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Unity game development on Arm and why it is important

Optimizing titles for the most popular hardware is key.
Brought to you by Arm

Published onMay 13, 2024

The global gaming market is estimated to rake in over $184 billion and continues to grow daily. According to Newzoo, mobile gaming now accounts for 50% of that global market, dwarfing the console segment at 28% and PC gaming at 21%. Mobile gaming is characterized by core technologies, including smartphone operating systems, game engines, and hardware. Arm’s CPU and GPU architectures are fundamental in the mobile gaming landscape. As 99% of smartphones run on Arm-based processors, optimizing games for Arm is not just a technical consideration but a necessity for reaching the broadest possible audience.

Unity is among the easiest and most popular tools for writing mobile games. 70% of the top 1,000 mobile games are made with Unity, and billions of downloads of Unity-based games are made monthly. As the mobile gaming market grows, Unity developers must prioritize Arm optimization to ensure their games perform flawlessly on these mobile devices.

Unity is renowned for its flexibility and ease of use, making it a popular choice among game developers.

Unity is renowned for its flexibility and ease of use, making it a popular choice among game developers. However, game developers shouldn’t let its convenience lead to complacency. They shouldn’t overlook the need for optimization. Only a few precious milliseconds are available per frame and should be used well. To be successful in the global gaming market, Unity developers must treat smartphones as a primary platform, not an afterthought.

Learning Unity

Unity can be used to make both 3D and 2D mobile games. Unity has a large community of users and many good online tutorials about developing 2D and 3D mobile games. A good starting point is the Unity Learn platform. Unity is easy to learn, and since it primarily uses C# for scripting, the programmers will find it does not have a steep learning curve.

For game artists, it is important to focus on how assets are created in Unity or how they can be imported from other sources. Unity assets include sprites, tiles, 3D models, textures, sounds, and animations. Knowing how to produce performance-optimized 3D assets and scenes for mobile applications is essential. By enhancing the performance of your 3D assets, you can improve gameplay on both low- and high-end devices, ensuring your games run more smoothly.

Arm has excellent learning material on optimizing geometry, textures, materials, shaders, and lighting. You can even advance your mobile skills in 3D Art Optimization for Mobile Applications.

Optimizing for Arm

GameSir X3 controller in hand with Genshin Impact
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Performance and responsiveness are key factors that influence the playability of a mobile game. Arm processors, while powerful, have different performance characteristics compared to their PC and console counterparts. The CPUs and GPUs in PCs thrive under active cooling systems, such as fans and liquid cooling solutions. They also run with a higher power draw, and these systems are designed to handle high thermal envelopes. On the other hand, smartphones prioritize compactness and mobility and are powered by a battery. This leads to reliance on passive cooling techniques through heat spreaders or chassis dispersal methods. Their thermal envelopes are significantly lower, which constrains their performance capabilities. This necessary trade-off means that mobile devices emphasize efficiency and battery life over peak performance.

Unity developers need to optimize game performance by considering processor workload, memory usage, and power consumption, which are critical factors in the mobile gaming experience. These performance optimizations result in games that stand out, have higher frame rates, and render stutter-free. Arm has a useful guide for optimizing Unity games for mobile.

By concentrating on Arm-specific optimizations right from the start, game studios can sidestep lengthy reworks, leading to quicker deployment of their Unity games.

Arm and Unity continue to collaborate to provide developers with access to the latest profiling tools and optimizations for enhanced mobile performance right out of the box, by identifying performance optimization opportunities. Arm’s tools are designed to integrate seamlessly with Unity’s mobile game development, assisting developers in creating vivid graphics through optimized shaders. This collaboration helps to accelerate the process of bringing mobile games to market.

The Unity Profiler and Frame Debugger are invaluable tools for gaining insights into how different elements of your game consume resources. Tools like the Arm Performance Studio (which includes Unity integrations) are also essential for capturing performance counter activity data directly from the device. This lets you get a clear picture of how your game utilizes CPU and GPU resources, enabling more effective optimization for smoother gameplay and longer play sessions while decreasing thermal throttling.

Using Unity to optimize for Arm benefits game producers, directors, and managers. It boosts the game’s performance and graphics and speeds up development. By concentrating on Arm-specific optimizations right from the start, game studios can sidestep lengthy reworks, leading to quicker deployment of their Unity games. Plus, once the game is ready, it taps into the extensive and expanding market of Arm-based mobile devices.

Embracing the mobile-first approach

ASUS ROG Phone 8 with controller accessory (1)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Treating mobile as a primary platform means embracing the constraints and capabilities of Arm-based devices from the beginning of the development process. This approach ensures that games are not just ported to mobile as an afterthought but are designed from the ground up to exploit the unique features of these devices.

Arm CPUs and GPUs provide the core hardware for mobile gaming. Unity’s game development platform also plays a crucial role. By optimizing performance and graphics specifically for Arm CPUs and GPUs and adopting a mobile-first development philosophy, Unity developers can enhance the gaming experience and tap into the largest market segment with speed and efficiency. This strategic focus is not just beneficial; it is essential in the ever-competitive gaming world.

Taking the mobile-first approach also includes examining the user interface and user experience. In this particular instance, this means embracing the use of touchscreen user interfaces. Unity has all the tools you need to build fast, responsive touchscreen user interfaces that boost the overall user experience.

If you’re a game producer, director, or project manager, targeting mobile from the beginning of the development lifecycle is important. This saves you or your team any expensive rework or porting required to support mobile platforms later. Starting with mobile as a primary platform saves you time and money and gets you to market quickly.

Download Unity for free

You can download and use Unity for free. There are various paid-for plans, but until you make your first $100,000, you don’t need to worry about those! Unity can be used on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Go to the Unity website and download the version you need. The installer can also help you grab other tools you might need on your mobile game development journey.

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