Game porting becomes one of the most popular services provided on the game development market. But how much does it cost and why do companies spend money on that?
How much will it cost me to port a game to a different platform?
Game porting is the term used when a video game designed to run on one platform, be it an arcade, video game console, or personal computer, is converted to run on a different platform, perhaps with some minor differences. It now becomes one of the most popular services suggested by development companies. Why does it happen?
The situation in the gaming market has drastically changed due to the growth of technologies. Some dozens of years ago people used to play on their consoles, later on computers. But with the introduction of mobile gaming the range of users who prefer different platforms has increased. That is why the biggest gaming companies began thinking of porting their games and making them cross-platform.
For example, when Cory Barlog was interviewed by GameInformer about the launch of the PC version of God of War, he said that the wave of ports PS-exclusives to PC was possible because it was a collective of studios saying that porting was a very good idea. Sony first announced that it would start releasing exclusives from PlayStation to PC back in March 2020, starting with Horizon Zero Dawn. And it took two years to develop the God of War port, meaning that work on it began just as Sony announced it.
Eventually, the experience with the God of Wars was successful as later sony made a statement that they continue porting games to PCs. They even bought Nixxes Software, a studio that is engaged in PC-ports development. They were criticized for this decision by Play Station owners, but as a matter of fact found a new audience and new players.
Why to do game porting?
There is a peculiar joke in the game industry: if you want to make several times on one game, make a port. And no one can say that there is something unfair or bad in this approach, because in the end everyone wins: the company developers, and users on all platforms, and the platform manufacturers themselves.
A platform is not only devices of a certain manufacturer or operating system, it is, first of all, a user platform, a huge percentage of potential buyers.
For example, in the USA, Australia and Canada Android is less popular than iOS. The opposite is true in China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, India, Brazil and so on. Think about how huge this market is. You can not just double – triple your audience. According to IDC, Android dominates the smartphone market – 87.6% of smartphone sales are accounted for by devices with Google operating system, while Apple is content with a very modest 11.7%
Porting is done primarily to increase the game audience and improve functionality, to attract new users from new directions who prefer different gadgets. Porting will help in placing products in new storages and platforms. There are two basic types of porting:
1) Porting games and apps to different platforms: with this porting, you can port your games and apps to different platforms, such as from Android to iOS, Mac, Windows, browser-based online games to PC and vice versa. You can also port games from PC to consoles and vice versa.
2) Development technology porting: this type of porting means you can port your games and mobile apps to another engine using SDK, from HTML5 to Unity3D or Flash to HTML5 and from any game engine to another engine in every possible way.
How much does it cost to port a game?
This question is not asked very often, but it worries everyone. That is why the numbers are not so evident. The cost varies from project to project. Marmalade tried to count the budgets spent on porting the games to different platforms and here’s what they got:
They say that if you take a ‘standard app’ with an original development budget of $50,000 for iOS, the cost of recording on Android could be 60% of that amount, i.e. $30,000. If 30% of the 750,000 apps on the App Store are standard apps, and assuming that 1/5 of those apps need to be ported to Android and are written in Objective-C, then the total conversion rate for transcoding would exceed $1 billion. And that’s a price that is of no value to the end consumer.
Whether to port the game to different platforms or stick to one is the decision every developer should make for themselves. Nevertheless. The competition on the market is growing and even the biggest developers start to release cross-platform games to please their users.
Find out what game porting is and find out why cross-platform games are more popular.
Game Porting and cross-platform games
Cross-platforming is on the rise right now. More and more games are appearing that have this feature. Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Street Fighter are all different genres, differently implemented, but have cross-platform features to one degree or another. Games have historically been segmented by different platforms, but now with the growing popularity of cross-platform, the number of multiplayer games is also growing more and more. That is why a lot of developers started thinking about porting games to different platforms or creating them cross-platform from the start.
Why make the game cross-platform?
It’s great for players: they don’t have to choose which device to run the game on – you can play with your friends without worrying about whether they’re in the player database. For game developers, it’s beneficial as well, because the user base is no longer segmented across platforms – instead, you can organize one large pool of players and create a richer multiplayer experience with more complete game sessions
Creating a full-fledged cross-platform game is not that easy. Before making it you should consider a few things:
Choose a Concept
There are quite a few different concepts related to cross-platform, but let’s start by introducing the most necessary ones: cross-play, cross-progression and cross-buy.
Cross-Play is exactly what people think of when they hear about cross-platform gaming: combining users playing on different platforms into one multiplayer session. That is, when Xbox players can face off in a game alongside PlayStation or Steam players.
Cross-Progression (or Cross-Save, cross-save) refers to the ability to start playing on one platform, save your progress, and continue playing on another platform. This can be found in both single-player and multiplayer games.
Cross-Buy (or Cross-Commerce, cross-buy) is a purchase made on one platform and then appearing in your library on another. Its close relative is BOPA (Buy Once Play Anywhere), but we’ll talk more about that later.
Create your own online domain
When you release a game on different platforms, you get access to specific support services of each platform, and they are really handy. If you want to make a cross-platform game, unfortunately you can’t use most of these services because the stats on Steam, for example, don’t match the stats on Xbox or PlayStation. You have to have your own set of services: stats, identity systems, matchmaking, etc., that will tie together data from different platforms.
So, what do you need first of all?
An identity and account system;
An e-commerce system (especially if you’re going to monetize your game with in-app purchases);
Other mandatory services according to certification requirements.
For example, Xbox certification requires that you use the MPSD (multiplayer session directory), even if you have your own matchmaking system, because all the information you store in the MPSD, they later use to include Rich Presence in the Xbox Dashboard.
Learn more about your players. Let’s say your target player has:
Epic Store account;
How will the game know it’s the same person? This is where the so-called account linking system comes in. Linking accounts allows you to link your shared account to accounts on different platforms.
If you play Call of Duty, you probably know that the latest installment of the franchise is cross-platform. And if you want to find your friend on the system, you’ll need to use an Activision ID. So, if you play on Xbox, you won’t be able to find your friends who play on PlayStation, because the two player bases don’t overlap – but at the same time, data about all players on both platforms is stored in Activision ID.
This unified identification system will be a fundamental part not only for the current game, but also for all your future projects. It is what connects you to other platforms.
Here’s one more piece of advice. Pay close attention to GDPR and CCPA requirements: their regulations must be taken into account at an early stage to avoid unpleasant consequences. In addition, new platforms will start to appear sooner or later, don’t you want to be able to add them to your game as they appear?
Thus, the identification system is needed in order to exchange a Steam token for his own. The player can then use this token to activate the services he needs.
Let users play together
Now that you’ve successfully identified your players using the account linking system, the next step is to get users to play together.
In order for you to connect players to one multiplayer session with all their friends, you need to organize a matchmaking system, game session management, and a number of other services – the full list depends on the needs of the particular game. So you first identify users and bring them together regardless of the platform they play on, and then matchmaking organizes them into game sessions.
If you choose your own game engine, go for one that is more cross-platform friendly: such engines already have a built-in mechanism for doing client-server synchronization. If you decide to create your own engine, of course you are free to do so, but keep in mind the following.
When you want your users to start connecting to other players, you’d better not use the direct P2P route. Considering that you can’t use built-in platform libraries like Xbox Secure Device Associations, this task gets pretty confusing, especially when we’re talking about connecting a console to a PC. Tip: Use either a dedicated server or a peer-to-peer relay server to create your network.
One last thing: since you’re now dealing with platforms of different capacities – PCs, consoles – let your simulations use a fixed 30 frames per second. You can leave the rendering as it is.
Allow players to continue playing on a different platform
Like many others, the author spent hundreds of hours in The Witcher 3: first playing on PlayStation, then decided to switch to Switch, because of which I had to start all over again, because in The Witcher there is no possibility to continue the game on another platform. Eventually the developers did organize a cross-save between Steam and Switch. But we are talking about PlayStation 4. However, it is likely that sooner or later CD Projekt RED will set up cross-platform and between them – the main thing is that the right direction has already been set.
How to store data – entirely your choice: you can store them in the cloud as BLOB-objects, you can in the form of statistics, you can in the form of a string in the attributes of the profile. The main thing is to reach the goal of determining that you are still you, regardless of whether you play on Switch, PlayStation or PC.
Also, speaking of cross-platform, we can’t help but mention SPOP and MPOP.
SPOP (single point of presence) means single point of presence when you allow only one connection to your account at any given time, and logging into the game on one platform means automatically logging out of it on another. In this way, SPOP can protect you from appearing in the same location from different platforms at the same time. This is the simplest and safest way to implement it and avoid data stagnation.
MPOP (multiple points of presence) is a very different way of behaving. It allows you to have multiple connections that logically point to the same account. It can be very difficult to organize, because MPOP must create a guest account when users log in to the same account at the same time, which can cause problems with ensuring that progress is maintained correctly.
And while in most situations it is more convenient to use SPOP, you should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of one or the other for your game.
Unify your commerce
Let’s talk about the difference between a main store and an auxiliary store.
The main store is the store that you have to set up on the platform side, where real money transactions take place, while the auxiliary store is the one you control in the game.
The main store has to be set up on each individual platform first, and then go to different regions, which is already quite a challenge-especially since a cross-platform game has no API to do that. It’s a painstaking manual process that you need to do for each individual platform. So it’s better to keep the main store as simple as possible, and already arrange the in-game store the way you want it.
Buy once, play anywhere (BOPA)
Note: the following is uncharted territory, and the author cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of the data. BOPA (Buy Once Play Anywhere) allows users to buy a game on one platform so that it will then appear in their purchases on any other platforms. Why is this important?
Players now don’t have to worry about which platforms to buy-they can just buy the game. For game developers, the benefit is that they can gather their players into one base, expand their brand and attract traffic to their store.
Let’s list the three elements that BOPA needs:
A unified identity system;
A single system for granting trackable access rights;
Granting access rights in your cross-platform store without the need to enter a key: the ability to call another platform’s API to grant rights to the current one.
It’s worth noting that the last option is not widely available, only some platforms support it.
Cross-platform is ideal for games with a long-term plan to support the project. As you have probably already realized, making such games is quite non-trivial: you need a large team, a lot of time and money to have the proper infrastructure to support it.
Development of game porting allowed us to see our favorite games on mobile. Check the best franchises that now are available on iOS and Android.
The best games that were ported to mobile platforms
Ports of “big” video games to mobile platforms are gradually becoming commonplace. If before it was difficult to imagine that GTA: San Andreas could be played on a cell phone, today it is not surprising to see similar projects that have become legends of PC-gaming in app stores.
Sega has launched the Sega Forever service, which allows users to play the developer’s famous retro games for free on iOS and Android devices. A couple of years ago Sony was hiring a PlayStation Studios executive to focus on porting the most popular PlayStation franchises to mobile devices considering to get involved in the mobile game market. Seems like mobile porting is becoming more and more popular for the last 5-7 years.
We don’t know if this trend will become viral and it would be possible to play any game with a smartphone. But we have selected some prominent examples of the games ported from PC to Android and iOS. If you put them off for a long time, it’s a great excuse to start acquaintances or go again, but without the need to sit in front of the monitor.
Grand Theft Auto
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to run GTA 5 or at least GTA 4 on mobile devices. But this is the HD universe of the series. And the 3D universe Rockstar has successfully ported. This includes GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas. Each game has been ported to Android and iOS with no changes to the story or gameplay.
The developers had to cut down on the graphics, which caused dissatisfaction among gamers. Except that on small screens the difference is almost invisible and the waves of abuse have spilled over the Internet almost without reason. After all, each of the games presented in the original form, with optimized controls for touch screens, without lags, even on phones of medium-low segment. A real gift for fans!
Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy
The first ever interactive movie from Quantic Dream Studios. The game was re-released in 2015 with improved textures, HD resolution, and gamepad support. Among the supported platforms appeared iOS. The Android remaster didn’t arrive until a year later.
This is a real adventure movie, in which you yourself make decisions that affect the ending (there are three). Charismatic characters, supernatural events, oppressive atmosphere, interesting dialogue, fascinating investigations – Fahrenheit certainly does not disappoint. Only play it when you have plenty of free time to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the game without falling out of it every 15 minutes.
This War of Mine
An emotional side-scroller with survival elements that introduces you to the horrors of wartime on behalf of ordinary people. You will gain control of a group of civilians and try to protect them from hunger, cold and marauders. Spoiler – there will be a lot of death. Don’t expect a happy ending either. This is a harsh world, a real hell. The port doesn’t differ from the PC version, because the graphics were originally two-dimensional, and the content didn’t need to be cut. If you want to know what war can really be in modern conditions, without rose-colored glasses and Hollywood cliches, play.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
One of the best games in the Star Wars universe was ported for mobile devices. KotOR is considered to be not only a great RPG adventure in the Star Wars setting – it’s one of the most iconic games in the genre. After all, it came to us from the days when Bioware Studios was associated with the highest quality. But, let’s not talk about sad things. The port came out decent, the game is pulled even by weak phones. All the missions, characters, dialogues, plot twists – are preserved.
Call of Duty Mobile
The famous series of first-person shooters has now migrated to mobile devices, and for free! Includes multiplayer battles in a variety of modes: standard 5 on 5 team combat, royal battle, survival against zombies, duel on sniper rifles and so on. There is a rich selection of equipment: weapons, costumes, characters, equipment items, and so on.
From the original games in Call of Duty Mobile has moved a lot. For example, you will be able to play on the maps that were in Modern Warfare and Black Ops. There is a ranking table – you are invited to prove your superiority among the others.
DOOM 3: BFG
The classic first-person shooter has arrived on Android in the form of a re-release of BFG, and it’s sure to please fans of science fiction. Probably everyone knows about this game, but in case you missed it, we tell you: it’s a dynamic shooter in the spirit of the old school, in which you will engage in the extermination of demons on Mars. Nothing extra – here’s the gun, here’s the enemies, go!
Despite the monotonous gameplay, DOOM 3 managed to become one of the best games in its genre. It was praised for its brisk action, excellent graphics (for those times) and interesting storyline that is not typical for such shooters. The BFG Edition also included additional levels, and the sound and lighting were redesigned.
Observing the best mobile ports in recent years, we can trace a rather clear trend: the most successful mobile ports happen for RPGs and shooters. Such projects look good in the mobile, and all the necessary UI solutions have been found. It’s not a quick revolution, and there’s not a wave of big releases on mobiles, but every year there are more and more interesting ports. What games do you expect to see in mobile next?