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Hyper casual games: a publisher's guide

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November 19, 2021

Unlike other game genres, hyper casual games are quick to build and quicker to play. Players typically squeeze in a few seconds or a few minutes of gameplay, so developers need to find ways to fit complete gameplay loops and provide a sense of accomplishment in those narrow windows. Then it’s on to the next game, for most players, so mobile game companies need to be able to offer other fun and easy hyper casual games that keep users in the family.

In this complete guide, we’ll go over the basics of hyper casual games, including the category’s distinguishing features, the secrets to hyper casual success, and the hyper casual leaders to learn from.

Free Report: Post-IDFA Mobile Game Advertising Costs: Casual Vs Core

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How Big Is The Hyper Casual Games Market

What’s the potential for profit?

How To Make Hyper Casual Games

Hyper Casual Games Development: The Complete Checklist

The 8 Best Hyper Casual Publishers of 2021

How Big Is The Hyper Casual Games Market?

Between 2019 and 2020, the hyper casual games market climbed from 7.8 billion downloads to 11.8 billion. Hyper casual’s rapid growth has captured the industry’s attention, and for good reason; in today’s market, it’s estimated that hyper casual games earn as much as $3 billion in annual revenue. We can trace the spike in hyper casual’s popularity back to changes in the core demographic of mobile gamers today.

Instead of the stereotype (young, male, and extremely dedicated to gaming) that once ruled the scene, the majority of today’s mobile game players are women and many are over the age of 45. With demographic changes came behavior changes that pushed the industry into hyper casual games’ arms: most mobile gamers now play while multitasking, instead of parking in front of a screen and playing a game as the day’s primary activity.

What’s the potential for profit?

One of the distinguishing features of the hyper casual games category is its monetization model. While in-app purchases (IAP) were the most popular method up until about 2013, hyper casual games combined that existing IAP strategy with in-app ad monetization. Instead of relying on a narrow segment of high-value users that were hard to develop and expensive to acquire, hyper casual games monetize the entire user base for a more consistent and reliable revenue stream.

Hyper casual games also often use installs-per-mille as their main advertising performance metric, allowing developers in the category to invest in high-performing creative elements in appealing formats (like rewarded and playable ads) that deliver impressive results.

Using installs-per-mille as a primary advertising performance metric also encourages game companies to invest in dynamic creative and results-oriented interactive ad formats. In addition, publishers can lean into the new norm of hyper casual gaming behavior to cross-promote games within their portfolio, maximizing the value of individual users by spreading their attention across multiple games.

Ready to learn more about the state of the hyper casual games market, opportunities for profitability, and the future of the gaming industry? Check out our full post: “How Big Is The Hyper Casual Games Market.

How To Make Hyper Casual Games

Hyper casual games typically feature simple, minimalistic designs and repetitive gameplay that players can understand immediately. Hyper casual players should feel like they’ve accomplished something, even if they only spend a couple of minutes playing while waiting for another activity to start.

The fact that many hyper casual games look alike is actually part of their appeal; it makes it easier for players to bounce between games without having to reacclimate to new designs or relearn new rules. That’s why many hyper casual games use replicable design elements instead of placing a premium on originality. Because most players dip in and out of hyper casual games for short stints, they’re unlikely to notice the kind of design details that are critical in other game categories.

While you shouldn’t copy another game’s design, you should definitely take inspiration from other successful titles. That’s also true when it comes to game mechanics; hyper casual games need to be easy for players to understand without an in-depth tutorial or instruction manual, so replicating the category’s preferred game mechanics is an effective strategy. Game mechanics like stacking, merging, rising and falling, swerving, or timed tapping are all popular.

Although you’ll likely need some coding skills to build out an impressive hyper casual game portfolio, it’s not a requirement to get started. Engines like Buildbox and Construct 3 allow you to use intuitive interfaces to assign roles to art assets (that you can import or buy) so that you can launch your first game without any code at all. Don’t forget to incorporate a monetization strategy that combines the best applications of banner and interstitial ads with tried and true in-app purchases and playable or rewarded ads.

Interested in more details about the decisions that publishers should consider when creating a hyper casual game? Read our full post: “How To Make Hyper Casual Games.”

Hyper Casual Games Development: The Complete Checklist

This step-by-step guide will help mobile game studios and publishers develop new titles and launch into the hyper casual games space.

  1. Engine: Choose the right platform for your team’s core competencies. Unity and Unreal Engine are popular platforms, while other options like Buildbox and Game Maker Studio power no-code or light-code development experiences.
  2. Assets: Purchase or design the art assets that you’ll use to design your hyper casual game. Some game engines even come preloaded with art assets that any developer can use, if you’re looking for a more entry-level build.
  3. Gameplay: Start with a popular hyper casual mechanic and build out your game from there. Details like theme, storyline, and design specifics are much less important with hyper casual games than in other categories.
  4. Prototype: Introduce a gameplay loop that’s quick, easy, and endlessly repeatable, and you’ll end up with a working prototype. Test and optimize your game among your development team to make sure it’s playable and as bug-free as possible.
  5. Ads: In-app ads are likely the primary way you’ll earn revenue from your hyper casual game. Prioritize effective ad placements like full-screen interstitials and opt-in ads that allow players to unlock in-game bonuses.
  6. Launch: Test your game with a limited number of users in low-cost geographical regions before your full global release. This will also allow you to optimize both gameplay and ad placements to get the most bang for your buck when you launch globally.
  7. Cross-promotion: Most hyper casual players don’t stay attached to the same game forever, so it’s a good idea to identify similar games within your portfolio that players are likely to enjoy. You’ll raise your profile as a developer and increase organic traffic.

Ready to put these steps to work at your mobile publishing studio? Check out our guide: “Hyper Casual Games Development: The Complete Checklist.

The 8 Best Hyper Casual Publishers of 2021

As the hyper casual category has grown exponentially in recent years, certain studios have risen to the top of the heap. Here are the eight publishers that are topping the charts and pushing the hyper casual category to new heights in 2021:

  1. Voodoo: As the king of hyper casual games, Voodoo has earned over 5 billion downloads of the 100 titles it has listed on the iOS App Store. Its leading app (with over 500 million downloads) is Helix Jump.
  2. Lion Studios: Under parent company AppLovin, Lion Studios has published 67 games. 13 of those have hit #1 on the app store charts, including Slap Kings, which was top-ranked on the App Store in 124 countries and on Google Play in 77 countries.
  3. Ketchapp: Now under the Ubisoft umbrella, Ketchapp has partnered with 100 developers and earned 1.5 billion downloads across its 200+ games. Its big break came with the release of the hit game, 2048.
  4. Good Job Games: Focusing on developing its own titles has led Good Job Games to great success, including 1.5 billion downloads across 34 games and estimated revenue of $1 million per month.
  5. Hipster Whale: As the studio behind the Crossy Road series, Piffle, and PAC-MAN 256, Hipster Whale built its business focusing on a much smaller portfolio of games. Two of its titles are only available through Apple Arcade.
  6. Playgendary: In addition to having 500 employees in more than 40 cities, 250 million active monthly users, and more than 2 billion installs, Playgendary also made headlines by donating to help keep people safe during COVID-19.
  7. Kwalee: Founded in 2011, Kwalee has climbed to the top of the hyper casual space by balancing games from outside developers and games created by its own employees, who pitch their concepts during weekly company-wide jam sessions.
  8. Zynga: Although it’s known for games in other categories, Zynga acquired Rollic in 2020 to move into the hyper casual realm. Rollic’s successful titles in the space include TikTok sensation Go To Heaven!.

Learn more about these pioneering publishers in our full article on “8 Hyper Casual Publishers Every Game Designer Should Know.”

Hyper casual games are growing more and more popular, and advertising costs in the category are falling fast. As a publisher, making the most of your hyper casual portfolio takes an experienced partner that knows how to turn your top titles into real results. Moloco’s proprietary platform leverages machine learning technology to turn first-party data into sustainable business growth, enabling us to help mobile publishers acquire valuable users and earn revenue through data-driven campaign optimization. Ready to learn more about achieving your hyper casual game goals? Get in touch today.

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