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How to make a mobile game app: A game maker’s guide

Introduction

By continually diversifying and finding new audiences, mobile gaming is still rising in popularity and proving itself a true force to be reckoned withy. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, there were over 14 billion game downloads. Adjust’s report: Mobile app trends 2022 noted a 32% increase in gaming app installs in 2021 and found that 52% of consumer spending on gaming is now mobile.

While there is a vast, newfound market for mobile games, competition is also fierce. According to data.ai’s State of Mobile 2022 report, there are currently 5.4 million apps and games now available to download through the app stores, with 1.8 million of these on Apple iOS and 3.6 million on Google Play. However, standing out in this crowded market is possible with proper planning and research. This guide will address the most common questions developers must answer before creating a mobile gaming app.

FAQs about how to create a mobile game

How hard is it to make a mobile game?

As we will explore in the following sections, the difficulty level in creating your mobile game depends on the type of game you wish to build. For instance, developing a hypercasual game is significantly easier than creating a fully-immersive role-playing app for hardcore gamers.

How to make a mobile game app?

The structure of your mobile game will depend on:

  • The category of the game
  • Which platform(s) the game will be on
  • How complex the design will be (E.g., 2D, detailed or complex icons)
  • The game’s monetization model

Regardless of your game’s subgenre, you must use a game engine. A game engine is a software framework used to develop games. There are a wide variety of game engines, as we’ll review below.

How can I make a mobile game without coding?

Game engines are a key part of the game development process, and some allow you to create a game with little to no coding knowledge. Engines like Gamemaker, Construct 3, and Build Box allow amateur game developers to build games without coding expertise.

Types of no-coding engines
  • Game templates allow changes to basic details of a game like music, characters, or backgrounds.
  • Drag and drop options provide a list of actions that can be applied to objects in the game.
  • Visual scripting offers a graphical way to manipulate objects and behaviors for those who don’t like to code.

How to make games for Android?

There isn’t one straightforward answer to the question, “How to make games on mobile for Android?” However, game makers often use the Android Game Development Kit (AGDK), which Google calls “a full range of tools and libraries to help you develop, optimize, launch, and iterate on high-quality Android games.” Additionally, check out Google’s guide to help developers get started for in-depth insights on initial steps.

How to make games for iOS?

After registration, Apple allows developers to download the Xcode development kit. If you are only developing your game for iOS, Apple's Swift programming language may make the most sense. In doing so, your app will be able to use new iOS features as soon as they're released. However, if your game is developed using a third-party development kit, you should keep in mind that your app will likely have to wait for the third party to build support for any new features.

Can you make a mobile game for free?

There are several free, open-source game engines developers can use to create their mobile gaming apps. Check out the ones listed below to see if they match your needs.

  • The Godot engine is an open-source solution specializing in cross-platform game development.
  • Armory is also an open-source 3D engine that offers fully scriptable image generation.
  • Unity aims to be a one-size-fits-all solution for game developers.

These are just a few free options to help beginners create a mobile game. Note: To list your app in the App Store, you will need to pay $99 a year, and listing your app in the Google Play store requires a one-time fee of $25.

How much does it cost to make a mobile game app?

With the help of one of the free game engines listed above and a DIY attitude, it’s possible to make a mobile gaming app for free. However, Starloop estimates that game development costs typically “range from $3,000 for simple mini-games to $150,000 for more complex, multiplayer games.” Therefore, it’s essential to make a list of development costs before diving into app development.

Research questions for game makers 

Now that all of your questions about how to make your own app game are answered, it’s time to ask yourself questions regarding the “who” of your game — “Who will the game be for? Who is your competition? Who will fund your game?” etc., These questions will allow you to understand if your game idea will be worth the initial effort. Check out our guide to mobile game marketing in 2022: Key insights and best practices to kick-start your research.

Who is the audience for my game?

Today 55% of players in the U.S. are women, and 45% are men. While over 32% of U.S.-based mobile gamers are between 25 and 34 years old — the largest age group — those demographics have been changing. Older generations stuck at home in early 2020 were introduced to gaming apps, and now 42% of boomers consider themselves gamers.

While the market for games is growing, it’s still vital to identify your potential audience. Will your game target millennial women who tend toward hardcore games or Boomer men who like casual games? As a game maker, you must know and understand your audience to achieve successful user acquisition and retention rates.

Who is my game’s competition?

Identifying which games are your app’s competition is critical to your research strategy. Consider the following four questions:

  1. Which games does your target audience already play?
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these games?
  3. How are competitors marketing their games?
  4. What openings do you see in the marketplace?

The answers will inform everything from finding your audience to developing your marketing strategy, to actual gameplay and are integral to your app’s success.

How will I monetize my game?

Game developers can monetize their apps in various ways, and how you decide to monetize yours will depend on the type of game and your audience. For example, casual games are often ad-supported, freemium models, or sometimes a combination of both. On the other hand, more hardcore games may require users to pay to download a game or subscribe.

Once you have decided on a monetization strategy, there are still additional considerations. For instance, even the subscription model of monetization requires further inspection: Which type of subscription will you employ: an individual subscription, an umbrella subscription, or a battle pass subscription? To learn more about the models available to you, take a deep dive into mobile game monetization here.

Ways to fund my gaming app?

There are a variety of funding options available to game makers. Here are some of the most common:

  • Bootstrap your app — If the game’s financial needs aren’t significant and you have sufficient personal resources, you may be able to finance the app yourself.
  • Reach out to your network — Many startups and apps get off the ground thanks to the investment of friends and family.
  • Turn to private investors — Look for local businesses or other private investors with a vested interest in your game.
  • Look for funding contests — If your idea is strong enough, consider entering it into a contest. Check out these startup pitch competitions.
  • Consider angel investors — Search for individuals who invest in early-stage startups in exchange for a share of your business.
  • Seek venture capital investors — VC investment may be possible if you already have a viable product to show investors.
  • Apply for bank loans — A simple bank loan is often an option, but banks often have stringent requirements.

Utilize crowdfunding — When all else fails, use a crowdfunding platform to find a large group of people willing to make small investments in your product.

I built my gaming app. Now what?

Even after answering these questions and creating and launching your app, your work is still far from over. To ensure your game’s success, you must constantly monitor everything from

App Store Optimization (ASO) to campaign performance and churn rate. As with many other repetitive tasks, automation can help make this easier. Armed with the right tools and data, game makers can fully optimize ad campaigns to grow their user base. If you’d like to see what Adjust’s mobile analytics platform can do for you, book your demo now.

Want to get a head start on your user acquisition strategy for your new app? Check out Scaling your app to 1 million users: The ultimate guide Part 1 for the latest trends and tips for exponential app growth.

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