Last update: May 2021

6 mins to read - 2020/06/17

What Are Hyper-Casual Games?

Hyper-casual gaming may sound like something out of a science-fiction movie. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing genre of mobile games in Q1 2020, according to a report by Adjust. While gaming app installations have spiked across the board since January, downloads of hyper-casual games grew by 103% in Q1. And number of gaming sessions increased as well. Already at a billion sessions in December 2019, Q1 2020 sessions increased by an average of 72% in March. In Asian countries, those numbers were even higher, with sessions in China increasing by a staggering 300%. What is the explanation for this surge? What does it means for the gaming industry? What’s its monetization model, and how might push notifications add to that?

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What Does “Hyper-Casual” Mean?

Exactly like what it sounds like. Hyper-casual games are games with simple, unsophisticated mechanics that load instantaneously. They deliver immediate fun and satisfactions from simple tasks performed. They are often referred to using terms such as “tap to play” and “snackable”… the potato chips of the gaming industry. Hyper-casual games tend not to have any sort of narrative, and they have minimalist design. For example, think of games like Sky Ball or Helix Jump. Their instant, randomized gameplay means that they can be repeatedly played. This and their soothing, fast-paced gaming mechanics make them highly addictive. They are highly intuitive to play, making them accessible to a wide variety of gamers.

According to ironSource, hyper-casual games occupy 10 of the 15 top most downloaded games. Compare this to a year ago, when there were only 3 hyper-casual games in the top 15. So clearly there is something to them, that they are staging such a dramatic takeover of the gaming charts. In an interview with ironSource, founder of Destruction of Fun Mishka Katkoff explains their appeal:

“As casual games implement deeper, mid-core features they become more engaging, but also more complicated. This, in turn, opens up a segment for hyper-casual games to dominate – games that are easy to start and fun to play.”

How Are Hyper-Casual Games Monetized?

Most gaming apps we’re familiar with make their revenues through in-app purchases (IAPs). However, 95% of the monetization model of hyper-casual games’ monetization model comes from ad revenue. This is a viable model due to the enormous scale of downloads this genre of games sees. In fact, many hyper-casual games are so well provided for by ad revenue that they don’t even bother to install IAPs.

Depending on what the concept of your game is, different factors feed into the types of ads to include in your hyper-casual gaming app. Among these are length of playing session and number of daily sessions the gamer plays. For example, if your game consists of a series of short, quick bursts of gameplay, that should be reflected in short, fast ads. Banners and interstitials are also common advertising methods.

Up the ante on your in-app ads by including rewarded videos. In addition to generating ad revenue, these include an incentive for users to watch them. These rewards can include bonus points, in-game currency, extra lives, and so on. It not only generates more revenue for the app due to increased impressions, but it’s good for the player as well, resulting in longer session length and higher retention rates.

How Can You Boost Engagement for a Hyper-Casual Game?

As we can see, hyper-casual games are easy and addictive to play, so they don’t really have a user engagement problem. And their ad revenue model is so effective for them that other industries are taking note and trying to imitate it. Retention rates for hyper-casual games tend to be high. However, the number of ads per minute shown can have an adverse effect on user retention. According to Adjust data, showing 4+ ads per gaming session can drive user retention down to less than 20%.

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The optimal number of ads that can generate revenue without driving users away seems to lie around 2-3 per minute. And most hyper-casual games are so successful in this model, that marketers see no need to build onto it.

So is there any space for improvement, or at least for experimentation with different approaches to monetization? Developers of hyper-casual games don’t bother with IAPs, as there isn’t much in terms of buyable add-ons that would fit into the game’s structure. There are no customizable cosmetics, no battle passes, no in-game currency. Hyper-casual games don’t lock you out of gameplay or make you pay for extra lives, because that would take away from ad revenue that the brunt of their profits come from.

What About Push Notifications?

Similarly, there isn’t much scope for push notifications. Without IAPs, characters and storylines to use as cues for content, or really anything beyond the simplistic, repeatable mechanics of gameplay, hyper-casual games are pretty self-sustaining. They don’t evolve, nor do they require much in terms of liveops or a dialogue with the community. The only use case for push notifications to boost retention would be to send gamers periodic reminders to come back into the app and play. However, due to the addictive nature of hyper-casual games, this likely wouldn’t make much of a difference except to pull churning gamers back in for a few final sessions.

The driving attitude towards marketing in hyper-casual games seems to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If you would like to read more about push notifications, and how they can boost engagement in other types of F2P games, read our blog post: Top LiveOps Strategies for Free-To-Play Mobile Games.

Or for a one-on-one consultation, get in touch with one of our experts.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons

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