How Long Does it Take to Develop and Produce an Online Game?

Though it might seem easier and faster to develop and release an online game, the online game development life cycle is actually quite a bit longer than most gamers understand. The extended nature of game development still applies to online games, and that means the development timeline is roughly similar to games created for home consoles and mobile devices. New game designers, who aren’t quite sure what this cycle entails or how it might affect their development of a new game, should become familiar with the various components and requirements necessary to create a fluid, exciting, and “sticky” online game that will appeal to the masses.

2-3 Weeks: Story and Script Development

A good game isn’t just a series of strategic movies, but is instead a combination of strategy and story. For this reason, the first component of development is the most far-reaching in terms of game success upon release. Most game designers and developers allocate at least two or three weeks to fleshing out the story and the actual script that will be spoken by key characters in an online game. Without a fully developed story and script, the game will feel empty and will likely have problems catching on with users who would otherwise enjoy the product.

1 Week: Game Feasibility Study

The worst thing game designers can do is come up with an idea they believe to be original, only to find that their efforts have already been produced by someone else quite successfully. An online gaming feasibility study must consider possible competitors, the cost of developing and hosting the game, and any potential revenue streams that will offset the cost of development and eventually help the effort turn a sustainable profit as the game gains users and fans.

6-8 Months: Design, Animation, Modeling, and Textures

Once the game is determined to be feasible, the hard work of design and development can begin in earnest. This is the longest part of the process, though its full duration will depend on the length of gameplay, how many levels or worlds there are, and how many user customizations can be made before and during the game. The average time to complete this work is just over six months, though it will also vary based on staffing levels, funding, continued interest, and other key project concerns. Prepare for this part to take a very, very long time, and understand that an extended design process only ensures that the game looks and plays better.

1-2 Months: Testing and Final Release

With the game’s graphic and animated elements complete, it can be assembled and compiled into a final product for testing. Testing must involve playing the game from start to finish several different ways, testing every world, level, character, and scenario. Any bugs in the game’s progress or graphical elements must be fixed, tested again, and documented as being free of glitches. This process can take up to two months, though the timeline will depend on the game’s size, length, and intensity of animation.

Prepare for a Relatively Long Development Process

Online games involve a great deal of work, and that means they take quite some time to successfully develop from start to finish. The typical online game development life cycle takes longer than a year, though the finished product can reward developers for many years after the initial design and development is complete.

Related Resource: What Does a Typical Day Look Like for an Online Game Design Graduate?