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How Do Game Developers Port a Video Game?

    A process of porting a video game by developers

    Accessibility of video games depends on many factors, such as language, price, comprehensible gameplay, and above all, availability on different platforms. A video game of any genre will get more players if it doesn’t have restrictions on supported platforms. While multiplayer games benefit the most from being cross-platform, single-player games are often requested by the players to be ported too. Some players are used to playing on consoles, while others prefer to relax sitting at a PC with a favorite video game.

    Getting a multi-platform player base is invaluable, especially if the game is in demand. However, the need to release a game for other platforms presents new challenges and problems a developer has to overcome. To achieve this goal, the members of a team skilled in porting work together with another party professional in the process. They solve problems and prepare the game for a new platform. 

    In this article, you are going to learn how porting a game gets performed by professional game developers. We’ll review the main stages of this process, prepare you for upcoming difficulties, and help you recognize the signs of a successfully ported game. 

    Understanding the Importance of Porting a Video Game

    Porting a video game is important because it helps the developer get more sales. The more sales, the more money for the developer. The more money for the developer, the bigger their budget can be for the development and production of their next game. If a company has a big enough budget, it can hire some really talented people who are passionate about games and create something amazing that everyone loves!

    So, if you’re a gamer and you love video games, please do your part by buying the ones that are good. This will help the developer continue making great games for us all.

    How Do Game Developers Port a Video Game?

    Team of developers port video game to another platform

    Before a video game can be successfully played on a different platform, game developers go through a lot of stages that include changes to the code, the performance, the visuals, and many other aspects.

    • Source Code has to be changed in order to run correctly on another platform. It may be a simple process if your game is developed on a cross-platform engine such as Unreal Engine. In other cases, especially when developers have to work with a proprietary engine, it may be time-consuming. 
    • Graphics are optimized for smooth performance and quality higher or comparable to what is seen on the original platform.
    • GPU and CPU performance get enhanced and maximized, especially when a game is being ported to a PC. Developers analyze performance and if it doesn’t meet their expectations, they find the source of a problem and try different solutions.
    • Gameplay Elements have to be adapted for a new platform. Usually, when a game is being ported from a PC, there may be a lot of gameplay aspects related to mouse control that have to be remade for a satisfying player experience. 
    • Control Scheme and UI need to be adapted. Particularly it is a necessary stage for a game in the process of porting to a mobile device. 
    • The Testing Stage while porting a game is just as important as during initial game development. There is a slim chance that your game will run smoothly on another platform after the port. Multiple bugs and mistakes in scripts and interactions will need to be fixed.
    • To facilitate the process, enhance a game’s quality and performance, and implement additional features, game developers will find and utilize proper and beneficial  Middleware. 

    Adapting Game Mechanics and Controls for New Platforms

    When porting a game, developers need to take into account that the controls and mechanics will be different on each platform. In other words, if you’re porting a PC game over to mobile devices or consoles, you need to adapt both the gameplay and controls so they fit the new platform.

    For example: If you’re developing an Xbox One version of your game (which uses controllers), then any touch-based elements will need to be removed from the UI because users won’t be able to interact with them using their fingers.

    Similarly, if your original version was designed for touchscreen devices like smartphones or tablets, and not for more traditional computers, then there may be parts of your UI that are not easily accessible through mouse clicks alone (such as sliding menus).

    Challenges Game Devs Face During Porting

    The main difficulty that may arise in the process of game porting is working with a custom game engine. If a proprietary game engine wasn’t developed with multi-platform features, changes may be required. But sometimes even that is not enough, and game developers have to settle for a new game engine or adaptation to popular ones like Unreal Engine. 

    Another frequent challenge is finding a balance between graphical aspects and performance. Some platforms may not have suitable hardware to run your game as exceptionally as an original could. Oftentimes, the solution is to work on graphics, which will require some time and effort. 

    Game developer faces challenges while porting a video game

    Making an original game and a ported version identical can sometimes be a tricky task too. After adapting the game, a lot of changes may be visible during gameplay, and developers would have to work on bringing these moments back to how they looked in the original. 

    Porting a video game is no easy task. It requires a lot of work, time and technical know-how. The process can take months or even years to complete depending on the scope and size of the project.

    Porting a video game can be expensive. The costs will depend on the type of port you want to do and how many platforms you want to support, but they could include:

    • Software costs, such as licensing fees paid to third-party vendors like Unity or Unreal Engine. These fees can range from thousands of dollars up into the millions depending on how much custom work is required for each platform (for example, if it requires a custom version of Unreal).
    • Hardware costs, including new computers with specialized graphics cards for testing purposes (you’ll need at least one for every platform).
    • Licensing costs associated with any proprietary software that is required for development or deployment (e.g., DirectX). This might seem obvious but it’s important because some developers may not realize exactly how much this will cost until they start digging into their projects’ requirements

    Implementing user feedback for improved user experience

    As a game developer, it’s important to listen to your community. You don’t always have to do what they say, but it’s good practice to understand why people are saying things and try to see things from their perspective.

    The best way to learn how players feel about your game is by asking them directly! This can be done through surveys or interviews with players who have already played your game (or beta testers).

    Positive feedback from a game player

    You should also look at data from analytics tools like Google Analytics or Unity Analytics that measure player behavior within the title itself. This will allow you insight into which features are popular among users , where they get stuck in the game , how long they spend playing certain levels/missions/events etc., which all contribute towards making decisions about what needs improving next time around.

    What to Do When It’s Difficult to Port a Game?

    Due to the challenges, even well-known companies postpone port versions for many years despite fans’ demands. Did you know that some game fans are so tired of waiting for their favorite game’s port that they decide to do it themselves? For example, an independent developer had tried to port Red Dead Redemption, so much anticipated by many gamers. Unfortunately, Rockstar filed and won a lawsuit against an enthusiast, so the project got closed. On the other hand, this is a sign that developers aren’t afraid of challenges and time spent finishing the job.


    Even though porting a game may seem like a waste of time, it is one of the main ways to reach a wider audience. Multi-platform games connect people playing from different consoles. The accessibility from any device is a pleasure for gamers when they are hooked by it. And ultimately, being released on different platforms means higher revenue and recognition.