I know that it is maybe too broad question but please give me at least some guidance. What is the average team size for mobile games like in https://play.google.com/store/apps/category/BRAIN?feature=category-nav

There are quite different by size and complexity games but I just need examples like: Game X was developed by N programmers for M months (or at least "It seems to me that game X will need N programmers for 5 months to be completed").

By "Team size" I mean mostly programmers (but I will really appreciate more info about other specialists that are needed for such project).

To put some context: I am freelance Android and PHP developer working mainly on intranet and b2b systems that are consisted by both android app(s) and server back end. Although I really like this area sometimes it is hard to find new projects. At the same time, every now and then, I receive inquires like "Can you create clone of game X and how long will it take" or "I have this idea for a board/puzzle game, how long it will take?". So far I stay away from such projects but I am really tempted to start/join such project and I will appreciate any helpful information.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Team size questions are hand to address in the abstract. Individual contributors bring different experiences, strengths, and weaknesses to a team...keep in mind your mileage may vary. \$\endgroup\$ – amb May 1 '12 at 12:23

First of all, don't discount the other people you need. Some games require mostly artists and some require mostly programmers. A game which requires you to move blocks around a dynamic world probably needs more programmers, but a game where you travel the world playing cards probably needs more artists.

The other thing to consider is the other aspects of these kinds of projects. The project needs to be managed, it needs to be thoroughly tested, it needs someone to do quality control, you need people who can market the game, someone to do the finances .... There's a lot of these things. For a mobile game not all of these require full time dedication and so maybe a few can be done by the same person, but they're also important and if you're having your programmers or artists take on these kinds of roles as well, then you may need a couple more artists and programmers.

So basically I believe it's all based on circumstance. Personally I work in a team of 5 main people; me as programmer, 1 marketing guy, 1 artist, 1 animator, and one general lawyer/game design/management/just kinda useful to have guy. But on top of that we have been lucky to get help with other things, like someone helping us with marketing and another helping with QC, without them really being a part of the team.

So I think it's a question that can never really be answered definitively. There are plenty games made by one person that do well, and others which had 20 on a team. The truth of the matter is you should maybe just feel it out on a project by project basis. Once you've done some requirements analysis you should be able to make a good guess at how many people you'll need and how long, just like any other programming project.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer. About "don't discount the other people" - I just have easy access to artists and testers and that is the reason to emphasize on programmers. BTW, can you link me to example games published by your team and how long (roughly) it took you to develop them? \$\endgroup\$ – Ognyan Apr 28 '12 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ We, BraindeadApe, are currently working on our first game, Highway Hobo (alpha) for android. I joined the team a few weeks ago and have taken over as the lead software engineer. If all goes well, my first contributions to the game will be in a new release tomorrow (or next week if we decide to add a little more first). Try it out now, and you will be able to see my contribution in the next patch. \$\endgroup\$ – OriginalDaemon Apr 28 '12 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OriginalDaemon Nicely said, I agree with your "don't discount the other people" statement, though I would like to add that in my experience you need to add someone who can create audio for your projects and it's best to have multiple designers. Creating in game art and animations takes a lot of time and you also need art for marketing purposes. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas May 1 '12 at 7:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ For all my talk about not discounting other members, I forgot the sound guy. \$\endgroup\$ – OriginalDaemon May 1 '12 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ But like the link I gave in my answer the gaming developer explains how he was locked into groups with no room to move outside due to non disclosure agreements and such. He was relieved to move away from such confinement. \$\endgroup\$ – cea Apr 16 '14 at 4:45

NimbleBit makes various successful iPhone games (Pocket Frogs, Tiny Tower, Sky Burger, Textropolis, Dizzypad, Scoops, etc.) and has just 3 people. 3 very talented people mind you, but 3 people. They also have games that are very simple at a core level of gameplay and art; they don't require a massive amount of developer generated content, which is time consuming and expensive to create.

Another thing to look at along with team size is development duration and production cycles. Small teams can be light and agile, big teams not (always) so much. 3 people and 3 months to develop a game seems like a good model, especially given the volatility of the app market. A year invested in an app that doesn't "stick" and create revenue is a year wasted. Compare with being able to put out 3-4 apps in that same year, and if any one of them "sticks", spend more time on it and expand on it. If it fails and just doesn't click with the market, abandon it and move on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "3 people and 3 months" rule is very useful insight. I was just about to extend my question and to include subquestion about average duration of such projects (such games). \$\endgroup\$ – Ognyan May 2 '12 at 10:44

there are 2 competing ideas in projects for number of "workers", and they both have applications to programming/development

"many hands make light work"

the more works the faster things go (if everyone has a specialty, and can do their job well), and

"to many chefs spoil the soup"

if person X is working on section Y of the project, and person A is also working on it then both peoples modifications have to be taken into considerations, and in many cases their work needs to be manually merged.

then comes the question of time, and this directly relates to the number of people, but not always. there is a "fallacy" in computer science that I have seen multiple ways called the "1 man month", it basically means that one person cannot create a fully featured solution to a computer science project in one month. though this has also been the site of some debate, and statements of "I can do that", but the thought is that it takes more then one person (sometimes it takes people with specific talents) to get things accomplished.

then questions like this can very easily be used to ask how "many other people do I need to do, or something like project X?" when the truth of the matter is this is not a question for others, but an honest self-reflective question for yourself. then have you done a SWAT analysis (especially S, and W) of yourself, and your possible team?

yes it is possible to find how many people made these games, but that doesn't "explicitly" mean that you will be able to do it with the same number of people.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "many hands make light work" only works when you are able to manage all these people well and the work you need to do can be done simultaneously. If not, smaller teams can be way more efficient. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas May 2 '12 at 8:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer @gardian06. My idea was to get some rough number how many people will be needed in order to decide if I can start such project. I mean: If the team size had to be like 10+ there is no way I can manage to handle this. But as Azaral and Tim suggested 3-4 people - that is not too much and I guess that for simpler (cheaper) games 1-2 programmers, 1 graphic designer and animator and stock sound effects will be enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Ognyan May 2 '12 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ogre_bgr simple is a matter of ability, not fact. simple for one person could be difficult for another, and throwing out the word without prefacing it ability is like say "this ball is darker" without saying anything else about the colors, but then I have also seen individuals create featured games, and put them to retail (steam/XBLA), and when it comes to implementation its not game based on (clones included), but feature set that determines the difficulty. \$\endgroup\$ – gardian06 May 2 '12 at 16:15

World of Goo was made by two people.

For a casual\puzzle game on ios you need a single programmer and one or two artists\musician, more people will usually only slow down development or be of very little help.

Two people (plus outsourced music) is usually the best number as ios titles doesn't really do that much of an income in the average situation (read: the market is nowhere near the goldmine everybody imagine)

  • \$\begingroup\$ "ios titles doesn't really do that much of an income in the average situation" I guess Android market is even less profitable for game developers particularly, any info about that? \$\endgroup\$ – Ognyan May 2 '12 at 10:48

"1. Angry Birds was made by a team of four people and took eight months to finish because it was such a low priority for the company. "

According to: http://www.iphonedevsdk.com/forum/off-topic/61675-angry-birds-10-things-you-probably-didnt-know.html

  • \$\begingroup\$ But check the credits ingame now. A huge amount of people! And the first version of Angry Birds cannot be compared with today's version. \$\endgroup\$ – Matsemann May 1 '12 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ My knowledge of Angry Birds is limited. I just did a quick search for a popular game on phone I knew of (Angry Birds is the only one I know of period lol). I just found that statement and it fit with what the question wanted so I figured I'd put it out there. \$\endgroup\$ – Azaral May 1 '12 at 23:56

This is a fascinating and insightful presentation on gaming development where he discusses the pros and cons of working in groups of developers for years at a time as opposed to working on games independently a few days at a time and pretty much everything in between. How the process works and how few or many required is discussed as well.


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