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Last update: September 2021

5 mins to read - 2021/07/09

How Push Notifications Can Drive Users to Your Hyper-Casual Game

Hyper-casual games are one of the hottest genres in gaming at the moment. With their simple mechanics and lightning-quick gaming sessions, they make for the perfect “snackable” style of game for our fast-paced lifestyles. They are highly accessible – meaning they’re both free to download onto your smartphone, and they’re easy to jump in and play, without any sort of learning curve. What’s more, they’re crazy addictive. Which means that if you’re looking for a mobile gaming industry to break into, there’s a huge potential for massive returns in the hyper-casual sector. According to Adjust, hyper-casual games bring in between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in revenue per year. However, there is also a huge amount of competition, so if you want your hyper-casual game to be profitable, push notifications are a must-have.

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hyper-casual game flappy bird
Image Source: Screenshot from flappybird.io

How Can Using Push Notifications in Hyper-Casual Games Lead to Higher Revenues?

So far, push notifications have flown below the radar in the hyper-casual industy as a method of mobile engagement and boosting revenue. After all, push notifications tend to be associated mostly with in-app purchases in the mobile games industry. And hyper-casual games by definition lack the narrative, immersive in-game world, and different levels of gameplay that tend to use IAPs to boost UX.

Hyper-Casual games thus far have mostly used ad revenue as the bulk of their monetization model. Most commonly, in-game ads take the form of:

  • Banner ads (text ads that appear at the bottom of the device screen)
  • Interstitial ads (short video ads that play between game sessions)
  • Rewarded ads (in which players receive extra lives, tokens, or other gameplay rewards for watching ads)

However, as the market becomes more and more saturated – and especially with Apple ushering in the post-IDFA era – it becomes evident that hyper-casual gaming apps will need to go above and beyond to distinguish themselves to players.

User Retention is a Must in a Super-Saturated Industry

In 2014, Flappy Bird became a global phenomenon, netting around 50 million downloads and at one point earning $50,000 per day in ad revenue. All this from a minimalist endless-runner design, proving that games don’t need a huge budget to be profitable… who wouldn’t want to try their hand at launching the next viral app?

And that’s the problem. With hyper-casual exploding in popularity in the past 7 years, it can be hard to distinguish yourself enough to get a foothold in the market. Why would a user want to play your free endless runner game, when there are 50 other free endless runner games to choose from? There are various strategies to employ to make sure your game stands out from the crowd – run a killer marketing campaign, employ app-store optimization (ASO) to make sure your app is searchable in the App Store and Google Play, and of course make sure your game delivers a top-notch gaming experience.

retention metrics

More Push Notifications = More Retention = More Revenues

But your #1 tool for making sure all those users who download your app out of curiosity keep playing for months or even years after installation? Push notifications. Simply put, push notifications are a way to keep players coming back into your game. Leverage device-side data signals to figure out the best time to give them a nudge. Track their habitual device usage, and send them a message when you’ve gauged they’re not busy and have attention to spare. For example, is there a window of time around 11 am every day when they’re actively scrolling on their phone? That 15-minute morning coffee break is the perfect time for them to clock in a quick session or two of your game… send them a notification inviting them to click on your app for a quick boost of entertainment.

Of course, the aim of this for hyper-casuals is to get people playing. And the more gameplay they clock, the more in-app ads they view. And of course this means the more revenues you earn. Push notifications also have the added benefit of giving your app a more pro-active, personalized relationship with players. While sending them nudges to get them back into your app, you can add personalized touches: address them by name, reference the last level they beat.

You can even get creative. Use notifications as an extension of game UX, or as an invitation to participate in the greater gaming community. Invite players to an AMA or another event with the game’s developers, invite them to leave a starred review of your game on the app store, or offer them rewards if they invite their friends to download your game as well. Push notifications are the best means of communicating any liveops feature, and of engaging with players at an individual and meaningful level. And you’ll need every mobile marketing edge you can get to break the steep 7-day user churn curve.

Push Notifications and the Future of Hyper-Casual Games

As the mobile app industry evolves, so will trends in hyper-casual games. VentureBeat predicts drastic changes are in store for hyper-casual games in particular because of Apple’s requiring apps to gain user consent to have their IDFAs tracked by advertisers. As hyper-casual monetization is built on ad revenue – which is poised to see some heavy disruption in the near future – this will likely necessitate innovations in the genre. VentureBeat suggests the design itself will shift to a more “hybrid-casual” style:

“These are experiences that imitate the gameplay and appeal of hypercasual games but with heavier content. For example, it could mean taking elements from midcore or strategy games and merging them with hypercasual, to create a new subgenre.”

It’s likely this will create a much more robust scope for in-app purchases in hyper-casual games, and push notifications are again the ideal way of influencing users to drop money in micro-purchases. By leveraging device-side behaviors, gameplay style, and data about previous purchases, push notifications let you deliver a) hyper-personalized suggestions for items to purchase, b) at the perfect moment for your user to drop everything and click on it.

It’s likely that big changes are in store for the hyper-casual monetization, and push notifications are how you get the ball back in your court. Whether you keep your business model reliant on ad revenue or you find a way to incorporate in-app purchases into your game – or, what’s most likely, you combine the two revenue streams – push notifications are your best bet for maximizing returns on your mobile game.

To learn more about how a robust push notification campaign can boost your revenues, get in touch with one of our experts.

Or 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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