A friend and I want to try making an iPhone game, but we don't really have a budget to speak of. From what I've found, I need the iOS SDK, and that costs money. Is there really no way to make an iPhone game on a $0 budget? If not, can I do so for the Android?


3 Answers 3


The Airplay SDK: http://www.airplaysdk.com/ as well as some other other mobile SDKs, will let you make iOS games for free (in the sense that you don't have to buy a Mac), but I believe it will still cost $100 to get your game on the app store, no matter what tool you use.

The Android is free to develop for and deploy to (Edit: per the comment by Ricket, it's actually $25 to publish on the app store). You can also make an HTML5 web game, and people with iPhones can play it in their browser, at no cost to you (or them).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Android is not free to deploy to the Google Market; a developer account is a one-time fee of $25. You can deploy to a phone by sending the apk file to the phone and installing it on the phone, but an app in the market will need to be published by someone who has paid that $25. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricket
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re HTML5 web game. Not sure if "no cost to you" is accurate, as it will probably take at least twice as long to develop an HTML5 (JavaScript) game, and time is money. Also there is currently no "good" way to monetize an HTML5 based game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Harte
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TandemAdam While the whole "time is money" is probably true, if you go with that route, then no one can make any game for "free", since it'll cost them time, thus money. It's true there's no "good" way to monetize any HTML5 app yet, and you can't get it on the app store, either, so it'd be nearly impossible to get noticed as an app (the good news is that HTML5 is portable to just about any modern mobile device these days) \$\endgroup\$
    – thedaian
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ An HTML5 game would also have to be hosted on a website (unless you can use an app packager like PhoneGap, not sure how well that works for a game) and hosting ain't free, especially considering the enormous amount of players you'd need for a game done this way to be successful. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 12:24

None of the other answers addressed a basic misconception in your question: the iOS SDK does not cost any money. You can download Apple's developer tools for free. However you will only be able to test in the simulator for free; in order to deploy onto device you need to purchase the $99/year developer registration.

The fee is for the ability to publish, not for the SDK. Subtle but important distinction.

So no, there is no way to make an iPhone game without paying a fee. Android does not have any fee to deploy to device, but the individual marketplaces have their own policies.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The iOS SDK is no longer free, as of the release of XCode 4. You must now either pay for an iOS/Mac Developer Account or buy XCode from the Mac App Store \$\endgroup\$
    – numo16
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 3:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ ugh well that is a crappy change. I'll delete my answer if you can direct me to any proof of this change (I can't check myself because I have a developer account.) \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can still download Xcode 3.2.6 w/ iOS SDK 4.3 with a free account but are required to upgrade your account if you want to download Xcode 4. \$\endgroup\$
    – Simurr
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 20:18

If you want to publish or test it then no. The minimum you can spend to publish a game is the yearly $99 fee that you are talking about for the SDK. Apple simply won't let you post a game to the app store if you aren't paying to be a developer.

If you want to make one and maybe publish it later, find a game engine like Unity3d that will let you make it for other platforms and easily port it to iphone when you're ready. That's the route my team took a few years ago when we were just starting. We made our game for Unity's browser plugin then ported it over to IOS when we bought the license.

EDIT: FYI, unity and a few other engines are completely free just for this purpose. Once you want to publish to iPhone though you will need to also buy the unity IOS basic license at minimum which is $400, but if you have a game worth anything you may find somebody willing to pay for your licenses for a percent of the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a misleading recommend Unity in place of the iOS SDK for cost reasons. You can do iOS development with the free SDK, you just can't deploy outside the simulator. I don't believe you can do any iOS development with Unity without the basic license, simulator or device. \$\endgroup\$
    – user744
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ agreed, I was just more saying you can develop your entire game in a platform independent(ish) engine like Unity. If the concept works, move it to IOS when you get the money. Either way you have no way to use sensors unless you pay so testing the game concept in a real platform and not just the simulator has been the best approach from when I was in that situation \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ update to this answer: recently Unity has changed iOS license to be free for basic (iOS professional licenses cost money) \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 12:27

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