Hyper-casual games became an industry buzzword when developer Voodoo saw an exponential increase in downloads, making them the third best performing game developer worldwide in 2017 – only losing out to Google and Facebook. The message was clear: hyper-casual games are in-demand and can be extremely successful. Hyper-casual games have sustained this popularity ever since and now generate between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in annual revenue. This guide will explain everything you need to know about this type of mobile game, including how you can make them, how they can be monetized, and what tools you need to get started.
What are hyper-casual games?
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 makes it extremely engaging and addictive.
Hyper-casual games are also defined by their target audience. While hardcore games will target loyal gamers who will spend large sums on a single game, hyper-casual games appeal to the mass market. Their accessibility and ease of understanding the mechanics mean that they can attract a large audience and generate revenue with a freemium monetization model.
Hyper-casual games usually have a single mechanic and a minimalistic 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, it’s important for hyper-casual games to be aesthetically pleasing and have a satisfying progression model. These games are designed to be played over several short sessions. 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.” For the panel’s full insights, watch the video below.
How to make a hyper-casual game
Before getting started, it’s important to learn the basic principles of how hyper-casual games are made. This includes the technical aptitude needed to develop a game, the different mechanics you can choose from when developing your game, and the importance of testing for optimal results.
How to create hyper-casual games without coding
It is possible to create hyper-casual games without knowing how to code. There are several options available. Scratch, for example, is a free programming language with an online community that makes it possible to create interactive games. The tool is useful for understanding the core concepts of programming. There are also visual scripting tools you can use, such as Bolt Visual Scripting for Unity. This is a tool designed specifically for game developers that do not want to write code. To get started, there are several online courses available for those who want to create hyper-casual games without writing code.
9 mechanics for hyper-casual games
Before you start to develop hyper-casual games, it is essential that you learn the mechanics used to make them work. These games have simplified mechanics using basic geometry that can hold the attention of your users. Below are eight examples of the mechanics you can use to make a highly engaging hyper-casual game.
1. Timing mechanics:
Also known as a “tap mechanic”, this is when the user must tap their screen to complete an action at the right time. For example, Run Race 3D gamers need to tap their screens to jump with precision.
This mechanic can also use increasing speeds to make the game more difficult. Hyper-casual games that utilize this mechanic can have a similar user experience to beloved arcade games such as 1983’s Mario Bros. and 1991’s Sonic The Hedgehog from Sega Genesis .
2. Rising/falling mechanics:
This mechanic shows an object that rises or falls through a digital environment. For example, Voodoo’s Helix Jump creates the illusion of a bouncing ball that the user must get through a series of obstacles.
Rising/falling mechanics can be used so that players either control a single object or the environment. The game can also change variables, such as an increase in speed, to make levels increasingly difficult.
3. Puzzle mechanics:
This type of hyper-casual game can be completed by applying logic and correctly placing objects around the mobile screen. For example, Roller Splat! is a game where the user must navigate a ball around increasingly difficult courses.
It is important for puzzle-based hyper-casual games to maintain a balance between difficulty and accessibility. Game develops need to maintain a gradual increase in difficulty while applying the same logic to every level. If the puzzle design changes midway through a session, game developers risk frustrating the user and losing their interest. While no tutorial should be necessary, game developers can design the first few levels to help users learn the nature of the game.
4. Stacking mechanics:
This requires users to stack objects. Games that utilize this mechanic can often include other mechanics. For example, the user may have to change or rotate an object before it can be correctly stacked. Users can be incentivized by stacking mechanics, if they are constructing a larger object during this process.
5. Agility mechanics:
Not to be confused with timing games, agility games are completed by repeating a motion with precision and speed. For example, Timberman is a game where the user must chop down trees and avoid getting hit by branches.
6. Growing mechanics:
This requires the user to become the largest object, often through absorption, to progress. A classic example of a successful game that used growing mechanics is Snake, which involved a snake eating objects and growing in length. Although modern games are far more sophisticated, the basic principle is the same.
7. Turning mechanics:
Games that use turning mechanics require the user to turn left and right within a 3D environment. Because this mechanic can make a game more difficult than others, it’s important to implement simplified controls for hyper-causal games that utilize turning mechanics.
8. Swerving mechanics:
Not to be confused with turning mechanics, this enables users to accurately maneuver an object on their mobile screen while avoiding certain elements. For example, Aquapark is a game where gamers must control a character that is sliding down a water slide. However, it’s also possible to swerve off-course and skip corners of the track.
9. Merging mechanics:
Games that use a merging mechanic rely on a satisfying progression model. Merge Dogs is an example of this mechanic, where users can merge two dogs into a more valuable breed.
The aim is to find similar objects and use them to create something more valuable. Hyper-casual games that use merging mechanics must be aesthetically pleasing for users to stay interested in the merging process and their in-game progress. This type of hyper-casual game can also include more than one mechanic. For example, Merge Dogs allows users to race a dog around a track
Testing the performance of a hyper-casual game
One of the most important components of a successful hyper-casual game is the balance between difficulty and ease of use. It is critical for the game to be instantly accessible but a developer also shouldn't want a game to be too easy or difficult. Developers should A/B test their mechanics at different speeds to find the perfect balance that will keep users engaged without it becoming a frustrating experience. Developers will also need to test ways in which you can monetize your app without damaging the quality of your game’s user experience.
Monetization and hyper-casual games
Monetization is a critical component to any successful hyper-casual game. These games rely on ads to generate revenue so it’s important to know the different ads you can implement and how they will be incorporated into the user experience.
3 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 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 showed banner ads 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 states 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 your hyper-casual game will be skippable. Making it possible for users to skip ads may be better for retention and session length, but it will also have a significant impact on revenue. It is critical that developers A/B test these ads to find the right balance that allows their games to perform well in these metrics.
For more information on different ad formats, read How to choose the right ad format for your app. You might also be interested in how Adjust’s Control Center can help you with ad management, and our guide for How to monetize your app.