What factors make a hypercasual game a smash hit?
According to CrazyLabs -- a mobile game publisher that works with hundreds of developers and studios worldwide -- it has clocked up an astonishing four billion downloads by putting four key tenets at the heart of its rapid hypercasual development:
- Data is king
- You need to fail more times than you win
- Originality and ideation
- Fast-paced iterations
Commit to very fast iteration
According to senior publishing manager Shai Sasson, the timeline for hypercasual games should be weeks, not months or years. In a "best-case scenario," he suggested that from using a prototype for click-through rate tests to scaling and finishing a release, it could be as swift as just four weeks.
"So it's a very, very fast timeline, but you can save a lot of time and effort if you use it to understand the steps in order to release a hypercasual game," Sasson explained at GI Live last month.
However, he admits that testing sometimes follows a less desirable "worst-case scenario."
"We know that not all of the games and not all of the prototypes will be released worldwide," Sasson said. "And so again, we start with the CTR test -- a prototype where you create a gameplay video -- and if you set up a test and after a week, you already have the results of these initial tests, you see that the game failed its first CTR test. If it doesn't have the minimum KPIs needed in order to move through the funnel, you simply cut, drop the game, and move to the next product.
"It's a very, very fast iteration in order to gather the data, and understand if the game has the potential to become a hit."
Sasson explained that the speed of testing means that after just four weeks, developers can assess the likely success of their game, and move onto the next idea "and not waste your time" on a project that might not catch the attention of hypercasual gamers.
The speed at which games can be tested, developed, or discarded is attracting significant interest, Sasson suggested, projecting a significant shift in the industry in the next twelve months. More casual studios will "go hyper," creating dedicated teams to work solely in the hypercasual space, as fast-paced iteration ushers in additional revenue streams.
And of course, not all hypercasual games appeal to all hypercasual gamers, which is why sub-genres are important, too.
Capitalise on new, growing sub-genres
"Recently, we've seen different trends and different sub-genres that are evolving to the hypercasual scene and business model," Sasson said. "I think that the latest trend and the latest sub-genre that is being very successfully published over the past year or so is the narrative hypercasual game, which has a story behind the game.
"Essentially, you can 'hypercasual' any kind of game you like as long as it fits the market, and a lot of casual games and endless games are being turned into hypercasual games."
Because of CrazyLab's early testing and adherence to that important first pillar -- "data is king" -- the publisher said it can confidently predict which games have longevity, particularly if it invests in dedicated growth and live ops teams that can continue to optimise and improve games in early stages of the launch to keep players invested.
"The games that are currently being released are not games that skyrocket to the charts and very, very quickly disappear," Sasson explained. "Today, we know that hypercasual games stay in the charts for a long period of time and generate a significant amount of money for a very, very long period of time, through growth in live ops and dedicated teams."
Case study: Phone Case DIY
During his talk, Sasson focused on CrazyLabs' Phone Case DIY to explain the process of releasing an hypercasual game. He explained that the idea for the title came from a social trend -- another of the hypercasual market's growing sub-genres -- which saw the growing number of DIY phone case tutorials popping up across social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
To gamify trends, CrazyLabs suggested developers "stay as close as possible to the original videos" that spark the trend, and then consider what the challenge, process, and goal should be:
- Challenge: Detect what makes the trend -- in this case, phone case design videos -- go viral
- Process: Explore what process will convert viewers to players
- Goal: Create the experience fans want from the video
"[In the video, the content creator] showed how to put the glue, add the glitter, and add all of the accessories and make it into their own phone case designed by them," Sasson explained. "And this is exactly what we did. We took the steps of most of the successful, very viral videos and pinpointed what can be added to the gameplay -- what would be the steps and explore you know what converts viewers into players?
"The goal was to create a fun experience and great outcome at the end of the level for the players to play. The result? I would call it a mess-free making your own phone case, and a number one game."
Early testing gave Phone Case DIY a CTR of 3.4 per cent, and a cost-per-click of $0.13. But by adding different scenes such as the "satisfying" mechanic of drying the glue on the phone case and improving the UI/UX, Sasson said that tests saw a 12% boost in players wanting to return for another game after the improvements were made. Six weeks in, retention had risen to 44%.
"The first build CPI test can be different from the one [when] the game that will be launched, as long as you have a very clear gameplay video," Sasson concluded, again emphasising the importance of live ops. "The polish, art, style, meta, accessories, and different things you need to add to the game will be added later in stages.
"Until the game is fully released, this can save you a tremendous amount of time and money -- just follow the steps, discuss this with the publishing manager to understand what's needed for you as a studio to save time and money, but still have the KPIs needed and the appeal for the players in order to be a successful game."