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  Cross Platform Considerations for Designers
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09/04/2014
 


[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]

Cross platform development is becoming more important as the divide between platforms lessens as console and mobile devices are becoming more powerful by the year.

Releasing your game on multiple platforms allows you to build a greater audience and hopefully see more profit from a single game. But there are some important factors that you need to consider when developing cross platform games.

Cross platform games in today's market refers to developing a game that will appear on more than one of the following platforms: PC, Console and Mobile. As a designer you can either release the game on multiple platforms at the same time or spread it out.

An exception to cross platform games would be platform exclusive titles such as a PC game that is built for Steam integration or a title like  Uncharted  which is exclusive to  Sony.

The Advantages of Cross Platform Development:

Accessibility:

The first advantage of developing a game for multiple platforms is that more people will be able to access it. Many people don't have the money to afford the latest console or Smartphone but may have a PC built for gaming. Or someone who is exclusively console or mobile oriented and barely uses the computer.

Apps like Angry Birds became popular thanks to how accessible smartphones are in today's market.

It's very simple: The more people who can get your product, the more money you can make. And part of making money means delivering a quality product to every market.

Tailor Made:

A hallmark of a great developer is being able to match their game to the platform and make use of its unique advantages.

When releasing a game on Steam, it's important to remember that Steam has extra features that make its consumer base different from others. Steam trading cards and the economy for digital items is a big deal and if you can capitalize on it with your game, can help you score points with that audience.

But as we're about to discuss, releasing cross platform games aren't easy and you need to keep the following in mind depending on what platforms you are aiming at.

What to be aware of:

Technical Factors:

Whenever you are developing a game for the console or mobile devices that will also be for the PC, it's important to understand the hardware constraints.

Both mobile devices and consoles are set systems where the hardware is constant for every device of that model. PCs however are different and come in a variety of technical specs. Bear in mind that something a high end PC can handle may need to be toned down when moving it to the console or mobile.

The more platforms you are designing a game for, the higher the time and cost you'll have.

Trying to put a world on par with  Grand Theft Auto 5 or  Skyrim  may be easy for high end PCs and modern consoles, but mobile devices will have a lot of trouble.

Likewise, a PC is great for mod support and allowing players to alter files and content, but the closed system of a console makes that functionality impossible. And obviously if you are developing a cross platform game for something with a unique peripheral or control scheme like the  Oculus Rift or  Wii U, that will limit who you can sell your game to due to those specific restrictions.

This is why when a game is being released for cross platforms, the developers will usually create a version that has a baseline of specifications to the weakest platform.  And why developing the same game across all three platforms is not usually done. Another issue with developing across multiple platforms is when you have to deal with the respective platform's unique control interface.

Controls:

If you are aiming to release a PC or console game onto the mobile device, it's important to design a version exclusively for it. This means taking into the technical considerations as well as the control schemes.

When  Firaxis  released  XCOM Enemy Unknown for the I-Pad, they streamlined  the complexity and completely redid the UI and controls for the touch interface.

And it's also important to remember that the popular control option for PC gamers is a keyboard and mouse which handles differently than a touch screen or gamepad. If you can't make your game keyboard friendly, then you need to be upfront about the game requiring a gamepad.

But the biggest difference between the mobile markets and the other ones we've talked about is when it comes to selling your title and the use of monetization.

Monetization:

Perhaps the biggest sticking point for gamers when examining mobile vs. pc/console versions of games is the use of monetization. Systems like energy mechanics pay or wait and boosts while popular mechanics for the mobile market, are frowned upon by PC gamers.

We can spend an entire article examining the differing markets but what you need to know is that a mobile game is intended for a different audience than a PC game. When someone sits down to play a game on the computer, they want a full experience, not something that requires constant microtransactions.

Monetization is a debated topic and something that PC and console fans don't like.

A mobile fan plays games on the go and doesn't want to spend a lot of money on upfront costs, and would rather spend the money as they see fit.

This means it's easier to sell a game as a complete experience but at a higher cost to a console or PC gamer, compared to a free or cheaper game with microtransactions to the mobile market. Case in point would be the mobile game  Plague Inc which is currently on Steam early access as  Plague Inc Evolved.

The developers used the F2P mobile version as the benchmark and are expanding on it and removing the microtransactions in favor of a complete experience at a higher price point. So the different fans can have an experience tailored to them: Either the quicker f2p version or the robust PC version that is more expensive.

Cross platform support is growing more important as the walls between the different platforms continue to break. Being able to release your game on more platforms gives you a greater chance to make a profit thanks to the increase audience and is a major decision for any developer working on a game today.

(Reprinted from the  Xsolla.com Blog)