Pre-Production: A Journey Through the Discovery Stage

TL; DR – The pre-production stage of mobile game development is a critical phase that lays the foundation for a successful project. We explore the key elements involved in the pre-production stage, including concept ideation, creating a game design document, team formation, tech requirements, and budget, highlighting the importance of meticulous planning and preparation to create a solid roadmap for the development process. 


Mobile game development is an exciting and complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Pre-production is the first step of the development process and it is vital to the success of any game. Even the most experienced developers need to go through a comprehensive pre-production phase to ensure their projects run smoothly. 

During this phase you’ll define the vision for the game and lay out the groundwork for the rest of the development process. This includes setting the scope of the project, conducting market research, creating a game design document, and much more. 

More Than Just an Idea

So, you’ve got your million-dollar idea; what’s next? 

There are some important questions that need answering before you start this journey… 

  • Who is your target audience? 
  • What type of mobile games are most popular in the market?  
  • What platforms do mobile gamers prefer to play on? 
  • What are the key features and mechanics that will make this game unique? 
  • Who are your competitors and what do they do well?  

The market research phase of pre-production is essential for the game launch to be effective. It involves analyzing the target market and competitors to determine the best possible game design and monetization model.  

In his book, Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design, Scott Rogers says, “Gamers can feel when developers are passionate about their games. They can smell it like a dog smells fear. Don’t be afraid to hold onto your unique vision: just be aware that it may not turn out exactly how you envisioned.” 

Both flexibility and tenacity are needed to reach your goals. By understanding the current trends, you can create a game that appeals to your target audience and has the potential to be successful. With a solid plan and the right resources, you can bring your million-dollar idea to life. 

Make a Plan: The GDD

Once you have researched and confirmed the viability of your idea in the current market, you should create a game design document (GDD) that outlines the concept and provides a detailed plan for its execution. It should be comprehensive enough that anyone can pick it up and understand the game’s vision, even if they don’t have any prior knowledge of the game. 

The plan should include: 


A well-crafted GDD allows for precise execution and a high-quality end product. Mobile games are often developed with limited resources, so it’s essential to ensure that the team is on the same page and knows exactly what needs to be done. A GDD helps keep everyone organized and focused on the same goal. When the plan is complete, you can start putting the pieces together to create a playable game. 

A Closer Look at the Mobile Game Development Team

You’ve done your research and made a plan. Now, it’s time to assemble a team. Depending on the type and scope of your game, you may have anywhere from 2 to 200 people collaborating. At this stage, for full-cycle mobile game development, the team will include a project manager, a software engineer, a designer, an art director, and possibly UI/UX designers.  


“An idea is only as strong as the team behind it.” – Unknown

Project Manager: The project manager is responsible for managing the entire development project. This includes overseeing the development team, setting goals and timelines, tracking progress and performance, ensuring the project meets quality standards, and coordinating with other departments and customer representatives. They are also responsible for ensuring the development process is efficient and effective, and the project is delivered on time and on budget.  

Software Engineer: Sometimes called a “solution architect” or “Software Developer”, depending on the size of an organization and range of responsibilities. This person is often tasked with defining the technical architecture of the game along with a team. This includes planning the overall infrastructure base, developing the system design, creating the system architecture (including software, hardware and networking components), designing the databases, designing the user interfaces and creating the development environment. 

Game Designer: The designer is responsible for creating the game design document, which outlines the game’s core mechanics, storyline, levels, and other elements. During the pre-production phase they will work closely with the development team to ensure the game mechanics, levels, and other elements are implemented correctly. They will also provide feedback and recommendations to ensure the game is engaging and fun for the target audience. 

Art Director: The art director is responsible for creating all visual elements. This includes concept art, animation, and 3D models. During this phase, they help clarify the art style based on the client’s vision, product requests, and technical limitations. They will also oversee the development of art assets, create a style guide, and ensure that the game looks and feels cohesive.  

UI/UX Designers: UI/UX Designers are responsible for designing user interfaces and experiences that are intuitive, effective, and engaging. During this phase they will create wireframes, prototypes, and visuals to illustrate the game’s user interface and experience. They will also provide feedback and recommendations to the development team to ensure the user experience is optimized for the target audience. 

Team members should have a shared passion for the project and be willing to collaborate and problem solve together. Professionals from other fields such as marketing, sound, and analytics may need to be brought in. Effective communication is essential for the project to come to fruition. 

Let’s Talk About Money

Unless you’re a one-man operation with a passion project, chances are you want some return on this investment. So, how DO you make money with mobile games? 

There are many ways to monetize video games, and with so many innovative minds in the industry, developers are always trying new strategies. Some popular ways to monetize include: 

  • In-app purchases: also known as IAPs, users purchase virtual items or incentives within the game (i.e., power-ups, additional levels, or special features).  
  • In-app Ads: this includes displaying banner ads or offering players rewards for watching videos. 
  • Subscription models: this involves users paying a recurring fee to access the game. 
  • Paid games: users pay a one-time fee to download and play.

Ultimately, the best way to monetize your game depends on the genre and your target audience. Many developers choose a hybrid model, utilizing several strategies in one game. User experience and continued engagement should be a top priority when deciding which monetization strategy to use; it should never be at the expense of the game’s overall quality. 

Budget Breakdown

When it comes to budgeting for mobile game development, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on your game’s scope and complexity, the budget can range from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars.  

Once you’ve determined your game’s scope and requirements, you can begin to create a budget. Start by breaking down the development process into its individual components, such as art, programming, sound, and level design. For each component, you’ll need to research the cost of development, as well as any additional costs such as software licenses, hardware, and storage.   

When creating your budget, you’ll also need to consider the platforms you’ll be developing for, the tech stack needed, and costs such as advertising or marketing.  

Finally, make sure you plan for potential unforeseen costs. You never know what could come up during the development process, so it’s important to have a contingency plan in place.   

No matter what your budget is, remember that mobile game development is a long-term investment, and you should plan accordingly. With careful planning and research, you can ensure that your budget is realistic and appropriate for the scope of your game. 

Choosing the Right Tech Stack

The best tech stack for your game will depend on your specific needs, so it’s important to do your research and make the best choice for your project. When selecting a technology stack, consider factors such as performance, scalability, cost, and ease of development. This will ensure your game is supported as it grows in popularity, providing a smooth and enjoyable user experience. 

First you should determine which platform you’ll be releasing your mobile game on. If you’re developing for iOS, you’ll need to use Apple’s technologies such as Objective-C or Swift. If you’re developing for Android, you’ll need to use Google’s technologies such as Java or Kotlin. Although a game can be changed to fit a different platform later, it could save you time and money in the long run if you develop a cross-platform game from the start. 

Next, you’ll need to decide which engine is best for your project. Popular choices include Unity, Unreal Engine, Cocos2D, and HTML5. Each of these has its own benefits and drawbacks. 

  • Unity is a popular choice as it is easy to learn and use, has exceptional performance, and is highly scalable. It is relatively cost-effective, and you can pay on a monthly basis.  
  • Unreal Engine is powerful and highly customizable and is another popular choice for development. Unreal has a 5% revenue share after your revenue exceeds US$1MM.  
  • Cocos2D is a great choice for 2D mobile game development; it’s easy to learn and use and is very cost-effective.  
  • HTML5 is a smart choice for web-based development, as it is highly customizable and easy to use. 

Choosing the right tech stack can be a daunting task. However, if you take the time to research each technology and understand its strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that will ensure your game is successful and is built with expansion and future support in mind. 

Cloud Services: Are They Worth It?

When it comes to developing a mobile game, cloud services can be a great option for developers. With the right cloud provider, you can get access to powerful tools, infrastructure, and data that would otherwise be difficult or expensive to obtain on your own.   

There are plenty of benefits to using cloud services for mobile game development. Here are some of the most notable:  

  • Cost savings: Cloud services can help you save money on infrastructure costs. For example, you don’t have to purchase expensive hardware or software in order to run your game. Instead, you can rent the computing power you need for much less.  
  • Scalability: Cloud services allow you to scale up or down as your game grows. This means you can easily increase or decrease the amount of computing power and storage you use depending on your needs.  
  • Flexibility: Cloud services offer you the flexibility to deploy your game on different platforms. This means you can easily make it available on iOS, Android, and other devices.  
  • Security: Cloud services provide a secure environment for your game data. This means you don’t have to worry about data breaches or other security issues. 

Now let’s explore some of the most popular cloud providers for mobile game development, all of which provide storage, analytics, and machine learning services: 


  • Amazon Web Services (AWS): AWS is the biggest player of the 3 major cloud hyperscalers. AWS GameTech is the AWS team dedicated to making gaming customers successful. AWS is a comprehensive platform that offers a wide variety of cloud services, including computing, database, application services, deployment, management, developer tools, and more.  
  • Microsoft Azure: Azure is the second largest hyperscaler and brings a lot of “ecosystem” value to Office 365 customers. Azure also has deep gaming roots from Xbox and all of MSFT’s gaming studios. Azure also has a team dedicated to gaming. Azure is a great option for game developers who want to take advantage of the latest technologies. Unique benefits of Azure include its ability to integrate with existing systems and its flexible pricing structure.  
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP): Google offers a powerful cloud platform for managing large amounts of data with exceptional performance and security.  
  • IBM Cloud: This is a reliable cloud platform with AI and analytics capabilities and provides simple integration with other IBM products. 
  • Oracle Cloud: Oracle Cloud offers a comprehensive suite of cloud services, including infrastructure, platform, applications, scalability, and its ability to integrate with existing Oracle applications. 

Cloud services are a great choice for developers. They can help you save money on infrastructure costs, scale up or down as your game grows, and deploy your game on different platforms. Plus, they provide a secure environment for your data.   

When choosing a cloud provider for your mobile game development, you may find it helpful to consult with Innovecs Cloud professionals; our team can analyze the unique set of services and features offered to ensure a fun and enjoyable gaming experience for your players. 

Creating an Aesthetic

Arguably one of the most enjoyable parts of pre-production is defining the game’s visual and artistic style. It is through the art style that players will form an emotional connection to the game and be motivated to play it. A well-defined art style is key to the success of a mobile game and can help distinguish it from the competition. 

The art-style definition phase begins with concept art. During this stage, designers will create sketches, paintings, or 3D models that establish the game’s visual direction. Concept art helps to give an initial visual representation of what the game will look like, providing a framework for the design decisions that will be made throughout the development process. 

Once the concept art is finalized, the next step is to create the user interface. During this stage, the art team will work with the design team to create menus, buttons, and other interactive elements. The art team will also create assets such as icons, logos, and backgrounds that will be used throughout the game. 

The final step in the art-style definition phase is to create the game’s aesthetic. This includes selecting colors, fonts, and textures that will be used throughout the game. The art team will also create character and environment assets. This is a crucial step as it ensures that the game’s visuals are cohesive and create a unified experience for the player. 

Requirements for Graphics

When it comes to graphics for mobile game development pre-production, there are a few requirements you should keep in mind. 

  1. Resolution: Your graphics should be designed for a variety of device resolutions, from low-end phones to high-end tablets.
  2. File size: Graphics should have a small file size to ensure a smooth playing experience for users.
  3. Optimization: Graphics should be optimized for mobile devices, such as by using textures with a low memory footprint.
  4. Polygon budget: The number of three-dimensional shapes that can be used in a game is typically determined by the game’s target platform. 
  5. Visual appeal: Graphics should be visually appealing and fit with the overall art style.

 By following these requirements, you’ll be able to create high-quality, memorable graphics that complement the game’s core mechanics.  

Setting the Foundation for a Successful Mobile Game

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the pre-production phase. This necessary step in the development process provides a roadmap and foundation for what’s to come, and ensures that the game is well-structured, engaging, and most importantly, fun.   

By the end of this process, you should have a comprehensive game design document, a core team, and a detailed analysis of the market. You’ll also select a monetization strategy, a platform, and a tech stack, agree on budgeting and scheduling, and define the game’s visual and artistic style. 

While pre-production can be a lengthy process, it’s vital to ensure that your game stands out from the crowd and provides players with a one-of-a-kind experience, The competition in the mobile game market is tough, and only those who take pre-production seriously and approach it with the utmost attention to detail increase their likelihood of success dramatically! 

Jordan Dyer,
Gaming Writer
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