Hybrid casual games: The new kid on the gaming app block
Have you heard that hybrid casual gaming apps are giving hyper casual gaming apps a run for their money? But, what are hybrid casual gaming apps and are they really so different from hyper casuals?
Among gaming apps, the hyper casual vertical had a long reign at the top, and only in recent months has seen a drastic 20% decline in market share, according to Liftoff’s 2023 Casual Gaming Apps Report. The emergence of hybrid casual games is actually app developers’ answer to this decline. We cover this shift in the mobile gaming industry, and provide suggestions for how developers can best pivot to benefit from this shakeup.
Refresh: Casual vs. hyper casual vs. hybrid casual gaming apps
Before diving into the latest trends in the mobile gaming industry, let’s review these closely related gaming app verticals. While similar, they are not the same.
What is a casual gaming app?
Compared to heavily storyboarded games like a role-playing gaming app, casual games are simpler regarding rules and gaming mechanics and, therefore, require little mental energy. Rather than catering to a niche audience like a mid-core game, a casual game is for all. While monetization strategies vary, casual games tend to utilize a free-to-play model, earning revenue through in-app purchases (IAPs) and in-game ads.
While casual games are indeed simple, they are not as simple as hyper casual games and offer metagames, which are essentially games within games. A metagame could be earning currency within a game or collecting characters, all of which serve to boost user loyalty.
Sub-categories of casual games include word games, card games, match-3, puzzle, and more.
What is a hyper casual gaming app?
As the name suggests, hyper casual games go beyond the simplicity of casual gaming apps and offer the most straightforward gameplay of the gaming app verticals. A hyper casual game is typically built on a singular, core mechanic, like shooting an arrow at a target or rolling a ball through a track. Think of it as a “tap-to-play” game, whereby users only need to tap their phones a couple of times to play. As users are likely playing hyper casual games while waiting in line or on public transportation, session lengths are short.
In fact, a subcategory has emerged known as idle gaming which takes the term “hyper casual” to the extreme. In idle gaming, the game continues without the user’s interactions but moves exponentially with a user’s interaction.
For example, in the app Cats & Soup, a user can stop tapping within the app, but the cat characters will keep moving. However, with a few taps, or by watching a rewarded video ad, users can earn in-game incentives. It should be noted that while some hyper casual games turn to in-app monetization, most use a collection of banner, video, and playable ads.
To learn more about the different strategies available, read A beginner’s guide to mobile app monetization strategies.
What is a hybrid casual game?
A hybrid casual game is a combination, or hybridization, of two different gaming genres. The goal of this new gaming subvertical is to provide easy access to a game, like a hyper casual game, but to retain more users by including monetization opportunities like mid-core games. In other words, it has the same “tap-to-play” simplicity of hyper casuals but offers more advanced gaming and social features.
The structure of a hybrid casual gaming app revolves around elements like collection systems or a complex game economy that users find in mid-core games. These elements provide users with long-term goals, increasing their loyalty to the game.
For example, Lion Studio’s hybrid casual game Ancient Battle is an easy-to-start battle simulation in which users can discover new lands and spells, collect gold, cards, and gems, and compete for a top position on a global leaderboard. Gameplay and features like this are not present in hyper casuals.
What makes hybrid casual games attractive to developers?
By combining the benefits of two different genres and avoiding their weaker areas, developers can create a game that meets the following needs.
The need to stand out
According to data from Azur Games in a guest article on Pocket Gamer Biz, in January 2023, the same number of prototypes for hyper casual games were released as in the entire year of 2021. In other words, the hyper casual gaming market is crowded. As such, developers need to diversify hyper-casual games, and often choose to recreate their hyper casual as a hybrid
The most significant pointer taken from hyper casual games is their accessibility. App developers are trying to create hybrid apps with the same level of accessibility. Users should be able to instantly play their app, understanding how the app functions right after installing it. This will allow a game that would normally be labeled as mid-core to appeal to a wider audience.
Because hybrid casual games are bringing in more complex graphics, characters, and other gaming mechanics, these games offer richer gameplay than their hyper casual counterparts.
Particularly in light of the current hyper casual market, retaining users has become paramount for gaming app developers. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to capture users only to lose them after two or three days.
As mentioned, accessibility is a starting point to enhance an app’s retention. If users quickly understand an app, they’re more likely to stay and play. Next, developers can add elements of casual or mid-core games like competitive events or social interaction to boost user engagement.
Another retention strategy gaming app developers should consider is gamification. Yes, we know you’re already in the gaming realm, but have you applied techniques like onboarding gamification, loyalty gamification, or gamification design? If not, read our latest guide: Play to win: Using gamification to give your app an unbeatable edge.
Tools to launch a hybrid casual gaming app
Pun aside, hybrid casual gaming apps are a different breed. Like any new subvertical, it’s untested, and early movers likely feel like they’re on their own when it comes to marketing and measuring their apps’ success. However, there are a few tools app marketers of hybrid casual games can utilize to grow their apps.
Automatic audience segmentation
As hybrid casual gaming apps target more niche audiences than hyper casual games, it’s important to find the right audience. With Adjust’s Audience Builder solution, marketers can easily create, share, and A/B test targeted audiences. Adjust will then automatically segment users based on set criteria.
Smart alerts for campaigns
When debuting a new app, marketers are likely testing multiple things and monitoring campaign data fiercely. With a lot on their plates, marketers would benefit from automated alerts that keep an eye on their campaigns for them. For example, whether your campaigns meet an important key performance indicator (KPI) or there’s a weird anomaly to check out, Pulse, Adjust’s smart alerts solution will keep you informed! With smart alerts, marketers can save time, reduce human error, and never miss a vital insight.
For the mobile app gaming industry, proving budgets is the new norm—especially for those launching a hybrid casual gaming app. Whether you’re part of a big or small gaming studio or a single app developer, it’s critical to have full visibility of your monetary metrics. From ad spend, in-app purchases and ad revenue reporting, Adjust’s ROI Measurement solution unifies your budget data so you can identify the highest-performing channels, partners, and creatives.
Ready for your app to dominate the hybrid casual gaming app realm? Request your Adjust demo now to see how Adjust’s mobile measurement and analytics suite can level up your app growth.
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