November 19, 2021
Hyper casual games might not carry the same hype as the most recent Marvel RPG or turn-based strategy title, but these quick-to-play and quicker-to-learn titles are currently the lifeblood of the mobile gaming industry. The top hyper casual publishers have refined their systems to an art, creating games that are as light and fluffy as a ludological cloud, drawing in hundreds of millions of users with simple gameplay loops and quick sessions that can be played while waiting for a bus or while half-watching whatever’s exciting on Netflix this week.
The hyper casual game category has grown hugely in the last few years. According to one report, 80% of industry growth in 2019 came from hyper casual games. According to another, 31% of all game installs in 2020 were hyper casual games — and the category is worth $3 billion.
Want to learn more about hyper casual games? Check out Hyper Casual Games: A Publisher's Guide.
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Who are the Top Hyper Casual Publishers of 2021?
Hyper casual games are categorized by simple mechanics that require almost no instruction, with each round of play lasting only briefly, and the game itself is endless. They’re titles that you can pick up and play for anywhere from 30 seconds to an hour. Their simplicity also makes these games suited for a wide age range — a five-year-old can understand how they work just as easily as a 95-year-old. While the category itself has been around as long as there’s been mobile gaming (remember Doodle Jump?), it was really codified with the breakthrough hit of Flappy Bird in 2013.
For developers, a large part of the appeal of hyper casual games is the short development cycles, sometimes taking just weeks to go from prototype to finished product. Hyper casual game publishers will often focus on turning out as many titles as possible, hoping to have a handful of major hits among their catalogue. Large game catalogues also give publishers the ability to gather user data from a wider body of players, which can be used to more accurately target ads.
While more publishers are moving into the hyper casual space every day, these are some of the biggest players to know 2021:
You can’t talk about hyper casual games without talking about Voodoo, the uncontested king of the category. It’s almost impossible to overstate just how big Voodoo is, but for a taste, the company currently lists 100 titles on the iOS app store, and by their own metrics have 5 billion downloads. Just one app, the hyper-addictive Helix Jump, makes up more than 500 million of those. Like many publishers, Voodoo lets you submit your own game, and if your title is accepted, you gain access to Voodoo’s internal testing tools and library of knowledge, before being released under their banner.
Tight on Voodoo’s heels is Lion Studios, a media division of the mega-successful AppLovin platform. Since 2018, Lion Studios has published 67 games, with 13 of them hitting the #1 spot in the charts. By one count, the publisher had more than 250 million installs in just Q3 of 2020. The company has put out games like Slap Kings, which hit #1 Top Free Game on App Store in 124 countries and #1 Top Free Game on Google Play in 77 countries.
A French company that’s been publishing since 2014 (an eternity in smartphone app years), Ketchapp got its big breakthrough with the hit game 2048, and they’ve stayed near the top of the charts since. Now owned by Ubisoft, Ketchapp has partnered with more than 100 developers globally to publish more than 200 games, totaling 1.5 billion downloads.
Unlike many of the other entrants on this list, Good Job Game is primarily a developer, rather than a combined developer and publisher. That means the games are made in-house, not by outside teams. That level of focus has led to some impressive numbers, netting them more than 1.5 billion downloads from a comparatively slim portfolio of 34 games. According to one report, this Istanbul-based studio has a revenue of around $1 million a month, which is impressive for an independent developer.
One of the most formative contributors to the genre, Hipster Whale is as much a hyper casual developer as any other studio on this list, but with a very different approach to game development. This Australian studio has just four titles of its own: Crossy Road, Crossy Road+, Crossy Road Castle, and Piffle — and then PAC-MAN 256 which they produced in partnership with Bandai-Namco. The Crossy Road series of titles have been huge hits thanks to their addicting gameplay loops and distinctive cubic style — and Hipster Whale has been successful enough that two of these titles are only available on Apple Arcade.
The enormous Playgendary is a stark contrast to Hipster Whale, with 500 employees in more than 40 cities. Playgendary’s size is a reflection of its success, with 250 million active monthly users on their games, and more than 2 billion installs. Not only that, but at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Playgendary donated $40,000 in the company’s native Belarus to help keep people safe.
Kwalee has a pedigree. Founded in 2011 by David Darling, one of the originators of the UK video game industry, the company now has employees spread between the UK, India, and China. Like many of the other publishers on this list, Kwalee both develops games internally and publishes those from outside developers who submit viable concepts through their website. Kwalee also encourages their employees to pitch interesting new games during company-wide jam sessions every Wednesday, which have led to some unexpected successes — like the extremely successful Draw It!
Zynga, the big-name powerhouse of browser and mobile games, has started to push into the hyper casual arena. In 2020, Zynga acquired hyper casual studio Rollic for $180 million in cash, and then Rollic absorbed game studio Uncosoft in 2021 — all of which point to Zynga being serious about investing in and expanding its portfolio in the world of hyper casual games. Rollic has been behind a number of successful titles, including Go To Heaven!, which became a TikTok trend for a brief period.
The immense popularity of hyper casual games, combined with the falling cost of advertising in them — especially when compared to core games — has made these titles prime locations for new advertising campaigns. Moloco’s AI-powered advertising platform can help get your ads in front of more users, including in these new and developing app types, for the best ROI imaginable. Reach out to Moloco now to start driving a powerful return on ad spend for your hyper casual game portfolio.
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