The developers of even the slightly successful PC game often hear the question “When will your game be available on consoles?”. The porting process is time-consuming not just development-wise, but also because of a lot of legal stuff to deal with. In this article, we want to use our porting experience to share some tips on porting a PC game to console. Following these tips may accelerate your process of game porting a video game from PC to consoles pretty solidly.
The necessary condition of any porting from PC to console is an access to devkit.
Devkit is an installable package of all the software and hardware you need to develop a console game. You’ll need access to devkit or your own devkit to publish a game on PlayStation Store. There are two general ways game developers interact with devkits:
Option #1 — making a deal with the publisher.
Publishers often provide developers with the devkits or at least remote access to the devkits via their publishing accounts. This is a good option if you’re developing your first console title, and especially if you already have a project — you get the hardware, SDKs, and access to the necessary documentation without having to buy and certify for your own devkit. But if you plan to develop more than one console title, it may bring problems. In this case, you have to care about where to get the devkit for every game you’re working with.
Option #2 — buying your own devkit.
Owning a devkit allows you to develop games for a console as long as it’s supported by a console development company. In order to get one, you’ll have to apply for the development program. Application forms are usually very detailed and companies often update them, so stay tuned with the latest changes.
If you’re planning to work with the physical copy of the devkit, mind the time for delivering it. Companies are very strict in terms of delivering devkits, especially to the post-Soviet countries.
After you have a devkit, you get access to the closed networks, necessary documentation and will be able to download SDKs for compiling apps.
We recommend having at least 2 devkits for every console you’re working with, no matter if it’s Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo Switch. If you only have one devkit and it’s broken, you’re at risk of spending a lot of unnecessary time dealing with warranty services, which are also very strict. And remember: you can’t publish your console port without access to a fully functional devkit.
Microsoft has a great supporting initiative for developers. If you have an alpha version with good presentation materials for your first Xbox title, you can apply for the Independent Developers Program. If your game is approved there, you get access to Microsoft subsystems and two Xbox devkits for free.
Once you’re settled with the regional office, you’ll need to take a few steps to prove that your game belongs in the store. First, contact the platform executive. You’ll need to share your Game Design Document (GDD) to prove that you actually have a game. We recommend creating GDD in as many details as possible.
If your GDD passes this stage, you get the access to the platform plugins for your game engine. This will help to build your game for PlayStation.
The next important step is confirming your software licenses. If you’re using a lot of third-party plugins in your game, you’ll need the console to support these plugins.
The problem is that the majority of plugins are provided with no sources. In this case, you have two options:
- if the plugin developer supports the console, you can ask for the sources. In most cases, you’ll also need to confirm your developer status.
- if the plugin doesn’t support the console, you’ll need to rewrite your code and use technologies that fit the console. This may be very expensive and time-consuming, so make sure it’s worth the resources.
While the 4th dimension of consoles is relevant, developers would need to optimize games for them to run on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. It’s hardware is 7+ years old. There are mobile devices with similar hardware capabilities as those consoles now. So optimizing is crucial in porting a PC game to console.
Memory is the main technical limitation for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch games. The memory optimization approaches between mobile and console porting are pretty similar. The aspect of uploading and memory management will be the most important in the project.
Depending on the type of your game and its bottlenecks, GPU and CPU optimization is the next priority, after memory optimization. On consoles, the available amount of memory for the title is also shared with the device’s video memory. The bigger the resolution of the game — the more video memory is required to run a game, which means there’s less memory remaining for your app.
How long does it take to port a PC game to console? Apart from the development stage, getting your game certified may take a good while.
Unlike the PC game stores and AppStore or Google Play, every console store has a very strict set of rules and guidelines you should follow. The earlier you start following the console requirements (stagewise) — the bigger is your chance to meet the deadline and avoid lots of reworking, backtracking, and missing out.
QA testing is a huge part of getting the certification, so we recommend assigning a separate QA team for this purpose.
- upload the build to the consoles environment
- book the slots in the store for the certification team
- send the build to consoles QA
- get the result and implement changes (may take up to 2 weeks, so keep it in mind when you plan release dates)
- repeat until your game is approved.
If you release patches or add-ons, the certification process looks the same, but there’s a chance it’s faster than the first time.
There’s a small cheat option to save some time on certification. It’s called a Waiver request. It’s a private request to console’s support. This request may help to avoid some of the certification requirements. If you prove that some particular requirement isn’t reasonable to follow for your exact game in the cover letter to the waiver request, there’s a good chance that console support allows you to skip this requirement. If successful, it saves you a lot of time and development resources. But it’s pretty hard to convince the console side to let you skip some requirements. The reasoning from your side should be really solid.
We at Pingle Studio took part in a few dozen video game porting to consoles since 2007. We brought Lost Ember, PC Building Simulator, Streets of Rogue, Rocket Arena, Pathologic 2, and many other Unity and Unreal Engine projects to two generations of PlayStation and Xbox consoles and also Nintendo Switch.
Having experience with various titles helped us develop a good understanding of how how to convert PC game to console and certify it. Seeing patterns and using approaches from previous projects helped us save a lot of time on certifying our projects.
Owning a park of devkits and consoles also helps us making console versions faster and with proper quality.
How hard is it to port a PC game to console? In any case, it could hardly be called easy. But a lot of companies do a lot of unnecessary work, especially when it’s their first porting to console.
To sum up, our main points on how to port PC game to console without spending a lifetime and losing your mind are:
- pay very strict attention to the platform’s requirements
- start following the platform guidelines as early as it’s possible
- provide yourself with access to a devkit (better have one or more in your office)
- test every single pixel on every device you plan to launch your game on
- time management: plan your releases realistically
- don’t hesitate to ask for porting help
In case you need help in porting your game to any relevant console or getting a TRC certification — Contact Us and let us show your game to a very active console audience!