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  • Foto do escritorRafael Barbosa

How are video game ports done?

Do you remember the running Skyrim joke about it releasing on every platform instead of the developers making the next Elder Scrolls game? The reason they ported the game to so many different platforms is simply because it is a lot cheaper to port than it is to make a game from scratch. On top of that, making the next game and porting your current one doesn't have to be one or the other.

A Man holding a Steam Deck, playing stardew valley

If your game is only available on 1 specific platform it might become a lot harder to reach a wide audience as not everyone has access or even interest in the specific platform you published on. Ideally, you would be able to port your game to every platform there is, however, we all know that this requires some serious investment.

Starting Small

Sometimes, when you are not a huge developer or don't have a publishing deal with a powerful publisher, starting small and focusing on one specific platform might be ideal. This will usually be PC, Mobile or Web as they are the most approachable platforms at the moment.

First of all, that is totally fine. Make your game and make money with it. If the game was a success, you can think about branching into more platforms but keep in mind that the maintenance cost of these games becomes much bigger than if you were targeting only 1 platform.

If you are going to port, make sure you can handle the workload. Hiring a team to help you with the port can be a good idea, however, sometimes growing isn't exactly what you are looking for, in this case, hiring an outsourcing studio might be a safer bet.

More Platforms = More Work

A Playstation 5 device illustrating one of the platforms that you can port your game onto

Think about it this way: every time you make a change, as simple as it might be such as changing the color of a sprite, you will not only have to QA test but also build and pass through revision on every single platform. It might be that you saved the file in a weird way and because of that, on PS4 the file was broken. Every other platform was fine, however, the PS4 one had a bug because of the simple change.

It's the same thing as developing a multiplayer game, at first, it seems quite simple but as you start developing you realize that one of the 15 players is out of sync because of an error that happened during development. So now you spend a significant amount of time debugging to figure out what might have happened. Not only that but implementing simple things requires much more thinking and testing in general to make sure that everything works correctly.

The result of that is that it takes you twice as long to implement the same features you always worked on. Suddenly, rapid iteration isn't as rapid anymore.

Should I create a new Project for the Port?

This question is a bit more tricky. Ideally, you would use the same exact project and just build to a variety of platforms. Unity, Unreal, Cocos Creator, Godot and a few other engines solve this very nicely for you. However, sometimes it's not as easy as it seems.

Let's say you are making a high-quality, visually stunning game for mobile and you would like to port the game to the web. Web browsers are not as capable of utilizing the available hardware as native games are. On top of that, browsers don't get to pre-download games for the players to play later on such as what Steam or Google Play do. Therefore the game has to be performant and not take too much to download. Ideally, web games rest between 5 to 20 MB. More than that, especially on mobile devices, can bore players away before even starting to play. In this example, simply asking Unity to build for the Web might not be enough.

When working with web ports, sometimes it might mean that you need to completely rebuild the game on another engine, a simpler and more efficient one. Construct is a great example of that as they can generate web games based on Canvas, not WebGL. The engine is also way smaller and simpler. Therefore, final builds become smaller and more performant, especially on mobile devices.

Should I port an old game or make a new one?

This one depends entirely on you. You are the single person who knows your game the best. If you believe that the game would do well on another platform and that it would indeed be cheaper than making a new one, then go ahead. If you are not really sure, then perhaps making a new one might be the safest option.

A picture of skyrim to illustrate how it was ported to a variety of platforms

Good games might have big communities that would be anticipating the port. Sometimes the port can even bring something completely new to the table such as Skyrim VR. I joked about Skyrim before but it is a real example of ports done right. I myself, have already bought the game on Xbox, PC, and on VR, so that means that they were able to convert 1 user into 3 different sales, just because each version had a unique selling point.

Development Kits

This is another concern as to publish your game to a console, you will need to be approved on the Playstation, Nintendo, or Microsoft developer dashboard.

Once you are approved, you can request to purchase a development kit. That's right, development doesn't happen on your own console, you will need a specialized kit provided by the manufacturers in order to be able to port your game.

Some platforms such as VR and MR might be much simpler, but you will still require the final device such as the Meta Quest 2/Pro/3 and the Pico Neo 4.

Final Words

Porting your game can significantly broaden your audience however, it is not a cheap process and it can make your development more complicated than before. If you are overwhelmed or unsure about the whole process, get in contact with us as we can help you get started with your port.

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