November 2, 2021
In 2019, hyper casual games comprised 78% of the top new game downloads. Small wonder developers are looking into how to make hyper casual games now more than ever. Though they’re less involved than their casual cousins, hyper casual games are no less thoughtfully designed. The hyper casual audience comes to the table with certain expectations for how games should look and feel. Failure to hit those marks would put your game at a marked disadvantage in a crowded marketplace.
Fortunately, learning how to make hyper casual games begins the same way as any other game type: with the basics.
Want to learn more about hyper casual games? Check out Hyper Casual Games: A Publisher's Guide.
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The first step of designing a successful hyper casual game is knowing what one is. You likely already know this intuitively simply from your own experiences playing or designing other games, but it’s important to begin with a clear definition. As you move through the creation process, return to your definition and ask if your game still fits.
A hyper casual game has:
Hyper casual games do share some design best practices with other mobile games. Players should feel as though they’ve achieved something during their play session. The catch with hyper casual games is that a play session may only be a few seconds long. Torsten Reil, CEO of Natural Motion, has a great shorthand for this: The Starbucks Test. If someone can “play your game and have a meaningful experience in the time it takes for a barista to make [a] macchiato”, then it passes the Starbucks test.
So, to sum up, the gameplay loop has to be intuitive enough to be understood in seconds, short enough to deliver satisfying results in just a few minutes, and engaging enough to be worth repeating over and over again.
Now that you have a better view of the challenge of hyper casual game design, it’s time to explore some key design concepts. Here are some highly successful hyper casual games to refer to as you review the following best practices:
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not only unnecessary to start with a unique idea, but it also may actually do you a disservice in the long run. Unlike other gaming categories, the hyper casual space considers close resemblance to other titles as a good thing. Hyper casual fans rely on that familiarity to bounce from game to game without a knowledge gap. Mimicking elements from a popular game — be they goals, mechanics, or both — can give your game an advantage when it comes to acquiring new players. Don’t simply reskin an existing property (design ethics still matter) but do draw inspiration from successful titles.
It’s also important to remember that a player’s relationship with a hyper casual game, even one they love, is brief. They’re unlikely to appreciate, or even notice, details that would elevate a casual or core game. That’s not to say that hyper casual games don’t need good design, of course. In fact, with so little time to make an impression on a player, if your gameplay isn’t thoughtfully constructed you run the risk of even hyper casual players churning out of your game faster than normal.
Perhaps the single most important consideration when deciding how to make hyper casual games is deciding on player input. The core mechanic needs to make sense without context or explanation because hyper casual players are unlikely to stick around for a tutorial or read instructions. If it can be played with a single hand, all the better. It also has to feel good and lead to player satisfaction. Some of the most popular control styles in hyper casual games include:
None of these control methods require onboarding of more than a few seconds, and they’re all basic enough for players to experience success almost instantly.
In the long-term, you probably want to learn how to make hyper casual games in Unity, the most popular engine for that particular gaming category. You don’t need to know anything about coding to start building your hyper casual portfolio, however. Several engines allow for game creation with minimal or simplified code, and some require no coding at all.
In Buildbox, for example, you can make 2D or 3D games by assigning in-game roles (character, scenery, etc.) to imported art assets. You can also make changes and check them in real-time. Construct 3 uses an intuitive menu system to make game creation and iteration fast and repeatable. Construct also has a storefront for low-price art assets, such as backgrounds for jump-style games.
The most robust version of any game development engine or tool will inevitably have some kind of fee associated with it, but many are free to start, and most offer excellent documentation and support.
IAP conversion rates are typically lower in hyper casual games compared to other categories, with purchases only being completed by the most diehard fans. Your best bet is to invest in a compelling ad monetization strategy to ensure that you're generating revenue from 100% of your player base.
Ads are a reliable path to monetization in the hyper casual category, and rewarded video ads work particularly well. Presenting an opportunity to multiply their score at the end of a run, for example, or to gain additional power-ups is a value proposition that even the most casual player can grasp in seconds.
Banners and interstitials can also work, though they’re typically less effective than rewarded ads. Their best use in hyper casual games is to engage players yet to make an IAP or engage with rewarded ads.
Turning your hyper casual killer app into a money-maker is going to require a thoughtful growth plan based on data rather than intuition. Leaning on an experienced partner is a well-tested method for creating and maintaining a profitable portfolio. Moloco works with mobile app developers to help grow their user bases and increase their revenue through campaigns optimized to maximize return on ad spend (ROAS).
Thanks to our proprietary machine learning algorithms, we’re able to transform data into sustainable growth, targeting quality users at scale and hitting ROAS goals. To learn more about how Moloco can help you succeed, get in touch.
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