Seven Steps to Building a Mobile Gaming App

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Mobile gaming is a huge global industry and growing rapidly. In 2019, approximately 50% of all time spent online was spent using a smartphone, and the amount of time people are expected to spend using mobile devices is forecast to reach an average of 234 minutes in 2021. As of 2018, mobile gaming commanded more than half of all gaming revenue worldwide.

There are many reasons why people spend time on their phones – social media, shopping, reading the news – but by far one of the most popular pastimes is gaming. Mobile gaming revenue was on track to reach almost $77 billion in 2020, which is more than the film and music industries combined. Over the course of 2021, experts predict that the total number of mobile gamers worldwide will reach 2.7 billion.

With so many people turning to their phones for gaming and entertainment, the market is wide open for new game designers. Multi-players gaming apps, in particular, are in high demand, as people are increasingly relying on technology to communicate and socialise with one another. However, there is demand for all genres of games provided they are well-made and engaging.

1: Ideation

The first and, some might argue, the most vital step in creating a successful gaming app is coming up with the right idea. The premise for a new game does not have to be entirely unique. Many of the most successful gaming apps are those that have given an existing idea a new and exciting twist.

Good gaming ideas are those that appeal to the target audience in a way they may never have encountered before, but often containing elements of gameplay that they have already experienced and know they will enjoy. While many people are looking for quick, simple games, sometimes, the best ideas can take a lot of time. Take Among Us for example, in the multiplayer game, you work together to find out who the liar in the group is, while that player pulls out all the stops to remain undetected, as if the game didn’t have enough layers to it, it’s set in space.

2: Researching the Market

A good starting point for researching the market is exploring which games are currently performing well and looking at the aspects of those games that have the broadest appeal. Embedding similar styles of gameplay to the most popular apps can help ensure the target audience will want to give the new game a try.

The new Made to Play app from 888 poker has been designed to appeal specifically to mobile users who want a fast, responsive experience with first-rate technology, designed based on player feedback to deliver exactly what the target audience wants. This includes being able to hold your phone vertically so the table looks better. The app has been designed with recreational players in mind, rather than serious players, known as ‘sharks’, this adds to the appeal as players don’t feel like they need to be experts before they download and get involved. The fun features also suggest it’s aimed at a wider audience, players can give themselves avatars, while they have the ability to throw things at their opponent’s mid-game.

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3: Choosing a Game Engine

Making a gaming app requires a game engine. There are several different types available, ranging from basic template-based software to visual scripting and coding. Using coding allows the game developer the highest level of freedom but is not the easiest thing to learn. Visual scripting involves creating nodes in a diagram to represent the actions characters will take without needing to learn code. Drag and drop software is the most used by beginners as it allows more freedom than using a template but is relatively simple to master.

Of course, your choice of the game engine is likely to be determined by how complex the game itself is. For something like Candy Crush, the drag and drop software is ideal, but if you’re planning on developing something more like Call of Duty, you’re going to have to have expert knowledge!

4: Creating a Design

Creating a design for a gaming app is more complex than simply drawing some pictures. The design of the game encompasses every aspect of the story, the characters and the world they live in. Take The Battle of Polytopia for example, although the design is fairly simplistic, players feel in control as they expand their territory, fight enemies, and ultimately build an empire. The creators of this game may have considered a more complex design, but would that detract from the strategic side of the game? There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to game design. It can be 2D, 3D, colourful, muted, bold, pastel – what is important is that all aspects of the design work together.

5: Identifying the Platform

Some apps are designed to work across multiple platforms. However, for novice game designers, working with one platform to begin with will probably be complicated enough. Choosing the right platform can help ensure the game goes out to as many people in the target demographic as possible. Whether it is Windows, iOS, Android or Blackberry, developers try to choose the platform that will target the audience most likely to spend money on the game. Developers should ensure they understand the app store they will be targeting to make sure the finished game app will be accepted.

6: Identifying a Monetization Strategy

The aim of developing a mobile gaming app is to make a profit from it. There are multiple ways in which developers monetize their ideas, most of which are slightly more complex than simply charging people to buy the game. There are millions of games for people to choose from, so most developers offer an incentive. This might be a freemium model. The creators of Candy Crush have made a fortune through adopting the freemium model, the game is undoubtedly fun if you’re playing for free, but to get the most out of it, players feel as though they need to spend money on the game in order to advance at a good pace. It could be through introducing advertising content, or it could involve offering a free demo to encourage the purchase of the full game.

7: Technology

There are three main categories of development processes for designing a gaming app. HTML5 works well for cross-platform development as it uses an approach of “write once, run anywhere”. It is a good option for minigames but there are limitations that may make it unsuitable for creating larger content. Native development is specific to the chosen platform and uses language designed for that platform. It offers higher performance within the platform and a broader scope of functions than HTML5. Hybrid technology brings together the benefits of both into a single design tool. The key aspect is testing thoroughly at every stage of development across all playable devices.