Hyper-casual represents a major industry trend that won’t fade away in 2019 -- if anything, the market for these games will continue to grow and evolve. As such, mobile developers and marketers need to keep a close eye on the space and determine how it will impact their ongoing strategies.
At White Nights at St. Petersburg, we showed the actual market size numbers and highlighted other key insights:
1. The overall audience for hyper-casual is still growing
The hyper-casual market experienced unprecedented growth in 2018, leaping ahead by 485% to encompass 510 million monthly active users. While this growth has slowed somewhat, that doesn’t mean hyper-casual is finished -- far from it. Within the first six months of 2019, we’ve already seen another 68% increase that carried the hyper-casual audience to 860 million MAU.
It’s worth remembering that while this growth is impressive, it’s also remarkably new. As such, we will continue to see the audience and overall market take shape over the course of months and years. For mobile developers, however, this period is an exciting and opportune time to attract and acquire new users.
2. Hyper-casual is dominating the free charts in app stores
Hyper-casual games aren’t just popular, they’re overwhelmingly popular. The free app charts for Google Play and the App Store are filled with hyper-casual titles. Nine of the top ten most popular apps overall are hyper-casual titles. And despite being “free”, these apps still generate revenue -- hyper-casual is a major reason why 74% of consumer spend is dedicated to mobile games.
(As an aside, seven of the top ten apps are published by Tenjin clients, which is a testament to our growth platform. Visit our main page to see how our services benefit mobile publishers across the world!)
3. Competition in hyper-casual is increasing
Of course, with so many apps topping the charts, competition in the hyper-casual space is intensifying. Publishers frequently outbid each other on a daily basis, making it harder to maintain high-profit margins.
Part of the reason for this competition is that hyper-casual games are highly cost-effective. In 2018, the average CPI of a hyper-casual game was $0.15 for Android and $0.36 for iOS. Over the past six months, those figures have increased respectively to $0.18 (+6%) and $0.47 (+29%).
4. There’s still space for new hyper-casual publishers
For all the increased competition, there’s still room for new hyper-casual studios in today’s market. Before 2018, three main publishers were competing in the space: Voodoo, Ketchapp, and Good Job Games. Today, there are many new players, including:
- Home Games
- Say Games
- Azul Games
- Green Panda
- Lion Studios
On top of these arrivals, we’re seeing new opportunities for smaller developers to work together with established publishers. Some recent hyper-casual game partnerships include Voodoo/h8games and Say Games/ESTOTY.
5. There’s a recipe for a hit hyper-casual game
While the hyper-casual space is evolving, most studios already have a clearly-defined development model. Voodoo is particularly notable for a highly-specific “recipe” for creating engaging apps:
- Snackable: Hyper-casual games are simple but engaging. Players should be able to enjoy a complete session within a single minute, then replay if they choose.
- YouTubeable: If the player watches the video of hyper-casual gameplay on YouTube, they should understand it right away.
- Clear Goals: Hyper-casual games should feature clear objectives that any new user can understand. Within seconds of starting the app, you should understand what the overall goal is.
- Forgivable: Hyper-casual games should not be overly difficult, which often prompts players to quit in frustration. That doesn’t always mean that apps aren’t challenging, but players should be able to recover from failure relatively quickly.
- Innovative: Hyper-casual games are usually a combination of several game mechanics. As a result, you get something new and innovative.
6. Hyper-casuals hacked the game development process
Traditional mobile game marketing is a fairly straightforward process -- first, the game is created, then ad creative is developed to support UA. In most cases, developers will need several game iterations for effective UA testing, which restricts opportunities for designing creative -- it’s harder to promote game elements that are subject to change, after all. For studios with few resources, this means developers are limited to creating one to three games at any given time.
Hyper-casual studios, however, operate under a super-charged development process. New apps can be designed, tested, and launched within a month, making it easier to produce creative alongside -- or even before -- the actual game mechanics. For example, a hyper-casual team could design 50 YouTube-friendly creative assets and build a game around the most engaging visuals.
That’s not to say this approach doesn’t create its own bottlenecks. When you start with creative design and work backward, sometimes you might end up with a great creative that doesn’t have an app with good retention. That being said, hyper-casual production is so fast-paced that it’s easier to iterate unique ideas or quickly move on to another project.
7. You don’t need to spend as much money on tools when creating hyper-casual apps
There are a wealth of game design resources at the disposal of mobile developers, from advanced engines to detailed analytical tools. For hyper-casual games with minimal designs, these resources tend to be more cost-effective than console or PC alternatives.
In 2019, we can use Facebook as a research tool to track hyper-casual game concepts and advertising creative. Game Analytics offers in-depth resources to help analyze app metrics. Tenjin offers many services to help developers calculate ad revenue, LTV, and advertising ROI -- and will teach studios how to effectively leverage each metric.
Hyper-casual gaming is only just getting started. As international audiences grow and studios refine their development cycles, we can expect to even more high-quality apps -- and increased competition in the process. If you need help getting established in the hyper-casual space, Tenjin's customer success team can help. Just drop us letter at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or check out additional resources like our complete hyper-casual developer's guide.