Changing the Game for Community Growth: Porting Mobile F2P to PC
Source: Unsplash

The audience for F2P mobile gaming has been significantly growing year after year, and with over six billion people owning a smartphone worldwide, it’s no surprise that mobile gaming currently makes up over 52% of the total gaming market. In fact, according to data analytics tool, mobile gaming accumulated over $61B in revenue in 2021.

F2P mobile gaming
Mobile (comprising both iOS and Android devices

Mobile (comprising both iOS and Android devices) significantly outweighs competitors in the platform war; however, this doesn’t factor in how many Android users also play games on PC.

Playing Android games on PC is nothing new though, with emulators such as Bluestacks providing a platform for a tech-savvy audience to play games on their non-native devices for over a decade. More recently, Google Play has been exploring the idea of this too.


That said, due to a long-term lack of user accessibility, emulators such as Bluestacks have failed to break into a mainstream audience, leaving space for official game versions to emerge on the PC platform. As such, demands for game porting have remained.

But why now? While the simplest answer is to increase revenue by finding new ways to scale the same game profitably, it ultimately comes down to building for the future player.

With the ‘IDFA armageddon’ causing a 15-20% revenue hit for numerous mobile developers, It’s an intelligent strategy to adapt to specific market conditions and add variation to your portfolio, exploring different revenue streams and market viability. This portfolio versatility is further empowered by the additional agency that PC provides over distribution, pricing, and cuts.

Moving forward, this agency is beneficial not only to developers but players too, building for evolving player preferences and allowing players to play whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. On-demand access to game experiences across platforms, i.e., cross-platform games, is probably one industry-wide mega-trend that we will see play out at scale over the next 3-5 years. But it has already begun, with games like Genshin Impact blowing the lid off, and other games like Diablo Immortal and Marvel Snap being cross-platform from the get-go.

From Handheld to Desktop

There are many benefits to doubling down on a product rather than creating something fresh. Not only does it save time and relax financial constraints, but it also helps your product reach new markets, engaging new players with minimal effort.

A new report by DFC claims that 48% of all gaming happens on PC. Porting your mobile game to PC via the web (e.g., Meta) or a distribution platform (e.g., Steam) effectively increases new user inflow and revenue. Successful A-list examples include Fallout Shelter, Angry Birds 2, Star Trek Fleet Command, and Diablo Immortal.

Diablo Immortal
Source: Blizzard

Scopely, the publisher behind Star Trek Fleet Command, focuses on the players rather than the platform. At the time of Star Trek’s launch, Javier Ferreira, co-CEO of Scopely, stated that the company believes the idea of platform-specific players is outdated. He adds that internal data shows that over 65% of players engage with games across multiple platforms.

Despite numerous success stories, porting from mobile to PC remains unpopular. There is still a vast space for mobile games to enter the PC market and capitalize on the opportunity to innovate and influence the type of games being played.

To examine whether porting is worthwhile, a game studio would need to evaluate potential revenue by looking at the LTV of new and existing users. Ultimately, the key fundamental driving your decision should be whether or not the revenue brought in by new players (or existing players from mobile) on PC surpasses the cost to port, acquire players (UA), and maintain the game on PC. If this is achievable, it's a worthwhile effort. To be clear, this not only means that the unit economics need to make sense, but also the scale of revenue achievable would need to justify the move to create a PC port.

There’s much potential to be gained from porting a product, and while this process is still very much in its infancy, now is the time to consider it. This article explores different porting approaches, how they’re developed, their value, and their costs.

The Value of Porting

As mentioned earlier, upscaling and porting a product costs significantly less than developing a new one from scratch. Further, the risk profile is very different because porting an already proven game can sometimes be the better decision than finding a new hit. A game studio’s primary obstacles will revolve around maintaining (or improving) the aesthetic and technical fidelity of the new platform and adapting the control set. Once complete, the game can speak for itself.

Here are some of the main benefits of porting a mobile F2P game from a company’s perspective:

  • Increased audience and profits: By expanding to new pastures, the product opens itself up to a broader audience and thus scaled profitability. Sometimes this could be a genre or game with which the audience has never interacted.

  • Less pressure for well-performing products: Porting is cheaper (and faster) than developing something new. A whole new concept isn’t required, nor a complete set of assets. Instead, teams can convert what they’ve already created. Capitalizing on already validated successes saves months of trial, error, and experimentation.
  • Meeting evolving player preferences: Porting expands upon the tools at a player's disposal and removes the limitation of platforms, letting players play in any form they desire. They are no longer bound to a single device and in some cases can continue their progress on the go. If they want to play on a massive TV with a 4K resolution and a gamepad, PCs cover this need. If they want a small cozy display with tight controls, this is possible too. PCs have the flexibility to be molded around the player, which is entirely different from mobile. Because of this, developers must understand the importance of game porting and the possibilities at their disposal.

Of course, catering to a new audience on a new platform comes with its own set of ongoing production costs, new process overheads and potential team expansions, which will all need to be taken into account during the ROI analysis of the porting process.

When Is Porting Worth the Cost?

In the past, game developers have often reused a significant portion of the material (i.e., code and assets) from the game's original version to create ports, making costs much more manageable.

The porting process of indie mobile games takes an average of six months, with more technically complex games, such as AAA titles, taking much longer. Even if a game appears easy to port at a glance, there may be a significant disparity in graphics and optimizations, extending porting time.

The exact cost of porting a mobile game to PC varies greatly due to multiple factors, including:

  • Scope of content (e.g., assets, codebase complexity, etc)
  • Resolution of the source art
  • The game engine
  • Codebase flexibility
  • Team size and expertise

Another option is to outsource development to a porting specialist. This is particularly attractive for smaller companies looking to lessen their strain, reduce costs, and begin experimenting on their venture while increasing LTV for an already validated product. Outsourcing to a team experienced with the process can make the development (and release) much smoother.

Playing devil's advocate, there are some potential negatives when outsourcing development. The additional costs are an obvious concern, but you should also assess what it means to work semi-long-term with a third-party studio. Not only will you need an internal point of contact to manage communication between teams, but an outsourcing team working with a foreign codebase runs the risk of creating more inefficiency than simply going with internal development.

Porting to PC can increase developer profit margins, primarily if your team can funnel players to your website, avoiding platform take-rates from distributors such as Steam. There are probably better routes for smaller titles, which would benefit from the organic algorithms of a set platform. Still, it does work for games with high spenders (whales) with (or expecting) already high LTVs (and thus RPD/ARPU), for example, Diablo Immortal and Star Trek Fleet Command.

We don’t have a definitive answer as to which point in a game's life cycle sees the most gain. Diablo Immortal and Genshin Impact launched with day-one ports already in place, while Scopley’s Star Trek Fleet Command launched a port midway through its lifecycle and continues to be supported to this day.

Kabam released Shop Titans to Steam near the end of its life cycle, and it’s been gaining consistent revenue ever since. If we estimate that revenue is similar to that on mobile ($931K in the last 30 days, according to and then deduct Steam’s take (30%), we’re still left with $651K/month — a sizable (but not overly impressive) amount in revenue. Although this isn’t a game changer for Kabam, it would be safe to assume the revenue covers the port's development and maintenance. Additionally, little to no revenue impact has occurred on the mobile version since the port was released, though porting to PC has grown a reasonably strong and consistent audience on the platform.

Monthly Breakdown
Two years after its release, Shop Titans has retained a consistent avg. peak CCU of ~6.3k players. Source: SteamDB

Key Considerations for Porting

Porting a game can be a complex process consisting of procedures that require a lot of bespoke knowledge and time. Before venturing into a porting endeavor, ensure that your team has more knowns and known unknowns to prevent significant hiccups. Several considerations must be made across all disciplines to ensure the product feels native to the platform. With this proper attention, the game will likely be accepted by players of the desired platform.

Design Considerations


One of the primary design considerations when porting a mobile game is the controls. Moving from a touch screen to a keyboard and mouse or gamepad is a significant alteration that you should take seriously.

  • Do you allow gamepad support?
  • Does this type of game work on PC?
  • Are there more considerable design changes needed before this?

These are all questions you should ask before developing a new game version.

Design Considerations
Source: BestGame.Link

One common pitfall we commonly see is developers creating a direct port between the platforms without utilizing the array of new input types that PC brings to the table. A portion of your audience is likely to come from a mobile background. Still, if porting to a new platform, you must make amendments to ensure that the game feels native rather than a cheap duplication, showcasing value in investing (or in some cases reinvesting).

Gameplay and Genre-to-Platform Fit

Free-to-play games are not always welcome among PC gamers. What’s fun to play on the go or while waiting in line might not be fun sitting on a couch in front of the TV. Before porting your mobile game, consider how well the gameplay will translate to the new medium. Is it a popular genre among console or PC players? If not, will it have a broad enough appeal to succeed?

Appointment mechanics and gacha systems are mechanic designs that are becoming increasingly more common on PC but are still far from conventional. Consider what it would mean to redesign these and how it would affect the game's integrity and scalability to change (if required).

That being said, PC gamers aren’t the game, and when you’re porting a F2P game, the likelihood is you’re not doing so for premium game fans. There is a PC audience that is open-minded to the F2P model, and even then Fortnite and LoL may not be the best comparison for, say, a F2P RPG or 4X game. It’s vital to know who your audience is and nail them down before tackling any changes to the gameplay.

Sometimes you can break into the market with an underserved genre, something that’s common and popular on mobile but isn’t often seen on PC. However, this is a gamble you must consider before making a decision, as it complicates ROI gains.

Cross-Platform vs Cross-Play vs Cross-Progression

When re-releasing a pre-existing title, it's essential to consider what that means for active players.

Not supporting cross-platform progress has its benefits. For example, players on mobile would have to re-purchase items/offers/services on PC to enable them again. This is especially important to keep in mind for paid players endowed with the benefits of such purchases. But this approach is likely to have backlash from the community and is generally not seen as a friendly developer approach to increase game access points.

Today, the industry thinks about multi-platform support in three distinct ways:

  1. Cross-platform: The PC port would be a standalone product that is optimized for the PC audience, does not have cross-play enabled, and does not carry over player progression. Therefore, it will be a separate game akin to PUBG.
  2. Cross-play: The PC port would not be a standalone product that is optimized for the PC audience, but rather port the current PC/Console version to mobile. Player progression will also carry over between platforms. This is akin to Fortnite.
  3. Cross-progression: This is a relatively new idea that we’ve internally thought about and is now starting to be picked up by various studios. It would involve a standalone PC product which allows for the flexibility of core/meta gameplay PC optimization and fair gameplay between mobile players, while at the same time allowing for player progression and skins to be synced across all platforms. In other words, player progression and skins will be synced and updated across the different platforms, even though gameplay can slightly differ between PC and mobile. The most recent example of a game exploring this idea is Call of Duty: Warzone.

While getting into the pros and cons of each of the above approaches is out of the scope of this research essay, it is nonetheless an important decision to consider when porting your mobile F2P title to PC to ensure existing fans are satisfied and new fans can be obtained. One of the most critiqued features of Lords Mobile’s PC port was that existing users couldn't continue their progress from mobile and had to start from scratch. Although it is an extra portion of dev work, it does appease an existing playerbase that could build the foundations for the new platform.

Lords Mobile
At the time of writing, 32% of Lords Mobile’s 5 million reviews on Steam are mixed or negative, yet it sits with nearly 8 million ratings on Google Play with a 4.3-star rating. Source: PC Gamer

Visual Considerations

While only accurate in some cases, video games look considerably better on medium- to high-tier PCs than on other platforms. There are several visual amendments that you should make if the intention is for your game to look appealing on a larger screen.

Below are a couple of key visual considerations to be had:

  • UI Design: Mobile games are designed for smaller resolutions and are mostly played with touchscreen inputs. The UI will be designed with these restrictions in mind, but when you port to PC, you’ll suddenly have more screen space and the freedom to change that UI.
  • Resolution & Textures: Mobile releases also tend to have worse picture quality than PC or console titles. When publishing on more powerful devices, it’s better to enhance the visuals as much as possible for release. Upscaling existing textures and more graphical effects are a good starting point.

Technical Considerations

There's much to consider when porting a game to another platform from a technical perspective. Luckily, porting from mobile is often significantly less taxing than porting to it due to optimization requirements.

While we are not technical experts, below are a few key technical considerations to be had:

  • Tool Support: Sometimes the tools you use do not support the new platform, so your team must rewrite the code in another language accepted by the platform.
  • Graphics Support: Upgrading the graphical fidelity of your product is an integral part of making it feel at home on PC. With the new technical capabilities and resolution size, the game should be a clear improvement from its mobile equivalent.
  • Performance: Ensure that the game runs well on PC and the player experience isn’t hindered by FPS drops and bugs caused by the change in tech stack. Considering we’re looking specifically at mobile to PC rather than the opposite, optimization shouldn't be a concern.

It's essential to ensure that your team has the bandwidth to make these changes while still being available to maintain and improve the game's original version; otherwise, you risk harming revenue overall.

Different Approaches

Regardless of where or how you choose to port your game, you should keep a handful of considerations in mind throughout planning and development.

Game Client

This section refers to when a game build is uploaded to a distribution platform such as Steam and the Microsoft Store. Players will purchase a game online or in retail and enter the code in the distribution platform to claim their game. Unlike with web, players have to download and install these games and have more control over their experience.

Marvel Snap
Source: Mumu Global


  • Trusted Distribution: Game clients such as Epic Games Store, Steam, and Game Pass are the go-to storefronts for acquiring PC games on the platform. Although the web is viable, it’s becoming increasingly less popular and supported.
  • Strong Support: If you develop a game using a universal engine like Unity or Unreal Engine, it’s relatively easy to compile a PC build. You will have to ensure that it is playable on larger resolutions than on mobile; otherwise, it’s a straightforward process.
  • Quicker and Cheaper: Releasing a PC game doesn’t require special certifications. Even with licensing fees, you’ll find that porting your game to consoles is faster and cheaper than developing from scratch.
  • Large Audience: According to Valve, Steam has over 120M DAUs. This is only one of many distribution platforms that you can leverage to uplift your playerbase.
  • Revenue Potential: Digital stores remain the primary way to purchase games on PC. According to Newzoo, in 2021, boxed/downloaded PC games earned $34.1B in revenue, while web/browser-based games earned a less impressive $2.6B. Although there are distribution fees, distribution has a higher revenue potential than the web.


  • Distribution Fees: When releasing an app on a digital store, e.g., Steam, you have to share a fraction of your revenue with the store holder. The percentage will vary depending on the store’s terms, but the industry standard is ~30%.
  • Store Guidelines: Releasing to a PC store of your choice will come with its own set of store guidelines that will need to be adhered to, and that adds to production time.
  • A New Point of Failure: You’re pretty much always at the store’s mercy. Store downtime means game business downtime, for example.

Web Port

Web applications are a kind of software stored on a server and launched by players within their chosen browsers. Think Netflix or Miniclip, where players select a game to play, and the game will stream without players having to worry about freeing space on their device or tweaking numerous fiddly technical settings.

Startrek Fleet Command
Source: Jeumobi


  • Accessibility: Browser and instant games have a much broader audience than game clients, making this a much more attractive option for products with a more casual audience.
  • Large Potential Audience: As a point of reference, Facebook has 2.9B MAU, with around 700M engaging in game-related content. There are only 6,000 games on Facebook now, compared to 1.25M on mobile. This means the competition is much lower than it is on mobile storefronts.
  • Easy Maintenance: If you develop a game for iOS or Android, you are dealing with two separate versions of the game. With web-based games, you could potentially create a universal build that users can open in a browser, whether it’s on a PC or a smartphone.
  • Shareability: Having your port accessed on the web via a link makes it highly shareable, maximizing reach at ease. To optimize these gains, utilize standard advertisement methods, i.e., rewarding players for connecting with social media or sharing with friends.
  • No Platform Fees: Encouraging players to download the game from your domain removes platform fees from the equation, increasing revenue by 30% (on average) or potentially reducing IAP prices by -30% to drive more purchases.


  • Revenue Potential: Browser games revenue has been falling by almost 20% in revenue YoY and is likely to continue to fall, capping potential revenue games, but this is mostly driven by older games with existing audiences. New games still have new opportunities.
  • Lack of Support: Over the last decade, however, numerous popular web port languages (HTML5, Javascript, etc.) have all become unsupported. Even newer versions of Unity no longer support web players. This is a significant deliberation before getting started on a port, as it could result in teams having to make a proportionate amount of the game from scratch.
  • Outdated Distribution Method: The web is debatably more accessible/approachable for a casual audience, whereas PC-exclusive distribution platforms (Steam) are more familiar and trusted by PC natives. Consider both the audience you have and the one you want. This is dependent on a product-by-product basis.

Closing Thoughts

Porting your mobile game to PC has the potential to drive LTV significantly and potentially expand the overall game’s business revenue line. It’s an excellent option if you’re looking to unlock new users and grow your revenue but aren’t prepared to gamble on a new venture or invest a large sum of money. We’re seeing an increasing number of high-profile studios taking the jump into this underserved market, and we might see this continue to scale after the success of Diablo Immortal and potentially Marvel Snap.

League of Legends Wildrift
Riot’s Wild Rift is one of the latest mobile games to announce a PC port. We should see that on Game Pass, Xbox’s distribution platform, in 2023. Source: Google Play
Porting a game is highly beneficial in helping meet players’ ever-changing needs and technological trends, but it doesn’t come without risk. Below is a list of key takeaways:

Porting a game is highly beneficial in helping meet players’ ever-changing needs and technological trends, but it doesn’t come without risk. Below is a list of key takeaways:

  • If done well, doubling down on a successful game can have a high ROI for teams of all sizes. It releases the pressure on creating successive smash hits while providing room for teams to experiment and be creative. Ultimately, it's less of a risk for the studio than creating a new game from scratch if the mobile version performs well.
  • At the heart of your decision to port should be your audience. Is there an audience for you on PC, and are the LTV gains proportionate enough to justify the time, cash, and energy spent on this new venture?
  • Uploading your port to a pre-existing game platform, i.e., Game Pass, Steam, and Epic Games Store, is much safer and more reliable than the web in most cases. However, this will take a portion of revenue.
  • Porting your game is likely considerably quicker and cheaper than creating one from scratch. And although porting can be taxing, plenty of studios-for-hire can alleviate some of these costs if the finances are in place.
  • Ensure that you’re considering the risks before taking this path. Many technical, visual, and design changes must be made to ensure that the game feels native on PC.

A big thanks to Becky Matthew for writing this essay! If Naavik can be of help as you build or fund games, please reach out.

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