Hyper-casual games became the hottest trend in the industry when developer Voodoo saw an exponential increase in downloads, which made them the third best performing game developer worldwide in 2017. Only Google and Facebook performed better, and the message was made clear: hyper-casual games are in-demand and can be extremely successful. Having sustained this popularity ever since, hyper-casual games now generate between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in annual revenue.
People across the globe are now spending more time than ever playing games, and perhaps more significantly, they’re also engaging with advertising more – a trend that has played to the strengths of hyper-casual’s unique monetization model. The first quarter of 2020 saw hypergrowth in the hyper-casual vertical, with global installs doubling from December 2019 to March 2020. Users weren’t only downloading more hyper-casual games, they were also playing them more often. Adjust data reveals that sessions grew by a whopping 72% in March.
So what makes a good hyper-casual game?
The bread and butter of hyper-casual games is that they’re short, simple, and satisfying. They have short lifespans, meaning that they should be quick, cheap and easy to make – otherwise the risk of investing too much time and money on a title that won’t yield an attractive ROI.
Lightweight and simple
Hyper-casual games are mobile games that offer instant gameplay and have simple mechanics such as stacking, turning, and falling. This type of mobile game is designed to be lightweight with minimal onboarding so that users can instantly tap to play. When done right, the simplicity of a hyper-casual game can make it extremely engaging and addictive.
These games are also defined by their target audience. While hardcore games will target loyal gamers who will spend large sums of money on a single game, hyper-casual games appeal to the mass market. Their accessibility and ease of understanding regarding the mechanics means that they can attract a large audience and generate revenue with a freemium monetization model.
Usually only one mechanic
They usually feature a single mechanic and have a minimalist interface. When a gamer opens a hyper-casual gaming app, it’s important for them to be able to access the game within seconds. Because the game itself is simple, they have to be aesthetically pleasing and offer a satisfying progression model. Another benefit to this type of gaming app is that it will take up less space on a user’s device than other types of games, making them more convenient for the user and less likely to be uninstalled.
At last year’s Mobile Spree, Adjust’s Product Manager, Paul Singh, sat down with industry experts to discuss the rise of hyper-casual games. During the panel, Jonathan Winters, Head of User Acquisition at Miniclip, explained the implications of this gaming format’s meteoric success: “They definitely go with this kind of mass production, fast production mentality. If you’re one of the top players, you’re talking about multiple titles at the same time.”
The most reliable revenue stream for hyper-casual games is through in-app advertisement, but the options to unlock “no ads” or to make in-app purchases are also key revenue drivers.
What steps do you need to take?
Step 1: Start with a mechanic
When envisaging a hyper-casual game, there are loads of mechanics to choose from. Before you start the development process, it’s essential that you research the most popular mechanics used to be able to implement them effectively.
All hyper-casual games have simplified mechanics using basic geometry that can hold the attention of users. After you’ve checked out some possibilities, choose one key mechanic to focus on – any more will complicate the game and make it more confusing, thus making it more difficult for you to create and eventually hook users with.
Step 2: Pick an engine
Thankfully, hyper-casual games don’t require you to be a coding wizard, because of their simplicity by nature. Another bonus is that there are a lot of engines available to choose from, with each suiting different skill sets. It’s even possible to create a hyper-casual game without any knowledge of coding, with several programs enabling the creation of interactive games.
Scratch, for example, is a free programming language with an online community. The tool is also useful for understanding the core concepts of programming.
There are also visual scripting tools you can use, such as Bolt Visual Scripting for Unity. Buildbox is also commonly used by hyper-casual developers. These are both tools designed specifically for game developers that don’t want to write code, and there are several online courses available to help with getting started.
Step 3: Soft launch and test
One of the most important components of a successful hyper-casual game is the balance between difficulty and ease-of-use. It’s critical for the game to be instantly accessible, but a developer shouldn’t want it to be too easy or too difficult.
Developers should A/B test their mechanics at different speeds to find the perfect balance that will keep users engaged without it becoming frustrating enough that they stop playing. Developers will also need to test ways in which the app can be monetized without damaging the user experience.
Make sure to check the retention rate of your app, with anything below a D1 retention of 30% indicating that a lot of improvements need to be made. We also recommend soft launching in a market that isn’t your primary market, but similar.
Step 4: Test and reiterate
Analytics is vital to the success of any game, but it’s particularly pivotal for hyper-casual. You’ll want to keep a close eye on your retention rate, determining whether ads impact it, and how many ads you can include before it becomes impacted. On this note, there are three ad formats to consider.
- Rewarded video ads
Described by ad network Unity Ads as the “hottest revenue generator” on the market, this ad format rewards users for viewing ads. For example, a user can be given in-game currency or extra lives after watching 30 seconds of ads. They can then use this reward to progress through the game, creating a win-win scenario for the user, advertiser and publisher. A study by OpenX also revealed that 77% of users are willing to watch a 30-second ad if they are rewarded with a discount from a retailer. Implementing rewarded video ads is also a smart way to increase retention and session length.
- Banner ads
Although some advertisers may be weary of “banner blindness,” mobile banner ads can be used to monetize your hyper-casual game. A study by Liftoff found that this traditional format can be more effective than video ads that aren’t built specifically for that ad campaign. The study also found that banner ads are outperforming native ads when it comes to post-install engagement on Android.
- Interstitial ads
Interstitial ads can take up the entire screen, ensuring that the user takes notice. This ad format can be static full-screen ads but can also include video, store locators and even playable content. In his article for GameAnalytics, Tom Kinniburgh, Director at Mobile Free to Play explained that “playable ads do so well because they encourage the user to enjoy the time away from the main game.” He also stated that ads must become more native to the games in which they are placed: “Any ad network that thinks about player interactions and experience, specifically in terms of how hyper-casual ads are used, will create games that retain for longer while still seeing high clicks and conversions.” Developers will need to decide whether interstitial ads on their hyper-casual game will be skippable, as making it possible for users to skip ads may be better for retention and session length, but will also impact revenue. It is critical the developer’s A/B test these ads to find the right balance and optimize performance.
And then what?
Then, you’ll likely want to publish. But the work doesn’t end there. There are a ton of services and tools that you can use to polish, refine, and promote your game, from App Store Optimization, to attribution, through to Ad creatives and LiveOps.
Adjust’s platform includes measurement, fraud prevention, cybersecurity and marketing automation products. When you’re ready to get started, check out our special partnership with Game Analytics’ brilliant GameDev Toolbox and avail of our special deal for Game Analytics customers.