How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile Game?

Aug 27, 2021
15 mins read

In 2021, the mobile gaming share of total gaming revenue is expected to reach 59%. Since the total revenue in this segment is $90.7 billion, mobile games will account for approximately $53.5 billion in 2021.

The numbers keep rising every year. 2020 was a turning point for the industry, with an impressive increase of 38% in the volume of HD gaming. Mobile games also demonstrate surprising stats: the first-day usage transactions rose to 50% compared to the previous year. 

But how much does it cost to make a game app? If the game development industry is booming, can we expect a rise in the development budget? In this article, we are going to cover all questions concerning mobile development cost, including:

  • what are the stages of mobile game creating, and how do they affect the costs
  • how the estimation works in the game development industry
  • what are the major pricing factors

All in all, we will provide you with a brief overview of the mobile game development industry so you can make up your own opinion on the game creation budget.

Stages of Mobile Game Creation

Creating a mobile game is as complicated as creating any desktop game. It takes time, effort, and of course, a team. Even to create the smallest game, you will need:

  • Game Designers

They will help you to create the idea of the game. They are mainly responsible for creating a game world: with all the history, rules, physics, and other aspects

The average game designer rate per hour is $25.64

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  • Developers

Depending on the size of the game you are planning to create, you may need a team of developers (including team leaders, architects, and CTO) or a couple of outsourcing specialists. They bring the idea to life. Engineers are responsible for the development itself: game performance, absence of bugs, and reliable game architecture. They bring the idea to life. Engineers are responsible for the development itself: game performance, absence of bugs, and reliable game architecture.

The average iOS Developer rate per hour is $40.48

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The average Android Software Developer rate per hour is $37.45

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The average Video Game Programmer rate per hour is $23.90

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  • Designers

The game visuals are no less important than its idea. Designers will help you create proper images for the game. Again, depending on the style and type of the game, you may need graphic designers, 3D designers, illustrators, motion designers, etc.

The average 3D artist rate per hour is $21.60

Link to resource

  • QA

The game must work perfectly to be successful. Therefore, the code and the performance should be tested by QA specialists.

The average QA Engineer rate per hour is $26.15

Link to resource

Additionally, to reinforce your team, you will need a storyteller, team of marketers, business analysts, and project manager who will help build a development process.

How much does it cost to make a mobile game? Let’s analyze the steps. 

The development process starts with the research and analysis of the TA. Who are the people who will play your game? What exactly may they like about the game? What features do they expect to see? The development process gets easier when you have a clear vision of the person who plays your game.

Additionally, we conduct competitive research to get a helicopter view of the current situation. Frequently, competitive analysis demonstrates the weak points of the games, giving us a chance to develop a perfect game.

Now, when you know the team that stands behind creating a good game, let’s move to the stages of development.

Stage 1. Writing a game design document

GDD (game design document) is used to organize game development processes within the team. However, the game design document never remains the same till the final stages of development. It changes and improves along with the changes and improvements of the project.

A game design document must include concept art, assets, story, UI/UX, gameplay, genre, key features, characters, accessibility, etc.

Basically, this document covers all aspects of the game. It’s the guideline for everyone who works on game development and promotion.

Depending on the game’s complexity, creating such a document may take from 1 to 3 weeks.

Stage 2. Creating technical specifications

Would you create a game suitable for iOS or Android? Or perhaps you are planning to create a game that will be suitable for both platforms? This information will impact the game app development cost.

Depending on the platform you choose for development, technical documentation will also be different. Therefore, you need to make your choice before the team starts the process. 

Regularly, creating technical specifications takes 2-3 weeks.

Stage 3. Prototyping

Prototypes are created to specify game details and visuals. Later on, the designers will use prototypes in their work. They will help them stick to the same style regardless of their role in the project: illustrator, graphic designer, or motion designer.

Stage 4. Designing the game


Efficient prototyping ensures a high level of understanding among all team members. When designing the game, the game gets all visuals: characters, assets, interface elements. 

It may take up to 3 weeks to create designs for the game.

Stage 5. Programming

The images will remain the images without putting them into the code. To bring a game to life, it’s necessary to write code, set up a server, database, API. At this stage, the design and the logic are implemented. 

It is one of the most time-consuming steps. You will need at least a month for a small game with simple logic.

Stage 6. Testing

It may seem that programming is the final stage of game development. However, testing is as important as writing code. Testers will help you detect game malfunctions. 

You will spend at least a week on game optimization, creating proper builds, testing all critical moments, and stress-testing the product.

Stage 7. Releasing

You need to know that when you release a game on Google Play Store or App Store, you need to wait from 1 to 3 days till the system approves it. Therefore, the product won’t get available for users the minute you publish it online.

How the Mobile Game Cost Estimation Works

You want to know the estimated mobile game development costs. However, it’s impossible to tell the exact price of the game without a game design document. Above, we have already explained that the game design document contains all information about the game. It determines how many specialists you need to perform a certain task (like developing certain mechanics, creating sounds, or illustrating particular scenes).

At Whimsy Games, we also use the discovery stage to estimate mobile app game development cost. It helps us provide our clients with detailed estimates with a probability of up to 30% on risks.

The discovery phase presupposes a preliminary interview with the client to create a game design document with detailed project visualization. We also define the deadlines (sprints, milestones, etc.). Additionally, appoint responsible teams and specialists and indicate their rates.

If you are planning to create a ready-to-market game, the price will be higher. Additionally, you will need to hire a PM, marketing team, support team, and maintenance specialists.

Price estimation for

Bingo: Love in Montana

To exemplify the above mentioned, here’s a detailed description of the process cost estimation for Bingo: Love in Montana.

Our client came to us with a request to create a high-quality game that meets business goals and technical requirements. The biggest challenge for this project was to create a new bingo mechanic that applies the metagame of the recovery house. Previously, the metagame was mixed with match3, match2, solitaire, etc.

The estimation of this project was complicated because of the scope of work: we needed to create a huge volume of content for the metagame. Also, the game required a detailed development of the story, which presupposed creating additional effects and transitions. 

Therefore, the estimation process was divided into three steps.

  • Estimation of the development of core game mechanics, considering classic bingo functions and additional mechanics.
  • Estimation of metagame. The metagame was technically complex, so the process was more than challenging (the matter is that in this bingo game, a player needs to restore locations to develop a storyline between the characters). At this stage, we considered creating the toolkit to develop the plot and creating the content.
  • Estimation of additional functions. We had to ensure that the project’s architecture is suitable for further development, like adding new events, special modes, new locations, etc.

Cost estimation of the project always requires a personalized approach. It depends on what you have now, what you want to get in result, the deadlines, and your budget.

Major Pricing Factors

So how much does it cost to develop a mobile game? Platform, game design, game categories, testing, and marketing - these are the top 5 points that determine the price of your project

Platform

Mobile game app development cost depends on the platform you choose for a game. When we create native iOS or Android games, the overall cost is higher than the games created on Unity.

The matter is that Unity is the platform for game development that has a huge variety of features to use. In this case, there's no need to develop a feature. An engineer can find it in the library. 

With native iOS or Android game development, the situation is different. A developer needs to create everything from scratch. That impacts the price. Moreover, iOS development will cost you 20-30% higher than Android.

Game Design Document 

We have already mentioned the importance of the game design document. Still, there’s one more thing left to tell about it. The development of such a document is also a time- and effort-consuming process. And it costs too.

Even if you have a basic game design document, the total development price will be lower. Meanwhile, mostly mobile game development studios worked without game design documents and created them for the client.

Game Categories and Genres 

How much does it cost to develop a game app? It depends on the category and genre: 2D mini-games with simple mechanics, beautifully designed 3D casual games, 3D high-level games, etc. As a rule, the companies have a vision of the game they want to create. It rarely happens that a client wants a mini-game but decides to create a high-level game: the costs are different, the number of specialists involved, and the time for development.

The genre and category of the game directly affect the price. The more complicated the game is, the higher the price is. Game features, objects, visualization - everything has its price.

For example, 2D design is cheaper than 3D design. It can be explained by the hourly rate of 2D and 3D designers. Besides, it takes more time to create a 3D object than 2D. And, of course, animation of 3D objects is more time-consuming. ‘We were working 100-hour weeks,’ Dan Houser, Rockstar Games vice president, tells about creating Red Dead Redemption 2. Impressive? Indeed it is.

Mini Games

Mini-games have simple mechanics integrated into the game. They can be separate products or in-game features (for example, hyper-casual games use mini-games to make the process more interesting and captivating for the player).

How much does it cost to create a game app of this type? The prices start from $5,000 and higher.

Casual 2D Games

Generally, these are complex games with various mechanics, levels, sounds, graphics, animations, VFX elements, etc. They engage the audience so that they spend more time playing. In the cost of casual 2D games, the following additional services are included: backend, analytics, support, etc.

As the development of casual 2D games is rather complicated, the prices start from $20,000. The more complicated the game storyline, the more features are added, and the more content that needs to be created, the higher are the costs. They can easily reach $50,000 and, in some cases, even exceed $100,000.

Social Games

Interaction between players is the most demanding feature of social games. At the same time, it is the most complicated as well. Therefore, mobile game development cost breakdown for these projects starts from $70,000 to $170,000.

Social games have many levels, complex storyline, development of the account, various mechanics, animation, 2D and 3D graphics. 

In Whimsy games, we’ve created many social games for our clients. Each time, the process is challenging. Frequently, we need to develop the backend and frontend for the game, considering the further scaling. The architecture should always be flexible as the game should always be ready for any changes.

Mid-level Games

Mid-level games require the development of different mechanics and their integration into the game process. The price for such a project will depend on the scope of works. However, it can rarely be lower than $10,000.

Business Game Applications

Many businesses use games applications as a tool to engage their users and improve retention rates. For example, we’ve created a game where the users need to build solar panels and teach the art of negotiation. 

How much does it cost to build a game app like this? The costs of such projects are different and may vary from $15,000 to $50,000.

High-level Games

These are the most complicated games to develop, and their prices start from $200,000. There are many details to consider. Therefore, the team for development must be huge. These are mostly 3D games, so they require optimization, proper architecture, and precise concept art development for characters and VFX elements.

Game App Testing

Game testing is one of the basic stages of a game development process. For every two developers, there should be one tester.

The matter is that during the development process, many bugs, malfunctions, and other problems happen. The role of a tester is to detect these problems.

Marketing of Your Game App

Let’s be honest: the games are created to generate revenue. And if you are planning to invest in game promotion and marketing, you probably should also invest in the analysis of the users. 

We at Whimsy Games help our clients to use information about user behavior in further game upgrades. We use the results of the analysis to create new features, themes or add new storylines.

Each of the factors has huge importance for the total cost. Developing games for different companies, we concluded that the prices for almost similar games may still be different. Therefore, we follow a one-to-one approach to each project. 

Eliora project

Estimate cost: $20,000 - $25,000

We’ve created the game from scratch, including the development of the mechanics, animation, etc. However, we used graphics and characters that the client had for this project. Our main task was to launch a game based on the client's game engine.

Baby Games project

Estimated cost: $45,000

It is another project created from scratch. For this game, we’ve created several complicated mechanics.

Summing up: how much does it take to develop a game app

Game development is a complex process that involves many specialists, requires time and effort, and of course, money. The costs of development start from $5,000. In some cases, they can reach $100,000, $200,000, and even higher!

Of course, when you order game development services, you expect to get the best results for the money you pay. Therefore, take the process of choosing a team for your project responsibly. It’s important to validate the people you’re going to work with: they must be experts, their portfolio must speak for the quality of their job, as well as the reviews of the clients.

We at Whimsy Games believe: being experts means making our clients happy. For us, cooperation with a client is more than just working on a project. We think that close communication with team members, openness to each other, and experiments help us build partner relations and create better games.

Our main task was to launch a game based on the client’s game engine. contact us to discuss opportunities or just to get to know each other. And if you feel that we’re in tune, let’s talk about cooperation and creating a game for you! We’re always ready to help you with any idea.

FAQ

How do you usually consider the cost of projects?

It takes several specialists to evaluate the game development. First, the architect and technical specialist estimate the project: how many hours each task requires and how many specialists should be involved. Next, the art designer or art lead estimates the time needed to create all visuals. Business developer creates a document for the project where the work of all specialists is described in detail. This document shows you the hours needed to develop certain mechanics or hours needed to create a character. Of course, we put some extra hours into the project. Unpredictable situations may happen in the development process, and we need to make sure they won’t affect the overall process that much. Also, we need this time if you decide to change some game details. As a result, we get a document with timelines, milestones, and prices for the jobs.

Will there be a pricing difference between different game types?

As we have already mentioned, the more complicated the game is, the higher the development cost will be. Let’s compare a mini-game with one mechanics and 2D graphics and a social game with four levels, three-game mechanics, and 3D animation. The second one will be higher in price. Moreover, it will take more time to develop this game.

What is included in the price of creating a gaming app?

The game’s price depends on several factors: the platform (iOS or Android), game design, game category and genre, marketing, testing, number of features, and mechanics to develop. To know the detailed project’s price, it’s better to order cost estimation to understand how much money you need to develop a game.

Denys Kliuch
CEO

I'm a CEO and a Co-Founder of Whimsy Games. Before that, I advanced my expertise in engineering, management, traffic marketing, and analytics working for large game development studios with a $1M+ monthly income. With a clear vision of how game development should work, I run Whimsy Games, being responsible for the marketing and sales of our products and services.