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For an optimised and playable game written for mobile with Unity, how much of a difference is there in power consumption between 2D and 3D?

Assuming:

  • Unity game engine
  • The game requires constant screen updates such as FPS or arcade, not turn-based
  • As much as possible is about equal - optimisation, complexity, user experience

My initial feelings are that 2D should use less power than 3D, but I have not seen anything other than opinion to support this view. The only reasoned argument that I have seen so far actually favours 2D (over low poly 3D) in this answer: https://gamedev.stackexchange.com/a/101344/153665

I don't want to explore whether I should optimise or when to optimise. That has been covered many times elsewhere.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried building a bare minimum scene with some random sprites or random free low;poly models and benchmarking the two on your target hardware? \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jun 12 '21 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am ideally interested in the finished and polished/tweaked game, including logic and shaders, as created by people who do this for a living. I might yet try this, but I have a bit of a learning curve (which would be useful in itself) before I get to a reliable answer. The technology has moved on since I left Zilog Z80 games computing for business computing in the 80s. \$\endgroup\$
    – nubbers
    Jun 12 '21 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ In order to give you that ideal answer, someone would need to have made BOTH a complete polished and optimized 2D game AND a complete polished and optimized 3D game that are both very similar in scope/experience, on the same generation of phone hardware, AND benchmarked their power consumption AND see your question AND take the time to answer it. In other words, I don't think you'll get your ideal answer. However, you can get a broad strokes approximation of what to expect by just loading up a scene with a bunch of assets and measuring it. Further dev should affect both versions similarly. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jun 12 '21 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are probably right, developers are not likely to know, as professionals will generally be too specialised. I suspect program managers (or the equivalent) of small/medium software houses might know, but I doubt that they would spend any time here. Looking at the consumer side - comparison and review websites, 2D games appear to win out in performance, but I don't know by how much. Possibly I can find some mobile game benchmarks. Will report back here if I do. \$\endgroup\$
    – nubbers
    Jun 12 '21 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ "how much of a difference is there in power consumption"? That depends on several factors, including the complexity and efficiency of a given piece of rendering code, and the specific hardware it is used on. Voting to close since answering this would be highly speculative. (My suggestion: Don't rule out 3D as being battery-cost effective.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Jun 13 '21 at 13:39
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The answer to this question will not be a fair one: it really depends on the game design and gameplay. In a pure comparison 2D will win the argument but this should not be the case when you are going to chose how your game will be. Most mobile phone these days can run games with stable frame rates, take a look at the ranking that list most common GPUs out there in the market.

Always use Unity Profiler during development as it will help you a lot in optimizing your game.

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