The Growing Opportunities of Mobile Game Development

May 26 2022

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The gaming industry continues to enjoy exponential growth as one of the greatest contributors to today’s entertainment. Mobile app development, in particular, sees most of the industry’s revenue growth, accruing 52% of the gaming market worldwide.

gaming industry continues to enjoy exponential growth

The allure of mobile games lies in the mobility and easy access to countless games across different genres. More players are joining in the fun. For the mobile games sector, this is an opportunity to penetrate the market with a highly immersive mobile game and profitable marketing tactics.

Developing a mobile game requires adequate goal setting and thorough planning. The development platform, tools, and other equipment you choose to use are central to mobile game development process.

In this article, we take you on a comprehensive deep dive into smartphone game development and the opportunities in this lucrative field. We will also discuss the best technologies for your project, educational platforms, and some successful games to inspire you in your journey as a mobile game developer.

The Big Opportunities of Mobile Gaming

Mobile game publishers were badly hit with the lockdown measures during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, video and mobile games were among the most consumed forms of entertainment.

As society eases back to a more normal social setting around the globe, the gaming community is ever expanding. The demand for more content in video and mobile games skyrockets sales for the gaming industry.

In 2021 alone, game publishers perusing the Unity platform built 93% more games compared to 2020. With easy access to app development tools, mobile game dev becomes second nature for programming, coding, and gaming enthusiasts.

The large volume of smartphone users also contributed to the mobile gaming movement. With over six billion active smartphone users globally, reaching the target audience is no longer a questionable feat. Mobile games serve as an avenue for marketers to appeal to players and earn their badge of approval.

Mobile game players are some of the most willing ones to pay for advertised products, reaching an accumulated consumer spend of US$89.6 billion across the App Store and Google Play Store. Mobile game players tend to click and watch ads more in comparison to console or PC players. In-game rewards are pivotal to the monetization of the mobile gaming industry.

Over 48% of the world’s gaming community comes from Asia, with more than 1.29 billion mobile gaming players. Europe comes in second place, with roughly 551 million mobile game players.

The mobility that comes with mobile gaming entices more smartphone users to try out mobile gaming. Gone were the days when games were limited to bulky consoles or costly PC setups. Today, most smartphones can handle casual games. In fact, 62% of smartphone owners download a video game within a week of owning the device.

Speaking of casual, the casual game category in mobile gaming witnessed a 13% increase of published titles in 2021. Today, 40% of the mobile gaming community is engaged in playing casual mobile games.

The advancements of game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine extend to mobile gaming, featuring gameplay optimization for the best quality game experience on mobile devices. The success of Nintendo’s Pokemon GO is also a testament that true AR or VR is likely to be introduced in the ecosystem through mobile gaming.

Advantages of Mobile Game Development vs Large-Scale Video Game Development

When it comes to deciding the best device to launch a video game, you may have to consider your level of expertise in building apps. Mobile games require less manpower and are faster to test.

Video games for PC and consoles, on the other hand, tend to be more complex. Not to mention, you are less likely to reach the majority of the target audience if you choose to develop a video game on a large scale.

Here are some of the advantages mobile game development has over video game development for PC and console setups:

1.Faster iteration

Excited for your game’s first-ever prototype? Mobile games are quicker to test and roll out beta versions. Their size is relatively smaller compared to PC video games which often run on a heavily-detailed interface. Mobile development enables you to assess the build of your game as quickly as possible.

2. In-App Purchases Drive Revenue

Mobile game players drive sales up with their continued patronage for in-app purchases. Free-to-play gacha games like Genshin Impact encourage players to spend in-game currency for their desired collectibles. In-game currency is either awarded to players after completing certain quests and challenges or bought with real money.

New content also contributes to in-app purchases. Live games come with the promise of new content for old and new players to explore. The more enjoyable the new content is, the more likely players will purchase in-app goods. The compact size of mobile games allows programmers to release new content at a consistent pacing. Developers of large-scale video games, on the other hand, may find it challenging to launch new updates regularly across a diverse network of gaming devices.

3. Ad Revenue

Mobile game development is the perfect avenue for marketers to advertise products and services without risking any loss. Rewarded ads are a fool-proof method that benefits both the player and brand. Statistically, mobile games produce approximately US$39.8 billion through ad revenue.

4. Sole Focus on Mobile Platforms

Mobile game dev believes in taking small, humble steps before making the huge leap for cross-platform game development. Game developers who are just getting started especially benefit from focusing on mobile-only game launches. Large-scale video game development has the tendency to address compatibility for PC and most of the available console devices, which may complicate and further delay your beta test and official launch.

5. Smaller Teams

Mobile games require fewer people to work on them and streamline their performance. In the industry, big AAA studios make the most sales, publishing well-loved titles. However, small teams of game developers are not to be messed with.

Unity expects indie game development teams to steadily rise up the ranks. Indie game developers can make this happen by shifting their focus towards fine-detailed graphics, unconventional storylines, and admirable characters.

6. Huge Market

Mobile gaming is where the target audience is most easily reached. An estimated 2.7 billion mobile gamers play games on a regular basis. Because of how accessible mobile games are, there is more demand in mobile game development. However, a huge audience also means the marketplace may be saturated with aspiring mobile game developers like you.

The Best Tools for Mobile Game Development

Unity

“It’s pretty much half of all games period. We have different market shares, depending on the platform. But more than half of all mobile games built for there are built in Unity. More than 60 to 70 percent — depending on the platform — of everything built for machines for virtual reality or augmented reality or any of the XR platforms are built in Unity,” — John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies

As stated by Unity CEO John Riccitiello, 60-70% of games available on mobile app stores are built using Unity (previously known as Unity 3d). Unity has long been the choice of mobile game and app developers especially for 2D games due to its features and functionalities optimized for mobile game development.

The Unity engine is free to use until game developers make a certain profit from their game on app stores. Additionally, Unity supports cross-platform game integration. Developers can publish their games across multiple devices using Unity without writing separate codes for different systems like iOS (iPhone and iPad operating system) , and Windows (PC and majority of tablets).

Key Unity Features:

  • Cross-platform game integration
  • Diverse asset library
  • High-quality animation and graphics
  • OpenGL API support
  • Supports Windows, gaming consoles, AR or VR technology, iOS, and Android

Some Popular Mobile Games Developed on Unity:

  • Monument Valley
  • Temple Run
  • Crossy Road

Unreal Engine

When it comes to 3D rendition that is near-identical to real-life objects, Unreal is the expert. Unreal Engine is another versatile game development platform that is widely used for large-scale video games and immersive mobile games.

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine excels at delivering top-quality graphics and realistic, immersive game experience. Features such as the Lumen and Nanite technology make for the best tools in developing live games. This game engine offers some of the most advanced functions for game developers to avail for free.

Key Unreal Engine Features:

  • High-fidelity graphics
  • Flexible language support like C++
  • Lumen technology for live, real-time lighting in games
  • Nanite technology for efficient control and depth-perception of backgrounds
  • Asset store with free photorealistic assets, educational tutorials, and powerful plugins

Some Popular Mobile Games Built on Unreal Engine:

  • Hello Neighbor
  • Darkness Rises

Cry Engine

Cry Engine is a life-saver for game developers with limited coding know-how but have an eye for fine detail and animation. This game engine from Crytek is a strong contender for delivering games with photorealistic visuals. Cry Engine supports 2D and 3D games but shines the most in building first-person shooter games.

Key Cry Engine Features:

  • Virtual reality technology support
  • Cross-platform game integration
  • 3D skeletal animation
  • Drag-and-drop programming
  • Depth of field for realistic simulation of environments

Some Popular Mobile Games Built on Cry Engine:

  • Far Cry
  • Hunt: Showdown

Amazon Lumberyard

eCommerce celebrity Amazon delved into game development with Amazon Lumberyard, a royalty-free game engine based on Cry Engine. Amazon bought the license from Crytek in 2015. Come 2016, Amazon launched Amazon Lumberyard, with full integration with Amazon Web Services and online video streaming platform Twitch.

Amazon Lumberyard was a suitable engine for big industry game titles. Today, Amazon Lumberyard is replaced by its successor Open 3D Engine, an open-source engine managed by the Linux Foundation.

Key Amazon Lumberyard Features:

  • Royalty-free software
  • AWS integration for cloud-based mobile gaming
  • Twitch support
  • Compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

Android vs iOS Mobile Game Development: What Are the Differences?

As a mobile game developer, you have to know which mobile operating system is the best to work with. Fortunately, the best game engines we listed above support mobile game development for multiple platforms.

You may want to explore developing mobile games for both Android and iOS to increase revenue growth and improve brand awareness. Mobile games are among the top-performing applications on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store, but what exactly are the statistical figures?

iOS vs Android: Number of Users

In 2021, Apple contributed to 15% of global smartphone sales. Active iOS devices constitute over 33% of active mobile devices in the United States alone.

On the other hand, Google revealed that there are more than three billion active Android devices at present. Android holds approximately 70% of the market share in mobile phone operating systems globally.

iOS vs Android: Number of Apps Available for Download

Apple announced earlier this year that the Apple App Store is now home to around two million apps. Of the two million, it is estimated that well over 288,000 apps fall under the games category. Mobile games account for 25% of app downloads in the App Store.

Meanwhile, Google Play Store offered Android users a wide and varied selection of 3.48 million apps. Google Play Store features the biggest collection of apps available with 449,000 categorized as mobile games. Finally, mobile games accounted for 11.8 billion downloads from Google Play. It must be noted that the number of available apps gradually changes because Google actively lists off low-quality applications.

Why Mobile Game Development With Unity is Brimming With Opportunities

You may not consider it, but a good number of your target audience is plugged into mobile games. From a marketer’s perspective, this moment is ripe for marketing strategies that are bound to produce high returns. The mobile gaming industry is responsible for 50% of the total user-acquisition ad spend. eCommerce only comes in second place with 16%.

Meanwhile, a game developer may consider that the mobile gaming community is easier to reach and entice with upcoming games. Mobile game players are more likely to play again and contribute to in-app purchases. A good 57% of the total gaming revenue comes from mobile gaming. Not to mention, game developers earn a hefty salary as their experience diversifies in the field. Game developers earn an average of US$101,644 per year, depending on the position and tasks they pick up.

Unity is also an excellent game engine to set your foundation in mobile game development. The popularity of the game engine entails a rich collection of educational resources for you to refer and apply in your project.

Outside of Unity’s asset archive, a huge community of Unity game developers welcomes you with the latest news, updates, and tutorials in maximizing the potential of Unity. The XR Circuit Stream Slack Community, for instance, is a collective of industry experts and optimistic students learning and growing together with the Unity game engine.

Unity features a simple user interface that best fits either experts or game and app developers that are just getting started. Unreal Engine comes in a close second, but the learning curve is much steeper with the C++ language.

Here are some examples of mobile games developed with Unity and the success they garnered since their release:

Pokemon GO

Release date: July 6, 2016

Number of downloads since release: more than 500 million downloads

Available on: Apple App Store, Samsung Galaxy Store, and Google Play Store

Pokemon GO is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game that allows players to catch virtual monsters, hunt for loot, and participate in battle matches found around physical locations. It revolutionized the way the world perceives augmented reality, inspiring the exploration of mixed technologies in gaming, productivity, and other forms of entertainment.

Super Mario Run

Release date: December 15, 2016

Number of downloads since release: Over 25 million downloads

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Unity has long been regarded as the top choice of game engines for mobile game development. Before the rise of dramatic storylines and immersive live game updates, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run was already dominating mobile app stores. The classic single-player platformer game boasts a one-handed gameplay approach in the revamped world of Mario.

Alto’s Adventure

Release date: February 19, 2015

Number of downloads since release: N/A

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Alto’s Adventure is among the best showcases for the graphics quality of the Unity game engine. This endless snowboarding journey of Alto brings players on an adventure filled with breathtaking game design and stimulating adventure.

Interested in Becoming a Unity Developer?

Unity promises more than just mobile game app development. Production, graphic design, and filmmaking are some other functions that place Unity at the top of the game development industry. Join thousands of individuals embarking on their journey to become fully-fledged Unity developers today! Request for a copy of the Unity Developer Bootcamp Syllabus here.

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Dejan Gajsek

Content Marketing Manager

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