How to Become a Millionaire with Game Development

There are dozens of ways how to be a millionaire. But definitely one of the most pleasant options is to build a game which can conquer the world. What? You don’t believe that game development can be such a rewarding thing? We are here to convince you!

Game development prospects

In fact, game development is one of the most promising programming branches. People are seeking for entertainment and are ready to pay for the high-quality content.

Matching or even exceeding the expectations of your potential users can bring you on the top of the game industry with incredible earnings. Check out the examples of the most successful games, that earned millions of dollars for their creators.

  1. League of Legends

League of Legends is reasonably considered to be the most successful game of the last years. It is the top earning game worldwide, which generated the incredible $1,6 billion in 2015.

Idea and history

League of Legends is the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) with various game modes developed by Riot Games. LoL, which turned the indie game development company into the technology giant, was inspired by the popular World of Warcraft mod Defense of the Ancients.

The creator’s of LoL objective was to build a game with own engine and to make it independent from the WoW. This idea was successfully realized in October 2009 with the official release of the game.

League of Legends is completely free to play and with no ads. The creators earn from in-game purchases, which give the player access to unique champions skins, runes and other boosters.

In 2014 Riot reported 27 million players each day, which is 5 times more than it’s closest competitor on the online game market.

Besides, Riot Games is holding regular LoL tournaments for the most engaged players with impressive prizes.

Game development success case - League of Legends tournament
League of Legends tournament


As for the actual programming, there are several languages used for League of Legends game development. The more important are:

  • C++ (core game)
  • Lua
  • C#

LoL runs the custom game engine written in C++.

As the information about the development team, time and cost is not accessible to the public, we asked our game developers to make their estimation for the game like League of Legends.

If we suppose that the team consisted of around 10 developers, the engine programming took up to 6 months. 3 to 5 months lasted the game core development. The most interesting part is the champions integration – it runs even now, since LoL releases new champions quite often. The development of one unique champion could take around 3 weeks for the team of 5 professionals. This time includes brainstorming, game design and actual coding” – Mykhailo Ptitsyn, ThinkMobiles Game developer

2. Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans is the second most earning game of the previous year and the most successful mobile game in our list. $1,345 billion was its revenue in 2015.


The mobile strategy bestseller Clash of Clans was released in 2012 for iOS and in 2013 for Android. It quickly became the sensation in the game industry, brought fame to its creator Supercell and inspired other developers to build similar games. Clash of Clans was named the most grossing mobile app of all times. The estimated revenue is $1,5 million per day!

In the game, the player should build and defend his town, attack the other towns, build clans and fight together. Clash of Clans follows the freemium model – the game is basically free to play, but allows the player to spend real world money to get access to some extra features.


The iOS application was developed in just six months. On the different stages of the process, the team included 5 to 8 developers. The 3D graphics for Clash of Clans were produced in 3ds Max, Photoshop and Flash. The native game development involved Objective-C and C++, the server code is written in Java.

The same timespan was needed to develop the Android version of the game.

3. CrossFire

CrossFire is another free-to-play game supported by microtransactions. Though this game is not very popular in America and Europe, the numbers are clear – in 2015 CrossFire generated $1,11 billion revenue and landed on the second place of the most popular PC games, just after League of Legends.

Idea and History

A lot of you probably never heard of CrossFire, but the first look at the game will remind you on the first-person shooter classics Counter Strike.

Yes, that’s it. CrossFire is the analog of this mega-popular game, but was created for the Asian countries. Developed in South Korea and successfully distributed to Korea, China, the Philippines, it managed to leave CS with just $221 million in 2015 far behind.

Success key

The key to CrossFire’s success is the smart targeting. The game was originally developed for the Asian market. Compared to Counter Strike, CrossFire is free to play, that attracts players. It also has lower connection requirements – this directly addresses the Asian and Latin American market, where the internet connection quality is significantly lower. The main income source for CrossFire are the in-game purchases.

But why so many? The answer is simple. In CrossFire the player can spend real money to buy more powerful weapons or increase his defense. In some way, it is the pay-to-win strategy. And there are a lot of players willing to pay for the advantage over other players.


All the information concerning the game development process is strictly hidden.  

CrossFire was first released in 2007, long before the today’s most popular game engine Unity was introduced. This game runs the LithTech Jupiter Ex game engine.

4. Dungeon Fighter

Another Korean gaming hit that managed to earn $1 billion is the 2D video game Dungeon Fighter Online. Though it is not that well known in North America and Europe, it has a strong base of players in the Asian countries, who are ready to spend the huge amount of money for gaming.


Dungeon Fighter Online is the beat ’em up game. Launched in Korea in 2005 it quickly gained popularity in the whole Asian region. After the relaunch in 2015 it became available worldwide, which gave the game access to global market, but still, the majority of Dungeon Fighter’s community is concentrated in Asia.

The game is basically free-to-play with extended features, which are paid and generate the revenue for the Dungeon Fighter Online creators.


The initial plan was to build a game Dungeon Fighter in mini format. The development of the first version of the game took just 5 months. But then it turned out to be a really successful project, so the work on the game moved on.

Dungeon Fighter Online was developed on the Unreal Engine 3.

Our approximate estimation for the game development of Dungeon Fighter is around 6 months for 10-12 developers.

5. World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is the legendary MMORPG by Blizzard. Even though its best times are already in the past, WoW is with $814 million still among the top grossed games of 2015.


World of Warcraft is the fourth part of the mega franchise by Blizzard Entertainment released in 2004. WoW holds the Guinness World Record as the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. More than 100 million accounts were created in the game since the official release.

At the present time, there are around 7 million active accounts.


Blizzard first announced World of Warcraft in 2001 and released it in 2004. It took around 4 years to develop this gaming blockbuster, running its own game engine.

The game design is worth mentioning since World of Warcraft is the first game of such a level worldwide. The pictures of the WoW universe, locations, champions are legendary and inspire game and film creators even now. We suppose that the development process lasted such a long period of time because of the designer work, which is really exceptional.

Blizzard Entertainment revealed that they spent $200 million for the game development and support in the first 4 years after the release.

World of Warcraft is the highest grossing video game of all times. The study of Business Insider claims, WoW earned in total over $10 billion from 2004 till 2012.

Realizing the success of WoW, in 2006 Blizzard Entertainment announced the movie based on the plot of the video game. Ten years later, in 2016, Warcraft: The Beginning was released. The film earned $433 million and became the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time.

The Warcraft franchise lives for more than 20 years now and is the doubtless leader in the game industry. And seems like it is not going to give up its positions in the nearest feature. This is also proven by the next game in the list of most profitable games.

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

This game was the experiment of Blizzard Entertainment. The aim was to create a simple game with a smaller game development team compared to the global projects like WoW. And this experiment now manages to earn around $20 million each month.


Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was released in 2014 and is the fifth and by now the last game of the Warcraft franchise.

The game combines the popular collectible card games genre with the well known Warcraft world and is the real combo! By now there are more than 50 million Hearthstone players.


The team of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft consisted of 12 developers first and then grew up to 47 members. The first steps in the game development process were made in 2008. The full release took place in 2014.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is one of the most popular games built on the Unity game engine. This is also the first Blizzard game developed not on the custom engine. The reason is simple. Hearthstone is available for mobile devices as well, that’s why the cross-platforming delivered by Unity was the best possible solution.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is quite a simple game. We suppose, the actual programming took up to 6 months. Much more complicated and sophisticated is the card design and animation in the game. The game design could take up to one year or more.

Top Earning Game Development Projects
Top Earning Games

7. Pokemon GO

We’ve been comparing the most successful games according to their earning in 2015. But the list will be not completed without the biggest sensation of 2016 in the game industry – Pokemon GO by Niantic. It is the current holder of the Guinness world record as the game, that grossed the most revenue in the first month after the release – over $206 million.


Besides, Pokemon GO holds four other world records. It hit 500 million downloads in September and is number one on the list of the games, that earned more than half billion dollars in the shortest time.

There are a lot of categories, where Pokemon GO is the first. The viral spread of the game was achieved by nostalgia feeling most of the players had. Pokemon has been a brand for some decades now. The game where you can interact with Pokemon in the real life conditions was the definite success even before the official release.


Pokemon GO is very similar to Ingress – the AR game developed by Niantic 4 years earlier.

Pokemon GO runs Unity game engine and bases on the technologies developed for Ingress. Considering the oversimplified Pokemon design, the use of Google Maps and real playing environment, as well as the existing technologies the game development of this bestseller could last up to 6 months.

This phenomenon inspired us to create our list of 5 Pokemon GO alternatives, that also have great potential on the market of AR games.

Excited about game development?


Of course, creating your own game is not the direct way to earning millions of dollars. The examples of this insanely popular games show how brilliant ideas, exceptional game design smart investment could lead you to millions of fans and billion-dollar earnings.

This infographic with best UX design tips for game development can be also interesting for you. Check it out!