· 7 min read

Voodoo Talks Trends: How to Stay Ahead of the Game in 2021

Publishing Manager Théophile Tabary talks us through the Voodoo approach to trends, his reflections on 2020, and tips on how to stay ahead of the game in 2021.

Editors note: This article was originally published by Théophile Tabary, Publishing Manager at Voodoo. You can read the original here

As Publishing Managers at Voodoo, we often receive questions on current and future trends in hyper-casual. Trends can be difficult to navigate for studios and developers; sometimes you want to be following trends, and sometimes you want to be creating new ones. We’re here to give you some guidance on how to approach trends when creating hyper-casual games, and how to stay ahead of the game in 2021.

The first thing to remember is that there are several different types of trends in hyper-casual. Each type contributes to the market in a slightly different way, and it is helpful to define which category your ideas or prototype fit into in the ideation and prototype phases.

The first type is demand trends, or what users are actually looking for when scrolling through the app stores. An example would be the rise of io games like Crowd City, or Paper.io in 2019. Users were actively looking for more competitive games at this time, which gave way to a dozen successful io games throughout the year. Demand trends are extremely important to identify and follow, as they represent what our users are actively searching for.

The second type is supply trends: games that are created by studios or developers when they interpret the current trends in the market. For example, if we see that runner games are popular in the charts, then prototyping runners would be considered as following a supply trend. We have to be a bit careful with this one though, because it can lead to a saturated market. When we identify a hot prototype that seems to be following a supply trend, we have to make sure that it also brings something new to the table.

Trendsetting

When you have a trend, you have both a trendsetter and a trend follower. Trendsetting is when a studio or developer comes up with a totally fresh idea that we haven’t seen before in hyper-casual. If the game is successful, then others pick up on this idea, creating new games around the unique aspect of the original game. They become the trend followers.

An example of a trendsetter would be Knock’em All by OHM Games. This was one of the biggest games in 2020, and the market quickly followed with a lot of first-person games. However, having a unique idea worthy of trendsetter status does not always guarantee success. Sometimes the original idea doesn’t live up to its full potential, and later adaptations can actually be a much better fit for the market.  Trendsetter games still need a super-strong execution to stand out, and that’s when the publisher can really help.

At Voodoo, we focus on both creating new trends, and adapting current trends to the ever-changing market. When a studio or developer comes to us with a super original idea or prototype, we know how to adapt it as best as possible to hyper-casual, making sure it lives up to its full trendsetter potential. But we also help adapt, refresh, and level up current trends to keep things interesting. Using thorough market research and monitoring, as well as deep player behavior and in-game data analysis, we help guide studios towards innovation and bringing something new to pre-existing trends.

What can we learn from 2020?

2020  was a huge year for us at Voodoo, and for hyper-casual in general. We published a record number of exciting hit games, totaling over 2 billion downloads in just one year. So what trends stood out in particular? It won’t surprise anyone to know that stacking was one of the major trends in hyper-casual in 2020, as seen in games such as Stair Run and Cube SurferPhysics-based puzzle games like Good Slice also accounted for a substantial share of hits in 2020. A couple of studios really stood out for me personally, and they all used (or created!) trends in a super original way, providing us with great inspiration for next year.

The first would probably be OHM Games. We’ve worked with them for over two years now, and they have a great track record of being trendsetters with games like Knock’em All and Bullet Rush. However, towards the end of the year, they wanted to get out of their comfort zone by exploring an existing trend. They tapped into the ongoing stacking trend and brought something new to the table by merging this with an Aquapark.io style hack component, creating Shortcut Run! It was great to accompany them through this experience, and see what they could do when stepping out of their comfort zone.

The second would be Tapped, creators of Scribble Rider. The first few prototypes they tried this year didn’t work out, but they used the drawing mechanic trend to their advantage. They combined this popular mechanic with a failed prototype to create Scribble Rider. It was enough of a twist on a current trend to catapult them to the top of the charts in record time. The studio really took on board all feedback and key learning that we shared with them this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing their new ideas next year.

The final example I would give is Misha Vykhrysento who created Woodturning 3D. He is the only one so far who has managed to build a high retention ASMR game, picking up on a trend outside of hyper-casual and adapting it to the hyper-casual market. This game is a great example of a successful trendsetter. His product vision really allowed him to come up with something that is going to be hard to replicate!

Shortcut Run, Scribble Rider, and Woodturning 3D were three of Theo’s favorites in 2020.

How to stay ahead of the game in 2021

At Voodoo, we have a pretty good idea of what trends will take off next year, and are hoping to recreate the success of the past few years by unearthing some new ones too! However, despite being in a market that is constantly evolving, the hyper-casual mindset itself is not about to change. The principles that we have always talked about: simplicity of gameplay, marketability, snackability, aren’t going anywhere. So with all this in mind, here are my top three tips for any studio or developer on how to stay ahead of the trend-game in 2021.

1. Gameplay first, now, and always.

Hyper-casual is all about experiencing short, snackable gameplay sessions. It’s not about a story, a theme, or a hardcore grinding rounds per minute experience. This is something that will always take priority over trends!

2. Prototype fast, and change your approach to failure.

Failure doesn’t exist in hyper-casual! It’s a natural step of the process, a necessary investment to discover your golden idea. Studios like Tapped really embody this test-and-learn approach and often find new, innovative ways to work with trends as a consequence.

3. Seek direction and guidance to boost your firepower.

Above all, when it comes to trends and understanding the market, it really helps to be connected to a publisher that has a real 360-degree vision of the industry. Our game competitions are super helpful in terms of guidance when using current trends. With helpful guidelines and clearly defined genres, they provide a low-pressure environment to try out new trends and step out of your comfort zone, rather than just throwing you in at the deep end.

Ready to submit your game and start working with Voodoo? Click here.

So there we have an introduction on how to approach trends, and our advice for any studios or developers looking to create hyper-casual hits in 2021. If you want to keep up-to-date with regular information and insights regarding current and future trends, you can submit your game with us to access our full knowledge base and resources. As always, we’ll be hosting live-streams and events throughout the year on everything you need to know. Above all, good luck! We’re really looking forward to seeing what’s in store this year. 

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