I googled this exact same question the first time I wanted to start my game development journey! I wanted to know exactly how much time it would take me to create and publish my “brilliant one million dollars idea”.
I think you can guess how that turned out for me!! After years of learning how to make video games and after working for companies as a game developer, I’ll be answering the question for you based on my own experience.
So how long does it take to make a game in Unity?
Building a “not so complex” video game in Unity can take you sometime between a few months and a year. That duration can shoot up to 2~3 years the more complex your game design document gets. However, you can expect to have a prototype for your game idea in a few weeks.
Of course, how long it takes you to build your game will depend on what game you are trying to make. If you are building a very simple mobile game, you can do that in a few days in Unity if you have experience using the engine.
If you don’t have that experience, then it might take you a few weeks to get started making simple mobile games.
However, don’t expect that you’ll be able to make any decent game that you can actually sell for money in less than 6 months, even if you are a very experienced game developer. If you do manage to pull that off, then you’re one of the very few who can, and I salute you.
But in general, my guess based on experience is that 6 months is the bare minimum, and it usually takes much more than that to put a decent game on Steam (or on game consoles) that doesn’t get hammered with bad reviews.
A well polished video game that is expected to be sold for money (instead of monetization through ads) needs a lot of time and hard work to be made. It can take you years to reach the release date if you don’t plan properly and follow a strict work schedule.
I hope that this isn’t demotivating you in any way. If it is, then here is a positive thing to think about: You don’t actually need to finish your game to be able to accurately predict if it’s going to meet your expectations or not when it comes to success..
I strongly suggest that you first build a very simple prototype of your game, and that you test that prototype and see whether people like it or not !
If the prototype shows any potential, then keep iterating on the prototype until you incorporate all of the feedback points that you have gathered from the testing phase.
If the prototype was well received by whoever tested it (the larger the number of testers the better), then you can start looking for funding to your game, or you can self fund it knowing that it has a higher chance of success based on the feedback you got for the prototype.
How long does it take to build a game prototype in Unity?
You can have a very decent game prototype in less than a month in Unity. Forget about the art, story, animations, and visuals of your game and just focus on the core game mechanics. If you do that, you can have a prototype in Unity in a few weeks or maybe days if you’re an experienced game developer with a simple idea.
Put your prototype out there, share it with people, and keep iterating on it until you are either fully convinced that the game will work out, or until you realize that the game idea isn’t great and that it’s time to move on to something else (I know it hurts, but what hurts more is years of effort with underwhelming results).
In both scenarios, you’ll be getting rid of the “uncertainty” at an early stage of development, which is definitely the preferred scenario over realizing that the game won’t work after spending years of your time working on it.
That said, go start your new Unity project right now (or should I say your game ‘prototype’), and I wish you all the best.