How Much Does It Cost To Make a Mobile Game

The enthusiasm for mobile gaming continues to climb, reaching new heights in 2024.

The tech evolves, and so do the elements that dictate the development costs of mobile games.

These costs can span from $3,000 to $1 million, depending on several factors affecting game production, such as game complexity and the inclusion of core features, which dictates the final budget.

How Much Does Mobile Game Development Cost?

We offer consulting services because the cost of the game is really individual.

Overview of Mobile Game Development in 2024

In 2024, developers of simple, hyper-casual games will start mixing in elements of more complex games to keep players interested. The rise of mobile gaming has been pushed significantly by newer, better mobile devices and the recent pandemic, leading to a huge increase in people playing mobile games. There are now over 773,674 mobile games available, and it’s expected that by 2024, these games will bring in about $386.50 billion in revenue. A report from Statista suggests this market will continue to grow, reaching $376.70 billion by 2027, with a yearly growth rate of 7.08%.

With advancements in technology, the availability of more powerful smartphones and mobile games have become more accessible and popular among different demographics. This popularity is fueled by various factors, including the convenience of playing on the go, the rise of social gaming, and the freemium model which allows players to download games for free and pay for additional features. So, is making mobile games profitable? Depends on what you mean by “mobile game”.

Mobile gaming trends in 2024, infographics mobile game development
Mobile gaming market size infographics, global mobile game market volume

Understanding Game Development Costs

The creation of a mobile game traverses several stages, each with distinct financial and time commitments:

  • 1

    Pre-production

    Costs here can range from $3,000 to $10,000, with timelines stretching from 3 weeks to 6 weeks. This phase lays the groundwork for the game, from conceptualization to detailed planning.

  • 2

    Production

    With costs from $8,000 to $25,000 and durations from 1 month to 3 months. The broad range reflects the variance in game complexity and core features being developed.

  • 3

    Post-production

    Final touches and debugging, costing anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, with a quick turnaround of 1 week to 3 weeks.

Collectively, these stages present a budget from $10,000 to $40,000 and a timeline of 2 to 6 months for a standard mobile game. These figures can escalate for more ambitious projects, from $400,000 to $1,000,000, especially for those who want to create something like Call of Duty on mobile.

Main stages of mobile game development, mobile game development process

Core Elements Influencing Mobile Game Costs

The core elements influencing mobile game development costs are multifaceted, including various aspects of game design, production, and post-launch support. These elements dictate the overall budget and can significantly affect the financial planning of a project. Understanding these factors is important for developers and companies aiming to create a successful mobile game. Here’s a deeper examination of these core elements. 

Game Art and Design

The aesthetic appeal of a game, both art and design, can demand investments from $1,000 to $6,000 for the project development in 1-3 weeks. It’s really often determined by the desired quality and the game’s visual complexity. It’s also worth mentioning that if you made a mobile game you’ll have to occasionally invest in it by making upgrades, rebuilds and fixing bugs.

Game art and design core element of mobile game development, game art and design guide

High-Quality vs Low-Budget Graphics

For low-quality graphics, the cost ranges anywhere from $6,000 to $19,000 and can take 1 to 2 months, while high-quality graphics can cost between $25,000 to $110,000 and take 3 to 12 months to develop.

Game Mechanics and Complexity

Simple mechanics, similar to games like Flappy Bird, can cost between $500 to $1,500 and take 2 to 5 days. In contrast, complex mechanics, like Candy Crush, can cost between $80,000 to $150,000 and take 10 to 12 months.

Simple vs Complex Gameplay

Depending on the game genres and gameplay complexity, costs can swing from under $5,000 for simple arcades or puzzles to up to $60,000 for RPGs, shooters or strategy games.

Simple vs complex gameplay, complex or light mobile games

How to hire a Game Art Outsourcing Team?

  • 1

    Define the Art Style and Requirements

    Start by clearly defining the art style and requirements of your game. Are you aiming for a 2D pixel art aesthetic, 3D realistic visuals, or something in between? Prepare a detailed brief that includes concept art, mood boards, and references to ensure potential outsourcing partners understand your vision.

  • 2

    Look for Experienced Ousourcing Teams

    Look for outsourcing teams with experience in the type of game art you need. Review their portfolios to assess their art styles, versatility, and quality of work. Websites, forums, and industry events can be valuable resources for finding reputable teams.

  • 3

    Check Team's Game Art Experience

    Consider the team's experience in game art specifically. How long have they been in the industry? What games have they worked on? Check client testimonials and reviews to gauge their reliability, communication skills, and ability to meet deadlines.

  • 4

    Ask for Necessary Information

    Once you have a shortlist, reach out to each team for quotes. Be transparent about your budget and ask for detailed proposals that outline the scope of work, timelines, and costs. Comparing these can help you understand market rates and what each team offers.

  • 5

    Start with a Test Project

    Before committing to a large project, consider starting with a smaller test project. This can help you assess the team's art quality, adherence to deadlines, and communication efficiency without a significant initial investment.

  • 6

    Discuss IP Rights

    Ensure you have a clear contract that outlines the ownership of the artwork and Intellectual Property rights. This is crucial to protect your game's assets and avoid any legal issues down the line.

  • 7

    Set Clear Expectations

    Set clear expectations for feedback loops and revisions from the start. Determine how many rounds of revisions are included and how additional changes will be billed.

  • 8

    Build a Long-Term Relationship

    If the test project goes well, consider how you can build a long-term relationship with the outsourcing team. Having a reliable game art partner can be a valuable asset for future projects.

Development Team Expenses

Beyond the direct costs associated with game design and development stages, additional expenses, including team salaries for programmers, designers, QA testers, licensing for software and tools, as well as marketing, can further inflate the budget. These costs can push total investment between $50,000 to $200,000, or even higher, from $130,000 to $250,000, depending on the game’s scope and scale.

How much does it cost to hire a mobile game development team

Programmers

Programmers or developers write the code creating the game’s mechanics, physics, and features according to the design specifications. Factors affecting their salaries include their programming language expertise, years of experience, and the complexity of the game being developed. In regions with a high cost of living, programmers command higher salaries compared to those in other parts of the world.

Designers

Designers are responsible for the game’s look, feel, and user experience. There are UI/UX designers who focus on the user interface and overall user experience, and game designers who work on the game mechanics and storylines. Like programmers, the cost of hiring designers varies based on their expertise, experience, and location. Designers with a proven track record of working on successful games often command higher salaries.

QA Testers

Quality Assurance (QA) Testers make sure that the game is free from bugs and glitches. They systematically test the game’s features and scenarios to identify any issues that need fixing. The cost of hiring QA testers can be lower than that of programmers and designers, but their contribution is invaluable. The number of QA testers needed and the duration of their involvement in the project depends on the game’s complexity and development timeline.

Developing a mobile game in 2024 costs from $3,000 up to $1 million according to StriveMindz, influenced by factors like game complexity, core features, and the chosen development path. 

Software and Tools

The development of a mobile game also involves licensing costs for software, development kits, and expenses related to marketing and promotion, which can add significantly to the overall budget.

Top 16 mobile game development tools, mobile game development software

When making a game, you need special software, and often you have to pay for it. This could be a one-time purchase or a regular payment plan. Some game-making programs, like Unity or Unreal Engine, might even ask for a cut of the game’s sales if you make a lot of money from it. You want to use the best engine for mobile games, if you need a profitable project. 

To make sure your game works on all phones and systems, you need development kits. These kits help you test your game on different devices, like iPhones or Android phones. How much they cost depends on how many types of devices you want your game to work on.

After making the game, you’ve got to let people know about it. Getting the word out can sometimes cost more than making the game itself. This includes paying for ads, working with popular people on social media to talk about your game, sending out news releases, and maybe even getting a spot at a gaming event to show off your game. 

Outsourcing vs In-house

The debate between outsourcing and in-house development has different sides. Each approach offers distinct benefits and challenges that can influence the outcome of a mobile game project.

Outsourcing and in-house mobile game development

Here's a deeper dive into the nuances of our outsourced game development services. How does it compare to in-house development?

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Outsourcing means hiring external teams to do certain jobs, and it’s becoming more popular as companies look to save money. However, this approach comes with its own set of challenges, like coordinating across time zones and ensuring quality.

Pros: Cost Savings

Labor costs vary greatly around the world, and companies can save significantly by hiring teams in regions where professional rates are lower. For example, the cost of hiring a skilled developer or artist in Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia can be lower than in North America or Western Europe. This disparity allows companies to stretch their budgets further, potentially from $5,000 to $10,000 for tasks that might cost much more if done in-house.

Cons: Communication Challenges

Despite its advantages, outsourcing can introduce significant communication struggles. Time zone differences can lead to delays in feedback and longer turnaround times. Language barriers and cultural differences might also complicate clear communication, potentially impacting project understanding and execution.

Pros and cons of outsourced mobile game development

Pros and Cons of In-House Development

Choosing in-house development means relying on a dedicated team that works under the same roof (or virtually, but closely aligned). This model is often preferred by companies aiming for high levels of control and integration in their projects.

Pros: Control Over the Process and Seamless Communication

In-house development offers control over every aspect of the game development process, from the initial concept to the final release. Companies can ensure that the project aligns perfectly with their vision, adjusting course rapidly as needed. 

Cons: High Costs

Salaries, benefits, office space, and ongoing training for a full-time team are substantial financial commitments. Additionally, the investment in software, hardware, and other tools needed for game development can be considerable. For many companies, especially startups and smaller studios, these expenses can be prohibitive, with development costs ranging from as little as $50,000 – $200,000, or even from $130,000 to $250,000 for more ambitious projects.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions mobile game development cost

The average cost of developing a mobile game can range widely from as little as $5,000 for a simple game to over $1,000,000 for a high-end game with complex graphics and mechanics. Factors like game design, complexity, art, and marketing efforts all affect the final cost.

The cost effectiveness between iOS and Android can vary. Android may have a wider user base and less strict submission guidelines, which can be cost-effective. However, iOS users tend to spend more on apps, potentially offering a better return on investment. The choice should be based on the target audience and business goals.

Yes, as a solo developer, you can develop a mobile game on a tight budget. There are many tools and resources available that are either free or cost-effective. Focusing on a game with simpler graphics and mechanics, and using cross-platform tools can keep costs down. But be prepared that it will take A LOT of your time. 

New technologies may require additional learning, new software, or more advanced hardware, which can increase costs. However, they can also introduce efficiencies that may reduce costs over time, such as improved game engines and development tools.

Absolutely. Many simple games have succeeded without high development costs. Success often depends on factors like originality, playability, and how well the game engages its audience. Effective marketing and a clear understanding of the target audience are also crucial for success.

Yes, there are ongoing expenses after a game is launched. These can include server costs for online games, customer support, marketing, and updates or patches to the game. Regular content updates and maintenance are important for keeping the game relevant and retaining players.