Starting out as a young game development studio or as a solo indie developer can be challenging for obvious reasons. Narrowing down on a game idea, putting together a team, sourcing the required art resources and the uncertainty with regard to the eventual outcome of the effort/time put in.
Diving into hypercasual game development could be a great option if you are facing any of the above challenges. Hypercasual games are characterised by simple and addictive mechanics, infinite gameplay, minimal UI, mass appeal and primarily ad-based monetization. They also have been a key driver in the tremendous growth of the gaming industry, turned non-gamers into players and accounted for 31 percent of downloads among the top 1,000 games in 2020!
With rapid development and a testing-first approach being the pillars of hypercasual game development, smaller teams can put together games in a few weeks rather than spend months building one complex game. While both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, let us dive deeper into what makes hypercasual game development so attractive for studios today.
Rapid Prototyping and Short Development Cycles
Publishers usually test hypercasual prototypes to gauge CPI (cost-per-install) and then move onto D1, D7 and D30 retention tests. For the CPI test, the game marketability is judged with quick prototypes where core gameplay is the key factor. So developers really have to focus only on fleshing out the core mechanic of the game and identify what makes this game ‘fun’ to play.
A lot of studios have even moved to a ‘video-first’ approach where they are testing out if the core gameplay works even before writing a line of code. This is a very cost and resource effective approach that allows developers to reduce the time spent on an early prototype.
2. Understanding Marketability from the get-go
Again, the short development cycles and market-first approach go hand in hand. By focussing on hitting CPI benchmarks within a few weeks of starting out on a game idea, developers can learn fast, iterate quickly, as well as bin those game ideas that are not going to work within a hypercasual framework.
Remember hypercasual games have much smaller LTV’s (Lifetime Value) and ARPU’s (Average Revenue per User) than their casual and midcore counterparts. They are also heavily dependant on ad monetization for revenues. Scalability of the game becomes imperative in such a set-up and so they only make sense when UA is at a low cost.
3. Requires less resources
Developers and studios are able to build hypercasual games within a few weeks, with small team sizes and frequently make use of assets from sources such as the Unity Asset Store for early prototypes. As they build more games and gain experience, timelines further reduce and a studio with 3–4 developers could be making 2–3 prototypes a month. Hypercasuals is a volume game, and this efficiency increases the team’s chances of producing a big HIT.
4. Reaching a Wider Audience
Hypercasuals have benefitted the game industry greatly by bringing non-gamers into the fold and a key characteristic of such games is the mass appeal. Hence, as a studio or solo developer dabbling in this genre, you have the opportunity to build a game with a much wider audience. While initially, developers felt that this was stifling creativity in building more complex mechanics, there is an opportunity to be extremely creative with concepts and ideas while keeping the core mechanic simple enough for anyone to pick up and play.
5. Learning from Hypercasuals
Even if hypercasual development is not your eventual goal, this is a great opportunity to enter the game development world and familiarize yourself with end-to-end game development and publishing pipeline at the earliest.
Since the games are much faster to build and launch, you will gain skills at an accelerated pace as well as quickly learn the pitfalls that lie along the game development cycle. Many studios build upon their experiences with hypercasual to build games where the fundamentals are hypercasual, but the meta game and progression would resemble a midcore game. This hybrid model, allows studios to enjoy the benefits of hypercasual such as a wider audience, but also improve metrics such as player retention and playtime, that hypercasuals can struggle with.
It looks like hypercasual games will only grow in popularity over the next two years and with a large number of studios entering the market — competition will be the major hurdle in cracking this market. However with most major publishers setting up developer networks all over the world and doubling down on the most talented studios, it could be the ideal time to enter the market.