too many last minute panic moments.

Now You Know How To Make A Mobile Game

 developer working on textures

So there we have it! With everything covered in this article, you should now know more about the concept and have what you need to try and create your own mobile game. With hard-work, perseverance, careful application of skills and a willingness to better any necessary skill areas, making your own mobile game is a perfectly reasonable and attainable goal to have. 

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out another on our blog? Here is our Unity Game Engine Review, Game Designer Guide and Game Producer Guide to get you started!

Have you made a mobile game? Well we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to share this guide across your socials and tag us @musicgateway!

Are You In The Gaming Industry?

Want to read more about the gaming industry? Then check out our blogGame publishers and developers, what can we do for you? Our incredible music licensing service can help you streamline the way you license high-quality music and commission original compositions for your gameplay, apps and advertising campaigns including YouTube and social media.

Also, with our Showcase page, you can flaunt your character design skills, show your creativity in level design, and show off your ability to design a fun, polished game. You can also showcase your work, list your upcoming games and allow fans to pre-order or buy them! Try all of this out for yourself by joining Music Gateway. Get your 14-day free trial, no strings attached.

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