Cross-Platform Game Development: Benefits vs Costs

One of the most important elements of game popularity, leading to successful monetization and high revenue, is availability. If you plan to release your game on multiple devices and platforms, you should learn how to create a cross-platform game. 

A game’s commercial success depends on a variety of factors. Among them is whether your title is engaging and catchy enough to make users return and continue playing. Enjoyable gameplay should encourage your audience to buy or download the game. 

However, one of the most important elements of game popularity, leading to successful monetization and high revenue, is availability. If you plan to release your game on multiple devices and platforms, you should learn how to create a cross-platform game. 

Being involved in the game development process, one should consider the following statistics: 

  • 87% of multiplayer gamers are consistently seeking more cross-platform titles to play. 
  • 43% of players wish for more cross-platform game options. 
  • Taking your game cross-platform can increase revenue by 20% to 40% (VB Live). 

So, if you are interested in learning how to reach more engaged players, succeed in the gaming industry, and increase profits, we’ll shed some light on how to develop cross-platform games, what challenges you may come across, and which cross-platform game development services are helpful. 

Why Start with Cross-Platform Game Development?

Experienced developers usually know about the following “trap” in game development: they start with a game that’s compatible with one or two platforms and have great success, only to find out that they still need a long time to adapt it to new platforms. 

The mobile game segment is fast-growing. Players downloaded 82.98 billion mobile games in 2021. SensorTower, a provider of the app’s marketplace performance monitoring, calculated in its whitepaper “Mobile Market Forecast” (2021 – 2025) that 71% of Google Play’s revenue would come from mobile games by 2025. 

The mainstream gaming solution to meet players’ expectations is to have access to their favorite mobile games on PC or console as well as vice versa. Creating a cross-platform game takes longer, but it prevents you from spending too much time and effort after game release to make it available on multiple platforms. 

Game monetization is dependent on the users’ engagement level and readiness to make in-game purchases, which is connected to a social phenomenon of being committed to a group of players. 

Corey Davis, co-studio head at Psyonix stresses the importance of availability, “Cross-play has a direct and meaningful impact on matchmaking speed and quality for online games,” He continues, “And it’s so much easier to play with friends when you don’t have to worry about who owns what device or console.” 

How to Develop a Cross-Platform Game?

Developing a single game for many platforms seems to be an efficient solution to reach a vast audience. Programmers match numerous operating systems, screen sizes, and power capabilities of devices to fulfill the users’ expectations to play on a variety of platforms. 

Steve Peterson, CEO at StoryPHORCE Entertainment said, “We think of things as a platform first, but really we have to think of the customers and how their usage of platforms is changing.”

A developer willing to create a cross-platform game faces a specific set of challenges that vary depending on the game you are working on. Whether you’re working with a pre-developed build or designing an original build, there are a few “must-do” issues to attend to:

  • Learn about the desired game performance
  • Outline the possible bottlenecks
  • Prioritize the order of optimization tasks

Main Challenges in Releasing a Cross-Platform Game

Developing a cross-platform game without proper analysis of game performance can lead to time wasted while testing. You may miss something important concerning FPS, game thread, CPU, and GPU load if you do not apply a systematic approach to game performance analysis. 

While developing a cross-platform game your team usually faces a lot of repetitive, monotonous tasks like fulfilling performance/visual quality balance (e.g. to satisfy the owners of each console type) as well as manual tests and code reviews. This helps to move away from unnecessary content loading (CPU and GPU can be time consuming), but as a result, you obtain odds detection to improve game performance. 

Thus, for example, due to proper testing, you find an infinite looped actor spawn or an unnecessary amount of meshes leading to the PC or console freezes. 

Benefits of Cross-Platform Game Design

When you and your team have overcome these challenges, you’ll be ready to release a cross-platform title with many benefits:

  • The developers’ team has no need to establish separate and specific codebases for each platform.
  • A unified single codebase makes the gameplay more stable and smoother.
  • You reach more players with the new title.
  • Users are grateful that they buy one title and are granted access to many other platforms.
  • A vast reach to the target audience contributes greatly to efficient monetization.
  • It’s easier to issue updates with no need to make changes in a lot of codebases.

We could continue this list of advantages, but one thing is obvious: a cross-platform game offers cross-play, which has a powerful impact on matchmaking speed and online game quality. These features grant engaging gameplay to users and social interaction with no need to think about who has which device or console.

By developing a cross-platform game you have a chance to unite gamers, easing game promotion and monetization.

Popular Cross-Platform Game Development Engines

Cross-platform game engines have the following benefits, proving that cross-platform game development is a reasonable endeavor:

  • They provide a single code base with no need to establish specific code for each platform.
  • Quicker upgrade: one change leads to an upgrade throughout all platforms.
  • Wide target audience reach: a player buys a single title and obtains access to the rest of the device’s gameplay.
  • Faster promotion: the cross-platform game covers a variety of player segments;
  • Better profitability via a reach to the users playing on different OS and devices (it increases the retention rates of the players).

CB Insights reported Unity and Unreal engines as those “providing everything a developer needs to design the next big cross-platform title (mobile, PC, or console game).”

Unity provides an efficient visual Blueprint tool for coders to create visual game elements compatible with a variety of platforms. This is a nice solution for those who are not willing to dive deeply into C++ code.

Moreover, Unity delivers a lot of 2D-ready elements optimized for mobile development. Once you installed the engine, you simply choose targeted platforms, and the required SDKs are downloaded automatically.

Unreal Engine is also an option.

To use Unreal Engine, you may need some setup, like separately installing SDKs for each intended platform.

Unreal and Unity game engines deliver efficient environments and tools for the development of mobile, console, AR/VR, and PC games. Developers can find many plugins for cross-platform game development on their marketplace or GitHub, including scripts, 2D/3D assets, animations, audio, and more.

We should also mention other engines with cool features for cross-platform game development. A cross-platform title may take more time to design, and ready-to-use tools come in handy for developers:

  • CryEngine – stunning, ready-made visuals.
  • GameMaker Studio – extremely user-friendly tools for creating customized game elements.
  • LibGDX – an open-source Java game development library.
  • Godot engine – a free option to generate 2D and 3D game development.

It may be hard to choose which engine will produce a game release perfectly matching your monetization and promotion strategy. Hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ve got a basic vision: cross-platform games demand more time for development, but less time for testing and upgrading, resulting in quicker and more powerful monetization.

Video: Is your game cross-platform ready?

Cross-Platform Game Dev is a Smart Technical Choice

Everybody wants a piece of the video game market, Tencent and Activision Blizzard or hardware incumbents like Sony (PlayStation) and Microsoft (Xbox).

Unity and Unreal engines provide powerful digital infrastructure for a variety of the world’s popular games, e.g., Pokemon Go (Unity engine) and Fortnite (Unreal Engine).

Developing cross-platform games creates unique challenges such as game performance evaluation and desired benchmarks outlining concerning FPS, GPU, and CPU load. However, as you can see, spending more time on a cross-platform title design is worth the extra effort.

If you’re interested in cross-platform game development, but still have a variety of questions concerning:

  • Which platforms to consider for wider title spread and better monetization
  • Which engine to choose for smoother code building and a more efficient QA testing process
  • Which measurement tools will assist with systematic game performance evaluation

We invite you to contact Innovecs. We cover all aspects of cross-platform game development. Additionally, we have more than ten years of hands-on experience delivering award-winning cross-platform titles worldwide.

If you need assistance in building a product from scratch or supporting the existing one, drop us a line to discuss details, and we will reply within 24 hours.