Hyper-casual games are minimalist and easy-to-learn, but succeeding in the genre is no simple task. Current estimates suggest that over 50% of all free game downloads can be considered hyper-casual. Both the App Store and Google Play are saturated with titles, some well-designed and memorable, others less so.
At Tapjoy, we’re fortunate enough to work with some of the world’s most successful hyper-casual game publishers, affording us a unique, high-level understanding of the space and how best to get involved. “Hyper-casual [has led publishers] to say ‘Given the low barriers to entry and large addressable consumer market, you can throw a multiple of ideas at the wall, and see what happens,’” Tapjoy SVP & GM of Global Developer Relations, Ben Chen explained. “But it’s not quite that simple. It’s a very methodical approach to what gets released and what doesn’t.” Ben and his team have provided insight and support for hundreds of publishers, many of which have found success adding hyper-casual titles to their portfolios.
We sat down with Ben to discuss what he’s seen of the hyper-casual space so far and how publishers can augment their monetization strategies to reap the greatest rewards. One key point to remember, he notes, is that while some hyper-casual games offer in-app purchases, most revenue is generated by advertising. Optimizing and monetizing these ads is crucial to your game’s success, so here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Hyper-casual games are designed to be played over the course of short sessions which – if they’re designed effectively – players will want to come back to. As such, retention is a key factor in monetization. Since advertisements are your primary source of revenue, keeping players around to view these ads is crucial after the game launches.
“The key metrics are retention rates,” Chen explained. “You’re not after traditional spenders. What you need is retention.” A well-retained, highly engaged player base often translates, especially in the hyper-casual space, to a healthy organic acquisition rate. Titles that can achieve strong viral growth are able to compensate for a lack of IAP revenue with a greater volume of ad views.
Some developers fear that a high frequency of ads will disrupt gameplay and push away users. Various solutions have been proposed to counter this – such as showing ads late in the game – but thankfully, most players don’t seem impacted by ad timing or frequency.
A study from the University of San Francisco found that ad frequency had a weak connection to retention rates, while the in-game experience itself was far more important. That’s not to say it’s impossible to have too many ads, just that how customers respond to ads is not universal.
Don’t be afraid to increase ad frequency, as long as the ads themselves are effectively designed. “It’s about what is the volume of ads that you can fit in while balancing user experience,” Chen notes.
Many hyper-casual games depend on consist of a short, skippable videos displayed after completing a gameplay loop or repetitive activity, but rewarded ads can be equally important. “It’s primarily five-second video interstitials,” Chen said. But it’s possible to go a step further: incorporating video ads into gameplay rewards. If designed and integrated well, these features can increase revenue by 30-40%.
For example, a hyper-casual title could let you watch an unskippable video that provides a temporary in-game boost. Mobile designer Sebastian Davies applied reward advertisements to his game Idle Apocalypse with “reward blimps” that offer random benefits for taking advantage of them.
Hyper-casual gaming is still a fairly new genre, but it’s exploding with activity and innovation. Most publishers are still experimenting to find the best approach for advertising revenue. Yet despite the challenge, hyper-casual games remain an exciting opportunity for any publisher willing to put the work in and optimize their monetization strategy.