Cross-Platform Game Development: What You Need and How It Works

April 26, 2022

A game’s commercial success depends on a variety of reasons. Among them is whether your title is engaging and catching enough to make users return and continue playing. The gameplay should be a reason to buy or download the game, too.

But one of the most important factors of game popularity, leading to successful monetization and high revenue, is availability. If you are aiming to release your game on many 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 constantly 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 really interested in how to reach more engaged players, succeed in the gaming industry, and gain more 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 have designed a game that’s compatible with one or two platforms and succeeded greatly, but they still need a long time to adapt it to the 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.

And the mainstream gaming solution is to meet players’ expectations 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.

“I’m playing with my friends the same engaging game with no need to worry about which devices each of us has got,” Corey Davis, co-studio head of Psyonix, specified the idea in his talk for Epic Games blog. He continues: “Cross-play has a direct and meaningful impact on matchmaking speed and quality for online games.”

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 are matching numerous operating systems, screen sizes, and power capabilities of the devices with the users’ expectations to play on a variety of platforms.

Steve Peterson, CEO at StoryPHORCE Entertainment, said: “We think of a game platform first while developing the title. But still more reasonable to think of customers and how their usage of platforms is changing.”

A developer willing to create a cross-platform game faces a set of challenges we are going to speak about below. They vary depending on the game you are working on (e.g., console players do not tolerate poor game flow or high device load as well as playing an adventure meditative game on a desktop demands smooth gameplay).

No matter whether you’re working with a pre-developed build of your project partner or designing an initial build, among the “must-do” issues are the following:

  • Learning more about the desired game performance
  • Outlining the possible bottlenecks
  • Prioritizing the order of certain 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 later while testing. You can miss something important concerning FPS, game thread, CPU, and GPU load if you do not apply a systematic approach to game performance analysis.

Under-developing a cross-platform game, the team usually faces a lot of repetitive monotonous tasks of finding performance/visual quality balance (e.g. to satisfy the owners of each console type) as well as manual tests and code reviews. To find and move away from all the unnecessary content loading CPU and GPU takes a lot of time. But as a result, you obtain odds detection to improve game performance.

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

Benefits of a Cross-Platform Game Design

Once you’ve faced a lot of challenges but are still ready to overcome them, it will lead to the release of a cross-platform title with manybenefits:

  • 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 smooth.
  • 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 can continue this list of advantages, but one thing is obvious: a cross-platform game can have cross-play, which has a powerful impact on matchmaking speed and online games’ quality. And these features grant engaging gameplay to the users, making them interact with no need to think about who has which device or console.

So, by developing a cross-platform game, you have a chance to unite gamers together and make them committed much to the game playing, hence, 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 and quicker reach to the target audience: 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 players 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 deal with Unreal Engine, you may need some setup: separately install 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 can, of course, talk about other engines with nice features for cross-platform game development. In this article, they are just for understanding that a cross-platform title may take more time to design, but at the same time, perfect out-of-the-box tools come in handy for the developers:

  • CryEngine, with its stunning, ready-made visuals.
  • GameMaker Studio is described as an extremely user-friendly tool with the possibility of creating customized game elements.
  • LibGDX is 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. But surely, 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, leading your titles to quicker and more powerful monetization.

Video: Is your game cross-platform ready?

Conclusion: Cross-Platform Game Is a Smart Technical Choice

Everybody wants a piece of the video game market (e.g. Tencent or 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: Pokemon Go (Unity engine) or Fortnite (made with Unreal Engine).

In spite of the fact that while developing cross-platform games, the team may face a lot of challenges such as game performance evaluation, desired benchmarks outlining concerning FPS, GPU, and CPU load, as well as a smooth engaging experience for the players on any platform. But surely, after spending time and effort on namely cross-platform title design, they are to gain a lot of benefits in comparison with titles for a single platform.

If, after reading the article, you’re interested in cross-platform game development, but still you 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 measurements tools will assist better in systematic game performance evaluation

You are welcome to contact Innovecs because we cover all the aspects of cross-platform game development. And, moreover, we have gained 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.