Mert Ersöz began as a monetization specialist focused on maximizing IAA revenue. A few years and a promotion later, he joined MagicLab as Head of Marketing. Mert focuses on the company’s self-publishing model, BI development, creative, and UA & monetization structures. Currently, Mertz and the marketing team have published 5 global top-charting hypercasual games in 2021 including +Destiny Run published with Voodoo.
Hypercasual games continue to dominate the download charts globally. Despite the endless blogs about the looming death of hypercasual games, these games are not going anywhere any time soon.
So why are studios switching to casual games if hypercasual is still king? There are several reasons, but the key ones are limited sustainable growth and fierce competition. MagicLab is known as one of Turkish's best hypercasual self-publishing game studios. Recently, we began building a casual games portfolio to accompany our hypercasual titles. In this blog, I explain the reasons why many hypercasual studios are following suit. I also share four key factors to look at when publishing a casual title.
Hypercasual games yield high short-term profitability. A low CPI is the main driver of hypercasual growth, and in-game content tends to be minimal. A hypercasual game must deliver a return on investment within a couple of days or weeks. The short-term profitability makes cash flow less of an issue. You can measure your investment return within days. This means you need much smaller amounts of cash investment to enter the hypercasual market as compared to other genres.
By contrast, casual games usually aren’t profitable in the short term. If they are ROI positive in the short term, they tend to miss the opportunity for higher returns in the long run—either by paying less than they can afford or forcing players to convert in the short term, leading to higher churn rates.
Successful casual games do not force their users to monetize in the early stages of gameplay. They aim to achieve higher returns in the long term by designing a game that hooks and engages its users for years. As a result, casual games can create more sustainable growth because the genre has a higher financial entry barrier but higher revenue opportunities in the long haul.
Hypercasual games capture the attention of mass audiences. To achieve this with the lowest CPI, your game should not have any features, content or designs that narrow the target audience. This inevitably brings a “less is more” approach to the genre. Developers have to design their games with the least number of elements possible.
The simple design makes hypercausal games easier to develop than other genres. You don’t need a big team to start a hypercasual studio—all you need is one game developer and a game artist. There is a lower barrier to entry with fewer requirements—leading to more competition.
Casual games also aim to reach the largest audience possible. However, unlike hypercasual games, casual games are designed to be slightly more complex. To convert a player to a payer, casual games need to convince the user that it is worth making a payment. This significantly impacts game design, content depth, artwork quality, in-game systems, etc. Thus, developing a casual game generally requires more resources than just a game developer and a game artist—hence, less competition in the market.
Independent of Social Trends
Hypercasual publishers monitor social media trends and often design games based on them. Fidget Trading 3D is a good example. The game was created after the #FidgetToys trend on social. Huge trends like this are rare and limited in number, and all hypercasual studios want to take advantage of them. It is crucial to be the first to hit the market, or your competitors will steal your target audience. Casual games, on the other hand, are created independent of social trends. You don’t have to wait for the next big trend to design your hit game—you also don’t need to rush your game to market to beat the competition.
4 Things To Look for When Publishing Casual Games
There are differences between publishing hypercasual and casual games. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Do Your Market Research
Casual games have more content and more complex in-game structures than their hypercasual counterparts. Market research is critical. Since prototyping and marketability testing requires both time and money, you never want to kill a game after the first CPI results. The pre-production process is crucial for later success.
Don’t Expect the Same Results as Hypercasual Games
When we started our first campaign for a casual game prototype, our IPM was so low that we thought there was a technical issue preventing us from measuring installs correctly. Guess what? There were no issues. It was the correct IPM. We expected the same results as hypercasual games—which was not possible.
More Complex Creative Process
When working on hypercasual creatives, CPI is generally the metric that determines the best performing creative. For casual titles, look beyond UA metrics such as CTR, CPC, IPM and CPI. Pay attention to in-game metrics such as playtime and retention instead.
Install-day game metrics are generally enough to reflect lifetime performance when evaluating hypercasual user behavior. These metrics are far less accurate in predicting the lifetime journey of a user when it comes to casual games. That means more iterations of creatives and more testing, making the process complex, costly and time-consuming.
Look at the Long Term
Change your mindset when measuring the success of casual games. Forget about acquiring as many users as possible with positive short-term ROAS. To be competitive in the casual space, you should not expect profitability on day 7 like you would with hypercasual.
The reason lies in the genre: casual games have deeper content, offering long-term opportunities to monetize acquired users. Casual games keep users playing for years. Design the growth strategy and infrastructures to be profitable in the long-term and re-engage your players.
Publish Both Hypercasual and Casual Games
At MagicLab, we decided to diversify and enrich our portfolio with casual games. We believe we have the passion, commitment, talent and resources to grow a casual games portfolio alongside a hypercasual one.
The hypercasual business model depends on the short-term monetization of a mass audience. Your game must not include anything that narrows the target audience, which inevitably has limiting effects on the lifetime value of a player. The two significant limitations of hypercasual lifetime value are lower engagement rates and IAA dependency on monetization. As a result, the LTV does not build continuously compared to successful casual games. The long-term potential of casual games is incomparable to hypercasual.
We see more and more hypercasual studios exploring casual games. If you have the resources to publish casual games, it’s time to make a move. That’s not to say you should stop publishing hypercasual games entirely. At MagicLab, we are building a diverse portfolio of both genres for better returns across the board.