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Charting the rise of hypercasual gaming

The latest data from Adjust and Unity's Hypercasual gaming report 2020

Mobile gaming is emerging as the prime pastime for a record number of consumers. With the onset of social distancing rules, more people than ever are using their downtime to discover new games, or binge on favorites. In a single week in March 2020, users globally downloaded a whopping 1.2 billion mobile games -- amounting to the biggest week ever for app installs.

Leading this surge is gaming's fastest growing category: hypercasual. These snackable, bitesize pieces of content have taken the industry by storm, allowing players who might not even identify as gamers to idle away a few minutes here and there. With simplistic yet satisfying mechanics, their accessibility and ease of understanding not only gives them broad appeal but allows developers to make them quickly, see what sticks and then scale the marketing once they've found a hit.

But a spike in the market during the first quarter of 2020 may not be indicative of an industry trend. Hypercasual games had dominated download charts long before the COVID-19 crisis (representing 78% of the most downloaded new games of 2019), and the category is poised to grow and evolve, with more titles adopting a 'hybridcasual' model.

The rise of hypercasual gaming is broken down in Adjust's latest report, created in partnership with games engine specialist Unity. The report benchmarks hypercasual's performance both pre- and post-install, while also giving marketers new to the genre a primer on what these apps are all about.

You can download your free copy of Adjust and Unity's Hypercasual gaming report 2020 now through here.

How has COVID-19 affected hypercasual gaming apps?

The global pandemic has upended societies and economies everywhere, but what has been the impact on hypercasual gaming? Our first look suggests that the COVID-19 outbreak has significantly contributed to driving more users to the genre. Cumulative install and session data for six countries from Adjust reveals how stay-at-home orders have increased interest in hypercasuals throughout the pandemic.

For the period December 2019 to March 2020, installs more than doubled (103%) globally and as installs rose, sessions ballooned to match. Compared to December 2019, which had already exceeded one billion sessions, hypercasual sessions increased a further 72% in March.

An examination of the ratio of paid vs. organic installs show the opposite dynamic as the number of apps installed from paid advertising declined 26%, from 80% in October 2019 to 59% in March 2020. Ironically, organics come out the winner, showing that people stuck at home are more willing to browse app stores and experiment with new titles.

The challenge going forward will be sustainability and growth prospects for the hypercasual genre after social distancing eases. Will new users continue to flock toward the genre? And will the broader trend of growing ad inventory be reversed as the overall economy picks up, allowing key metrics and methods to revert back to their pre-crisis mean? Will margins suffer from this drop?

Nothing is for certain, but it does appear as though the business model of hypercasuals is here to stay. This will no doubt have implications for mobile marketers from other verticals, as the overall trend toward optimization and automation takes hold.

Download Adjust hypercasual gaming report 2020 for more insights into the rise of hypercasual gaming and the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.