To call the modern mobile gaming market a juggernaut would be a massive understatement. It had a total market size of $118.34 billion in 2022 and is estimated to surpass $138.63 billion in 2023.
With over 6.8 billion potential users, many want a piece of this handheld gaming pie. But, where do you start? How can you make and publish a game app for mobile devices/smartphones?
Join us as we walk you through the complete process of entering the mobile gaming market. Including everything from crafting ideas for your game to keeping it updated in the long run.
Let’s get started.
Conceptualizing Your Game App
The first step of the mobile game-making process, draft a complete concept of your game. Here’s how:
Identifying your target audience
Think about your potential player base and choose a demographic for your game app. For example, are you making a game for casual mobile gamers who enjoy match-three puzzles like Candy Crush? Online casino gamers, who enjoy playing slots on their phone? Or are you aiming to attract a more hardcore audience of people who love PUBG Mobile.
Choosing a genre and game mechanics
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Choose the type of game you’re going to make, i.e. platformer, puzzle, online RPG, first-person shooter, etc.
Creating a game design document
Take part in a brainstorming session with your designers and compile your top ideas in the game design document. It should contain details like worldbuilding, key mechanics, level layouts, and character profiles.
Building Your Game App
Once you’re done with the concepts, it’s time to turn your vision into a real, functioning game app. The steps you need to take to build your game include:
Choosing a game engine
The first step is choosing a game engine that supports mobile game development. For most handheld games, Unity is a fantastic, feature-rich option. Its quality is evident from the fact that — according to a 2022 report — there are over 750,000 games based on Unity available on mobile app stores.
Alternatively, engines like Soba and Gdevelop allow you to make mobile games without having to code a single line. Plus there are also genre-specific game engines such as GameMaker Studio 2 for 2D platformers and Struckd for fully 3D games.
Hiring a development team
If you know how to use a mobile-compatible game engine, you can certainly make a complete mobile game on your own. But, even the simplest game can take a very long time from start to finish. So, if you’re looking to enter the mobile game business on a commercial scale, hiring a pro development team is your best option.
Creating assets and coding game mechanics
Once you begin the actual development process, start by creating the assets for your game. These include things like your game’s world, characters, and even the HUD elements.
The next step is to use programming languages — like C# for Unity — to program the code mechanics of your game. For example, let’s say you’re developing a simple game about gaining points by clicking a button. In this instance, you’ll have to code this direct interaction between the button and the score counter.
Logic integration and controls implementing
The final step is to combine the assets and the code logic to make your game playable. As for controls, you can either create on-screen buttons tied to a specific in-game action or go with touch controls.
Fortunately, most mobile game engines offer existing code libraries that let you define actions for touch gestures such as taps or swipes. You can also include external controller support with libraries like Paddleboat.
Optimizing Your Game App
Before you even think about publishing your game app, make sure that it’s actually stable. Playtest the game yourself or hire professional playtesters. Compile feedback on bugs and glitches and ensure their removal.
Another important thing to keep in mind is your game’s performance. Only a fraction of your potential player base owns the most powerful latest smartphones. So try to aim for good performance on more average devices like Samsung A Series.
You can also use tricks — like automatically lowering texture quality on low-powered mobile devices — to keep the game’s performance consistent across the board.
Preparing for Release
Your game is ready now and you’re ready to release it to the world. Here’s how you can prepare for its launch:
Creating your app store listing
Go through the Google Play Store or Apple App Store terms of service and ensure that your game follows all of them. Then sign up for developer accounts on these platforms and create listings for your game.
Creating marketing materials
Create a marketing strategy for your game. This includes everything from social media ads to the preview images on your game’s app store page. Pay especially close attention to your game’s icon as it’s often the first thing a new user sees about your game.
Creating a monetization plan
Think about how you’ll earn money from your game. Popular options include making the game paid instead of publishing it for free, adding microtransactions, and integrating ads with services like AdSense.
Launching Your Game App
After the preparations are complete, upload your game to the app stores and wait for the approval. If there are no issues, your game app should be up and running in about seven days.
Next, it’s time to promote your game.
Reports indicate that more than 3,700 apps are added to the Play Store daily. So, you need to market your game to make it stand out and get popular.
An effective modern way of garnering attention is to create 10-15 second long video ads for online social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
You can also set up social media accounts for your game to reach the potential player base directly.
Maintaining Your Game App
You uploaded the game, promoted it on social media, and it’s popular now. Congratulations, but your work isn’t done yet.
First, start adding new features and content to your game app. If you don’t, then players will likely lose interest and move on to a newer title. So, ensure that your game stays fresh with regular updates and expansions if you want to see long-term success.
Secondly, listen to player feedback on the app store’s review page and on social media. Content updates are also a good way to fix bugs that slipped your playtesting.
When looking at the current size of the mobile gaming market, it is easy to feel discouraged given the sheer amount of competition. But, the mobile gaming market is still growing and there is still plenty of room for new games to succeed.
Do note that careful planning and execution are essential for success in this highly competitive mobile gaming market. So, make sure you’re not skimping out on essential steps like bug fixing and playtesting.
In short, start by brainstorming an original concept, creating distinct art, and implementing the game mechanics correctly. Then polish your game and publish it online with plenty of marketing and promotional material to attract potential players.