GBA Development Question

How feasible is it for a small team (3-4 people, say) to develop a GBA game that could attract a publisher? I’ve seen a couple publishers solicit GBA games on Gamasutra, but I’d like to know if there’s much precedent for an inde group making such games.

From what I can tell, it looks like there are certain teams of developers out there that specialize in GBA development and crank out a significant number of titles. And it seems like a huge percentage of GBA games are license-driven, or at least a GBA version of a console game.

For the sake of argument, assume that the game is a good one without any licensing tie-in.

I have a buddy who is doing exactly what you’re suggesting, and it’s been really tough for him.

According to him there just isn’t a market for 3rd party non-licensed games on the GBA. It’s not just the publishers, but the retail chains aren’t interested in anything that isn’t a “name brand”, figuring that they’re shelf space is already cluttered with titles, and that GBA games don’t age as fast as other platforms.

So if you can safely add the words “Mickey Mouse” to your game concept, give it a whirl.

Your Power Pill

As Andrew said, licenses can be a key, and if you can build a game that can be easily attached to a license (rather than developed from one), so much the better.

It’s entirely possible to make a game with a good 3-4 person team for GBA, but keep in mind that testing, certification, and publication is probably going to take a lot more resources than actually building the game. You may also need special hardware (for debugging, burning builds, etc.) that you need to include in your production costs.

There’s also a glut of GBA games right now. Several publishers have cut back on how many they’re releasing because there’s just too many games and not enough shelf-space/consumer attention to go around.

In other words, it can be done, but like any game development project, there are pitfalls aplenty.


The GBA market is very, very soft right now. Publishers are even backing off second-tier franchise titles because of the bloodbath from last year.

Yes, you could do a good GBA title with a 3-4 person team. Unfortunately, even if you finished a title and shopped it for nothing up front and strictly royalties, you still wouldn’t be able to find a publisher to take it. They wouldn’t be able to get it on shelves.

Doing a tech demo and shopping it around to show your skills is another possibility. Unfortunately, you are competing against hungry companies who have already done titles and overseas companies willing to bid pittances, so it’s kind of grim.

So much for the flourishing portable market.

Everyone must be playing games on their cel phones.

I think karnaaj rally started as an indie thing.

It is great, but the box art totally kills the entire game. (seriously, it is that bad you’ll NEVER get over it so you CANT buy and enjoy the game)

Karnaaj rally is a fantastic little racer but you are dead on about the box and for that matter the name. If I hadn’t read a positive review of it I never would have picked it up by looking at the box.

– Xaroc

mid-sized or tiny publisher: Yeah, looks neat, but we are barely accepting any new GBA games presently, and certainly none with original content. You really need a license.
3 or 4 person GBA dev team mouthpiece: Dude, we can’t WAIT to sell out. What licenses do you have available? We’ll swap all the sprites TONIGHT.
mid-sized or tiny publisher: Hah! All our licenses are spoken for presently.

…not that I’ve been involved in this conversation 20 times or anything, and I certainly did not make a failed GBA proof of concept, if that’s what you’re asking.

Thanks for the replies. About as depressing as I expected. Too bad I’m not a personal friend of JK Rowling.

I happened to scan the GBA rack at Best Buy yesterday. Every single game was a licensing thing… they didn’t even carry Advance Wars.

Took a look at Karnaaj. The game is pretty impressive, but that box art is flat out ridiculous. I don’t know what they were thinking. I could do better in Photoshop in 30 minutes. Easily. I think that team is going on to do a micro machines game, so maybe Karnaaj was a kind of tech demo. Too bad you can’t really power slide, tho.

So I dunno. Maybe I’ll hunt down a license first.