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Mobile Game Development with Unity

One of the main reasons for Unity’s ever-growing popularity comes from its mobile-friendliness.
Daniel Zacharias

Mike Maschwitz

January 5, 2024
One of the main reasons for Unity’s ever-growing popularity comes from its mobile-friendliness.

Game development has become a beast of its own this past decade. As of 2022, 42% of developers are involved in some way in the gaming space, whether on the job or in their free time.

To tackle game development, close to 40% of them use Unity, the most popular game engine on the market, ahead of Unreal Engine and Godot. One of the main reasons for Unity’s ever-growing popularity comes from its mobile-friendliness. Unity has indeed been used to build some of the most popular mobile games ever, including Pokemon Go, Hearthstone, Alto’s Adventure, and Cuphead.

The current state of the mobile game industry

For over 10 years, mobile gaming has been profoundly changing the video game industry until becoming today’s top-grossing gaming segment worldwide. As of 2022, mobile gaming alone generated half of the revenue of the global gaming market, i.e. $92.2B. The phenomenon is such that in a lot of Asian countries, like China, Japan and South Korea, there are more mobile gamers than PC and console gamers combined.

As such, gaming companies started investing more and more in mobile gaming — developing games specifically tailored to mobile gamers as well as games that could be played on multiple platforms. And this is exactly where the Unity engine shines.

Why Unity became the go-to engine in mobile game development

First launched in 2005, Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies. Originally started as a Mac OS X game engine, Unity has since been further enhanced to support PC, console, mobile and virtual reality development. Its popularity spiked with the rise of iOS and Android gaming as it’s regarded by many as the most suitable engine for indie and mobile game development.

Where does this reputation come from? How does Unity compare to other engines in regards to mobile gaming? Let’s analyze some key points that contributed to making Unity the default choice for mobile game development.

  • Cost: Unity has a very competitive pricing structure, especially considering that it comes packed with many features. The engine is available for free with limited features, and comes with a flat-fee-based model for its Plus and Pro versions. In comparison, Unreal Engine charges a 5% royalty fee on gross revenue in addition to a custom price to large studios. As an open-source engine, Godot is entirely free, although way more limited than its two counterparts.
  • Performance: Unity comes with a creation engine that allows developers to create 2D and 3D gaming experiences. It also provides coding workflows to optimize game performances while allowing for high-quality immersive graphics. Godot is a great engine to create simple games but it’s not suited for developing more complicated projects. For mobile game development, Unreal Engine is better than Unity only in projects where graphics quality is the most prevalent criteria.
  • Target audience: Unity is mostly geared towards developers in the mobile gaming and gaming-related software space. Its user-friendly and intuitive interface makes it a great engine to start mobile game development while its wide library of art assets and tools makes it the perfect engine for experienced professionals. Although it will suit all types of gaming companies, it’s important to note that three out of four users of Unity are small businesses or individuals.

The main features of Unity for mobile gaming development

We have just seen how Unity compares to its main competitors. Now it’s time to focus on the intrinsic qualities and features that make it great for mobile game development.

  • Top-notch visuals: Through its highly customizable rendering technology, Unity allows developers to come up with mobile games with high-definition graphics in both 2D and 3D. The engine provides advanced controls to manage textures, physics, animation, as well as lighting and rendering, among other things.
  • Cross-platform integration: Because of its compatibility with over 20 platforms, Unity allows companies to build games that can easily be deployed on mobile, consoles, and PC. For instance, Unity’s cross-platform feature contributed greatly to the massive success of Among Us. The game was originally released on iOS and Android, before making its way onto PC and consoles where it found a widened audience.
  • Unity asset store: The engine comes with its own asset store that offers a wide range of resources such as texture packs, templates, sprites, pre-designed 3D models, 2D/3D animations, pre-recorded sounds, and more. By purchasing some of these assets, you can greatly reduce the time, and thus cost, required to build games.
  • Native 2D tools: Unlike many engines on the market, Unity comes with a built-in 2D engine. Coupled with the vast catalog of 2D assets available on the store, the engine allows developers to build 2D games seamlessly with stunning animation and physics. 
  • User-friendliness and versatility: In addition to its ease of use, Unity benefits from a very helpful community that provides online tutorials and general guidance to developers. The Unity interface also provides intuitive troubleshooting that helps developers perform debugging in the runtime. Finally, the engine supports many programming languages such as C#, JavaScript, and Boo. However, you can also use it without writing any lines of code whatsoever.

These factors and many others made Unity the preferred engine when it comes to mobile game development. Keep in mind, though, that even when Unity is considered the most mobile-friendly engine for gaming development, it might not be the appropriate choice when it comes to building regular mobile apps. The engine was designed for gaming first and foremost, which comes with its drawbacks on the developer’s and user’s front.

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