How long does it take to make a mobile game? Game development time depends on many factors, the most important of which is the complexity of the game. Developing a mobile game from start to finish can take anywhere from several months to years. In general, a small game will be faster to make than a sprawling, more ambitious one, and a large team working on a project will almost always get the job done faster than a basic, minimal team.
In this article, we’ll give you a basic understanding of game development timeframes and what influences them. Then we’ll discuss what you can do to get an accurate estimate and start developing your mobile game. In addition, we’ll figure out how much game development will cost.
The game development process usually consists of three main stages: pre-production, production, and post-production. Each step is an important element of the development process and cannot be skipped if you want to build a great game.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the game development stages and study each one in detail.
This is where every game development project begins. In a nutshell, pre-production defines what the game is about, why it should be made, and what it will take to make it. This stage can last anywhere from a week to a year, depending on the project type, resources, and funds available. It typically accounts for around 20% of total production time. The data gathered in the pre-production stage serve as the basis of the game design document (GDD).
A GDD is a dynamic document that helps all stakeholders understand and get on board with the larger vision for the project. The GDD typically includes your game’s mechanics, what type of game it will be, its storyline, initial artwork, a brief, and so on. It keeps your team organized, helps identify potential risks, and allows you to see ahead of time what functions you may need to outsource to bring your project to life.
The GDD is continuously updated and refined throughout production. Reasons for this can range from technical or financial limitations to the understanding that not everything looks, plays, or works how you’d originally envisioned.
A game prototype enables you to check your game’s functionality, user experience, gameplay, mechanics, and art direction. This helps you determine whether the game idea will work and is worth implementing. Prototyping also helps you identify issues that could potentially change the course of your entire project.
To save time and money, you can utilize placeholder assets, which replace items like weapons and equipment early in testing and, if approved, can later be replaced with final, high-quality versions. Placeholder assets usually have quite simple shapes but can also be more complex.
It’s worth noting that not all ideas make it past this step.
Production is one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive parts of the process of developing a mobile game. It can last anywhere from a few months to years. At this stage, the team works on the game’s character models and rendering, audio components, level design, and so on. Developers work on the code, and project managers ensure that all departments work together seamlessly and that deadlines are met, in addition to handling all aspects of the organization.
In addition, there may be changes in your team’s project business model and development. Applying the Agile methodology can help ensure that your project can adjust to fit new requirements and prioritize functionality.
Let’s take a look at the main milestones in creating a game as well as some key members of the development team.
Milestones mark major events in game development and are used to track game development progress. Milestones may be, for example, the first playable, alpha, or beta version of the game. There is no industry standard for defining milestones, and as such they vary depending on the publisher and project.
While game developer roles vary depending on the size and type of game development company, below are some commonly found positions:
In addition to the game development roles mentioned above, you can bring on a number of other specialists:
Once production is completed, the game development process continues, with some team members involved in maintenance (such as fixing bugs and creating patches) or creating bonus or downloadable content.
The game should not stop evolving and growing. When numerous players have unlocked most of the levels in your game, it’s time to release updates and new versions. For example, you can add seasonal events and holiday items. Releasing holiday updates is a great way to monetize.
At this stage, maintenance can last for 20 years, whereas additional development may take one to two years.
So, what is the development time for different types of mobile games? To provide you with a rough estimate of the time needed to develop a game, we’ve roughly divided mobile game projects into three “speed groups.”
If all you’re after is a basic Pac-Man clone, you could have your game built in a short time. Development for this type of project will take on average three months. Such games are likely to be 2D in appearance, with a simple visual style and gameplay. They will probably only have a few levels and will not feature a great deal of extra content. Burn the Rope is a good example of this type of game.
Most well-known independent games fit into this category. Development for this type of project takes on average six to 18 months. These games have many more levels, characters, and plots. They also appeal to a wider audience than fast-development games. F1 Clash and Cut the Rope are great examples of games in this category.
Games in this category contain a lot of content and have greater depth of gameplay. Most popular free-to-play games, such as Fortnite, fit into this category. Epic Games first announced Fortnite in 2011, and it took more than six years of work before the game was ready to launch. However, these games are usually developed in around two years.
The speed of mobile game development depends on factors like the complexity of the development process, code quality, team size, and productivity, among many others. Let’s take a closer look at some of these factors.
Unexpected issues can plague a game’s development from start to finish. In this guide, we’ve collected advice from Unity’s expert team of support engineers so you can avoid many of the common pitfalls they see every day. As part of the Integrated Success Services team, they’ve partnered with developers across the industry to help ship their games successfully.
In this section, we’ll look into a few ways you can speed up your development process. Some are tools or techniques, while others are problem-solving approaches. You can pick whichever works best for you and leave the rest.
If your team needs assistance implementing complex functionality or part of a project, outsourcing to a dedicated team may be the best choice. This model is the best option for businesses that need to hire a developer while staying under budget. If you want to learn more about hiring remote developers, see the article “How to Find and Hire a Dedicated Software Development Team.”
The process of game development is complicated, and the cost depends on many factors, the most important of which is the complexity of the game.
Games development prices can be significantly different. For example, Flappy Bird game development cost $0 to $500, whereas Grand Theft Auto V cost around $265 million.
Below, you’ll find examples of the relationship between mobile game development cost and complexity:
So, you want to develop a mobile game, but don’t want to spend everything on development? We understand. You can find out more about why this is and where the money goes in our article “How Much Does It Cost to Make a Video Game?”
It all depends on the specifics of the project. Usually, project managers split projects into milestones, then assign those milestones to different people. Depending on the number of people and their skills, the project manager can estimate the approximate time that will need to be spent on each task and, consequently, on the project as a whole.
Here at VironIT, we can take your project and assign it to our experienced project managers. We’ll define the timeframes for your project and ensure that it runs according to plan. We also know from experience how to speed up game development without sacrificing product quality. For more information, check out our case studies or visit our contact page.