Mobile game apps are perhaps the most famous apps in history. Let’s face it, millions of people love playing games on their mobile devices, especially if the games are engaging and fun. Infinite runner games where the game character has to run and avoid obstacles are among the most played games on Apple App Store and Google Play. Why? Because the nature of these games makes them addictive. Subway Surfers and Temple Run are two great examples.
Even though there are quite a few infinite runner games for iOS and Android devices, developing a game like that still offers a lot of revenue-generating potential. Besides, it’s cool to publish your own game, isn’t it? So, let’s have a look at what tools you’ll need and what the cost of developing a Subway Surfers-like game might be.
Why Make a Game Like Subway Surfers?
Subway Surfers is one of the most popular mobile games out there. It has nearly 1 billion downloads on Google Play alone and is the #1 app in the Games/Arcade category in the USA and the UK (according to SimilarWeb.com).
In January 2018, it had 2.1M downloads and earned $440.5K.
There is always room for a new infinite runner game on both app stores and, if developed and designed correctly, they can become hugely successful.
Subway Surfers was made with Unity, the most popular engine for creating 3D games. If you’re willing to do all the work yourself, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Unity has both free and paid versions and technically you could create an infinite runner game with Unity Free. The free version has everything you need to get started and even includes things like multiplayer (up to 20 concurrent users), ads, and in-app purchases. The best thing about it is that you will own your content 100% and you won’t have to pay any royalties.
However, Unity Free is not for serious game development because it has lots of limitations. It’s great for exploring the possibilities of game development, though, and it making games is your hobby, you should check it out.
If you are a developer and make more than $100K annually in gross revenues or you’ve raised funds in excess of $100K, you’ll have to use either Unity Plus (up to $200K in annual revenues and funds; $35/month) or Unity Pro (unlimited revenue; $125/month). The Plus and Pro versions include a lot more features than the free version, so they are worth exploring if you are looking to create a feature-rich game.
To create a 3D game, you’ll need some 3D assets – you can get them from Unity Asset Store. You have all imaginable game assets there for all types of games, so you’ll need some time to browse the store and work out which assets you need. While you can make a basic game using these assets, a serious product like Subway Surfers will also need a unique design. So, unless you’re a design guru, you’ll need to hire a professional UI/UX designer to do the job.
If for some reason you prefer not to use Unity, have a look at Unreal Engine 4 by Epic Games. It has almost endless possibilities and you can use it without paying a subscription fee. Although, you’ll have to give them 5% of your revenues when you publish your game and it starts generating revenue. That’s not ideal, especially if your game gains momentum and starts making serious money. If you look at the Subway Surfers stats above, you’ll see that in their case even 5% is a lot of money.
In addition to the game engine and assets, you’ll need an active Apple Store developer membership ($99/year) to publish your game for iOS, and Google Play charges a one-time fee of $25.
As you’ve probably already guessed from everything you’ve read above, the cost of developing and publishing a game like Subway Surfers depends on a number of factors and can vary greatly. Let’s have a look at two different scenarios and try to come up with an estimate for creating your game. Use our app cost calculator for more details.
Scenario 1: you want to develop the game yourself
First of all, let’s get something straight. You’ll find forum posts and online tutorials stating that you can make a game like Subway Surfers for almost nothing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Ask yourself how many of these low-quality DIY games became viral and how much revenue they generated? The answer to both questions is simple: none. We’re not saying that it’s impossible to develop a viral game with minimal investments but a game like Subway Surfers is not the case. But let’s say you know some game developers from your school days and you want to work together on this.
Your biggest expense will be Unity Pro licenses because you should really use Unity Pro to work on a project like this one. An annual Unity Pro license costs $2,850 per seat so if you are a team of ten developers, you’re looking at spending $28,500 on licenses alone. That’s a lot. Add to that UI and UX design cost, paying your team (most people wouldn’t work for free), testing the game, and then publishing it on the app stores, and you’ll see why it’s expensive and impractical to make 3D game development a DIY project.
Scenario 2: hire a mobile game development company
In most cases, you’d be better off hiring mobile game developers. A professional game development company can do the job quickly, efficiently, and competently. Moreover, hiring experts with a strong portfolio on the app stores will help you avoid any hiccups that newbie developers are bound to experience. Look for developers whose games got millions of downloads – you can’t go wrong with them.
Most mobile game developers charge per hour but some prefer to give you a fixed price quote based on your requirements. Let’s say you want a game with unique UI and UX, and you want to publish it on both Apple App Store and Google Play. That means that you’ll need two versions of the game, for iOS and Android. In this scenario, you’re looking at spending $40K ($10K for UI/UX designs, $20K for the iOS app, and $10K for the Android app). Considering the price of Unity licenses mentioned above, that’s very reasonable because you get a unique product that has been developed by competent professionals and thoroughly tested for bugs and errors.
Keep in mind that the exact price depends on the features, characters, designs, monetization, and many other factors.
Developing a viral game like Subway Surfers requires a good team. While you can play around with Unity Free to get a sense what 3D game development is like, you wouldn’t want to release a mediocre game that almost nobody will play.
Do you have an idea for an addictive mobile game? Let’s discuss it today!