Editorial

How Does Porting a Game Work?

Game porting has many perks. Players get the opportunity to enjoy games on their platform of choice, while game developers generate more profit by offering the same game for a different platform. How are games ported and is this process worth the effort and money spent? Read further to learn the answers to these questions.

What are game porting services?

To put it simply, game porting is the process of adapting an existing video game to a different platform. Sometimes a game is developed for one platform only, but the company later decides to create its version for another platform. Sometimes a game is already a multi-platform one but a certain platform is missing, while the demand for the game on this platform grows. Game porting is a solution in both of these cases. It is also a great way to save costs as porting video games is cheaper than creating their versions for another platform from scratch.

Why so? Because to create a game for a certain console, you have to write a new code. Porting games, on the other hand, means modifying the existing code for a certain platform. It saves money and also time.

The goal of porting is not only to adapt the code for a specific console but also to ensure that the console’s version will run as smoothly as the original game. The ported game should run without interruptions, have no bugs, maintain the same quality of graphics as the original, and provide the same user experience.

What does the process of porting video games look like?

Most game porting companies usually have several important stages of the process. The first and most basic stage is making the game run on the target platform. It has to compile and at least boot at first, but this isn’t always easy. If a game is built using open-source tools, the porting is usually smooth. If, however, closed-source tools were used and if they don’t support the target platform, straight porting isn’t possible. In this case, developers have to rewrite the game in another language, supported by a target platform.

The next stage is porting audio and graphics to the target platform. At this stage, it’s important to ensure that libraries and middleware work on the target platform and have licenses that allow using them. The graphics could also become a challenge, depending on whether a game was written with portability in mind or not. If the portability was planned, the graphic calls layer is separated from the main code and it is easy to integrate it into a ported game. But if the game company didn’t plan the portability, the graphic calls might be interspersed in the code. In this case, game porting companies work to extract the code to a separate library and then adapt it to a new platform.

After that, it’s important to evaluate the game’s performance. Most likely, it won’t be as smooth as you expected it to be, especially when we are talking about games ported from desktop to mobile and other portable devices. This stage is all about collecting the performance issues, evaluating them, and looking for ways to eliminate them. It is probably the most challenging step of the porting process.

The final stage is easier but could be more time-consuming. At this stage, the company adjusts the controls for the platform, improves and adapts UI, revises and updates text and localization, and then moves to check the certification requirements. This usually means that certain things have to be changed: for instance, the saving system or the game’s menu flow.

The price and terms for porting video games

How much does it cost to port a game and how long might it take? This usually depends on various factors, such as the game’s complexity, the engine of choice, and staff experience. Indie games are cheaper and quicker to port. For instance, porting of such a game could take up to 6 months, while the AAA titles porting could last much longer.

As for the price — it starts at $50,000 and above for most projects that have even a moderate amount of content. Usually the more optimization the game requires, the more expensive the porting will be. Since many factors have to be taken into consideration, the best way to learn the estimated price is to contact game porting companies of your choice directly and ask them.

To sum up

Game porting is the process of adapting an existing game to a different platform. This process consists of several stages and takes up to 6 months or more to complete, depending on the complexity of the game. Certain games are already created with porting in mind and therefore require fewer efforts to port. Other games, however, need more time to be ported smoothly. That’s why the best way to estimate the price of porting is to contact the game porting company directly and receive calculations based on your specific case.

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