Native or Cross-Platform Game Development - What to Choose for Your Mobile Startup

Read about the most important advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.

There is a lot of fuss around choosing between native and cross-platform game development. Both approaches have their pros and cons and if you are on the threshold of creating your first game you probably question yourself: what’s better for me?


In this article, we’d like to discuss the topic of choosing the right approach to your game’s development – and it’s a choice between native and cross-platform dev.


Native Development


Let’s start off with figuring out what is native development. Native games are the ones that are written on a platform-specific language with an intention to run on the target platform. Such games meet all the OS’s requirements and are compatible with all its components and built-in applications. It’s important to mention that as 99.6% smartphones run on either Android or iOS when we’re talking about native mobile games it’s mostly about these two platforms.


At first, it may seem like it’s the best option – just make your game native so that you can get the full out of optimization. But to make a conclusion, let’s point out some advantages and disadvantages of this approach.


Pros of Native Development


  • Performance


This is probably the most obvious advantage – since you develop your game using a particular operating system’s SDK, it gets easier access to all the platforms functionalities, therefore, overall app’s performance increases.


  • User experience (UX)


High performance leads to fewer bugs and crushes and a much better user experience. When an app is developed for a specific platform, it keeps the platform’s general interface which is familiar to the player.


  • App store ranking


This point derives from the previous ones – high performance and great UX make it easier for a game to rank better on app stores. As players will be satisfied with the game’s UX, they will rate it high and leave positive reviews. This will help your app to get more downloads and increased revenues. Isn’t it what any game developer wants?



Native or Cross-Platform Game Development - What to Choose for Your Mobile Startup


Cons of Native Development


  • Costs and time consumption


Well, if we talk about the negative side of native game development, this is the first thing that comes to our minds – it’s long and expensive. It’s highly doubtful that you’ll choose to create a game only for one platform, either for Android or iOS. Most probably you’ll want to have both versions and the native approach is a very questionable solution in that case. As programming for Android takes more time and money than for iOS, the process of development will be more than twice as long and expensive. You’ll have to write code from a scratch for two different platforms and it obviously will complicate the whole process.


  • Short life cycle


If you decide to write a unique code for each operating system you won’t have an opportunity to reuse it later as it will be fully exclusive. On the other hand, if you choose to go cross-platform and write a single universal code you will be able to use it in your next projects by adding some changes to it.


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Cross-platform Development


As you may have already understood, the cross-platform approach implies creating apps that are compatible with multiple platforms. What game development team does is writing a single code that can be deployed on different operating systems. And it’s no wonder why this approach got so popular among indie game studios – it’s much more convenient, cost-effective and time-saving. So let’s look closely at the pros and cons of cross-platform development.


Pros of Cross-platform Development


  • Reduced time and costs


As we already mentioned, this approach lets us use a single code base multiple times, therefore, saving our time and money. You can often hear it being described as the “write once run anywhere” approach, and it pretty much sums up the most referred advantage or going cross-platform.


  • Wider reach


As you are making your game compatible with a wide range of different platforms, you automatically get much more opportunities. There are hundreds of different app stores waiting to publish your mobile game and the worst thing you can do is make it run on one operating system only.


  • Easier updates


It’s no secret that you’ll need to roll out updates regularly in order to meet the latest OS version requirements. And another great thing about the cross-platform approach is that you will need to update it only once for all of the platforms you run. Just imagine how much time you save when you don’t have to change two or maybe even more different codes every time you make an upgrade.


Native or Cross-Platform Game Development - What to Choose for Your Mobile Startup


Cons of Cross-platform Development


  • Performance


As opposed to the biggest advantage of native development, cross-platform games have lower performance due to the absence of exclusive integration with a target platform. An app’s response time may be increased because of difficulties between a non-native code and the system’s built-in configurations.


  • User experience (UX)


It may be a challenging task to develop a great UX for different platforms as each one has its own preferences and requirements. Native features often can’t be used to the fullest, therefore, excellent user experience is a hard thing to reach.  


So What Should I Choose?


Summing up, we can say that both of the approaches are great and can be suitable for a game. If your project is a relatively small mobile game that doesn’t require an outstanding performance (e.g. puzzle, match 3), all the advantages of native development are becoming irrelevant and your money will be wasted. If you are planning to create a hardcore shooter or any other game that actually requires great performance and it plays an important role for user experience, it would make sense to consider choosing the native approach to your game development.


Beside your game’s genre, it’s your budget that plays a huge role in choosing between native and cross-platform dev. If you’re lucky to have a huge budget for a game you can find a team of experienced specialists that covers a wide range of tasks and can cover both iOS and Android development, you can choose the native approach and get a game with a higher performance and graphics quality. If you are a one-person company or a small indie studio with a strict budget, the best option is going cross-platform and receiving all of the great advantages like costs and time reduction and wider audience reach. Either way, you can address this issue to a game dev studio and they will help you to make the right choice.


Thus, in this article, we explained general differences between native and cross-platform game development so that you could form a clearer look and decide to yourself which of the approaches are better for your game startup. Contact us if you have any questions left. Good luck!

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