Top Hyper-Casual Trends in 2021
Hyper-casual was a knockout game genre in 2020. With most of the world being on lockdown in a global pandemic, it was mobile gaming’s time to shine. And hyper-casual mobile games proved to be a leading category.
Hyper-casual games are lightweight games with simple mechanics, making them easy games to produce. They don’t take up a lot of space on your phone and they can easily bring in a profit through ad revenue. So they were the perfect timber to catch fire when the whole world was confined to their phones for a year.
But as we all know, technology is rapidly changing, and the mobile gaming industry is no different. We talked about the top mobile gaming trends of 2020 in this article here, but we’re going to take this article to focus on the trends that we’ve seen or may see this year within the genre of hyper-casual mobile games.
Trends of 2021
IDFA Changes Will Impact the Industry
If you’re unfamiliar with these changes, basically, iOS 14 will have a new privacy feature that would require consumers to opt-in for permission to be tracked. Those who do not opt-in will no longer be targeted by advertisements that use the Identifier for Advertisers, IDFA. This has left mobile marketers unsure of how targeted advertising will be affected.
Since the changes haven’t happened yet, only speculation has occurred as to how the changes will impact the industry but it has become a thought on every mobile marketers mind. Many are saying they will suffer revenue losses and we will see a reduction in mobile ad spend.
These changes are likely to affect CPMs, which are generally based on the ability to target your audience. With it possibly being harder to target your audience, games that use an ad-monetization model could definitely see their CPM drop as well as the cost of user acquisition.
What this will mean for the genre as a whole and the changes we will see from it are unclear yet, but one thing is certain, the IDFA changes will change something in the industry. It won’t wreck the industry completely, but it might change the games we see being put out as more attention will be focused on user acquisition.
We’ll See More Genre-Bending
The longer that mobile games are around, the more the lines between the genres blurs as genres pull from each other and we see more hybrid genres. Hyper-casualization is something many games can adopt, and people are starting to take notice.
Games that traditionally are more mid-core or have more complex mechanics are releasing hyper-casual versions, and we’re likely to see more of it as more games realize they can apply hyper-casual mechanics to already popular games. The core design of hyper-casual games can actually work well with traditional metagame design principles, and we’re likely to see these bigger gaming worlds adopt the core design of hyper-casual games.
Along with games adopting more hyper-casual characteristics, we’re also seeing hyper-casual games shift on the spectrum and adopt more casual or mid-core game characteristics. In this new subgenre, we see games that mimic the gameplay of hyper-casual games, but adopt heavier elements from casual or mid-core games, combining things like strategy or skill-based gameplay with the easy-to-play hyper-casual model.
In general, we are going to start seeing less of one solid genre, and more genre-bending as the hyper-casual genre becomes more saturated with games, leaving new games to branch out if they want to provide a unique gameplay experience. Hyper-casual games may not be the most complicated genre of games, but the model itself has been proven to be successful, so we’re likely to see more hyper-casual game elements in more complex games as well.
IP-based Games Go Hyper-Casual
IP-based games are a favorite. They usually come with a loving, established fanbase, making for good profits and brand visibility. But we haven’t really seen many hyper-casual games backed by third-party IPs. But that is likely to change soon due to a few factors, including the genre-bending we mentioned earlier.
When it comes to games based on intellectual property, we mostly see more complex elements and gameplay. But as we mentioned above, hyper-casualization is hitting the market and going forward we’re likely to see more IPs entering the hyper-casual market and test the waters with more simple gameplay.
This move could easily prove fruitful for many IP games, as introducing a more hyper-casual format could allow them to branch out and widen their base. It could also help them break into different niche gaming markets by utilizing a less casual model.
Whether widening their audience or breaking into new markets, IP-based brands can utilize a more hyper-casual gaming format to increase brand awareness and loyalty, as well as sales could potentially be boosted. These brands have the opportunity to improve their overall brand and sales due to this rising genre.
More Visually Unique and Stunning Games
As far as what it takes to develop a game, hyper-casual games tend to be the easiest as their gameplay is relatively simple and there aren’t as many complex elements to the game or it’s design. But as the genre becomes more and more saturated, games will need to stand out and since gameplay is restricted to a more simple model, visuals is where the games will have to make their mark.
We’re likely to see games with strange concepts or really unique visuals coming out as a way to stand out in the already full genre. Developers will be looking for the next unique concept and while doing that, we may see quirky games with unique visuals become the new norm.
We may also see more realistic-looking games, as publishers attempt to distance themselves from the poor quality that many free hyper-casual games have. On the flip side, we may also see games with unique or niche design concepts popping up as the only way to get your game to be relevant will be to stand out amongst your peers by being nothing like them.
Criticism of Hyper-casual Games
As far as trends go, we tend to think of them as positive. But there are some downsides to trends. As you may know, trends usually have a time limit. Here one day and gone the next, and we don’t think hypercasual is an exception to this. Much of the internet agrees, which is why one trend we’ve seen in 2021 is the criticism of hyper-casual games and the model itself.
Hyper-casual games have undeniably made a huge impact on the gaming industry. In just the last year alone we’ve seen a huge rise in articles about the genre, and we’ve seen more and more content reviewing this game genre. That being said, many criticize hyper-casual games for their lack of staying power, their inability to stay relevant on the market in the long-term. So let’s take a look at why some people don’t think that the genre will be able to sustain itself in the long-term.
- Surplus of games
There are already so many games on the market, and more come out every day. Hyper-casual games are relatively easy and fast to develop and so we’re seeing a large volume being put out rapidly, and at some point we will hit a point where there are already so many games that have been released that there will be a surplus of hyper-casual games. We already see this within the genre as many games are just like games that already exist.
As we’ll discuss later, many games also don’t spend too long at the top before a new game is released that takes over. Because of this, publishers just try to put out new games that get attention, rather than trying to keep older games relevant. Both factors lead to a high volume of hyper-casual games flooding the market, causing an abundance and even a surplus.
- Low Long-term Engagement
One major criticism of the hyper-casual genre is its low lifetime value (LTV). One thing hyper-casual games do really well is get you playing quickly – many of them don’t require a tutorial, and you only need a few minutes of downtime to start playing the game. They aren’t complex, making them easy to play and make money off of ad revenue. But because of these elements, the games quickly lose their appeal. You can play the game a few times and it becomes a good distraction, but it doesn’t make you want to play it for months on end.
This is perfectly demonstrated by the life cycle of the best hyper-casual games. They spend a few weeks at the top, and then they disappear. As soon as the hype dies down, engagement drops. Hyper-casual games’ inability to get the user to play for longer periods makes people wonder just how long hyper-casual games can actually stay relevant.
- Low Entry Barriers
Creating a hyper-casual game is relatively easy and we’ve seen an influx of publishers in this genre recently, which made competition fierce and contributed to the rapid growth of the genre. But now publishers must compete for developers on the basis of revenue share and as more and more games are released, it may prove not worth it to develop a hyper-casual game.
So while low entry barriers helped this genre take off, we may see it become detrimental to the genre by making it not profitable to create a hyper-casual game in the future.
- Constant Cycle of New Games
Like shooting stars, as quickly as a hyper-casual game gets to the top, as quickly as it disappears. New games constantly push out the old games, and the cycle is quick. Most games can only spend a few weeks at the top before a new game takes over. While this leads to an exciting frenzy, and as a user you have new shiny toys every week, it doesn’t bode well for the games themselves as they get squeezed out by new players. Your game is only successful for a short amount of time, instead of having long-term staying power.
So where does this leave the genre? Well it’s never going to go away. Its mark on the gaming world is undeniable. The core mechanics of hyper-casual games are inspiring in the way they’re able to catch users attention and reward them enough to keep playing. But we can’t ignore the criticisms of the genre and seeing all the content recently discussing it’s pitfalls, it’s clear that we’re coming to a turning point in the hyper-casual genre where we’re likely to see the direction of the market pivot soon.
And it’s likely that the direction we’ll see hyper-casual games go in will correlate highly with the trend of genre-bending that we mentioned earlier in the article. With such a short LTV, most hyper-casual games can only make so much money. The real money when it comes to this genre is going to come from being able to take hyper-casual games and improve their long-term engagement. If you find a way to take your hyper-casual game and make it a part of something bigger, you’re probably going to find better long-term revenue.
Hyper-casual games have come a long way and being a relatively new genre, we have yet to see their full potential for growth. We may not know where exactly the genre is headed next despite some clues and educated guessing, but one thing is for certain, the genre is here to stay. We’ll just have to wait to see where this genre goes next, but we just might be nearing the end of the hyper-casual gold rush.
29 April 2021
What does it take to create a successful mid-core game in 2021?
(What is a mid-core game, its characteristics, development trends, top performers and how the genre feels now)
You’ve heard of hardcore games like Doom, casual games like Candy Crush, and even hyper-casual games, which have become more popular in recent years. But what about mid-core games, the elusive genre that falls somewhere in between casual and hardcore? Maybe you’ll be surprised to hear that some of the most profitable games fall under this category, which is why understanding what makes a successful mid-core game could help you on your own game development journey.
So what IS a mid-core game exactly? Well, that’s the thing, there isn’t really an exact definition, but the essence is that is falls somewhere on the spectrum between casual and hardcore. This means that really, we can identify it by what it is not. Casual games are just that – casual. They allow you to sit and play for a little while without needing a long tutorial, they’re relatively easy to play, and you can usually play for however long you would like – whether that be 5 minutes or 5 hours. Hardcore games usually require a high level of skill to play, and these skills range from strategy to hand-eye coordination, and they usually require the user to allocate time to play them. You can’t just play a hardcore game for 5 minutes, you’re going to need a few hours.
Mid-core games combine elements of both, thus why they can be so hard to define because some games fall closer on the spectrum to casual or hardcore, but still include elements of the other. Mid-core games usually require a higher skill level than casual games, but are not as demanding as hardcore games. This allows them to be more of a challenge for people who usually only play casual games, but not too hard that they feel discouraged and quit playing. This also allows them to be challenging enough for hardcore gamers to provide them with and enjoyable gaming experience. It’s the best of both worlds, really. Oftentimes it’s suggested that the target market for mid-core games are people who enjoyed playing games when they were younger, but now lack the time to play time-heavy hardcore games.
Whatever the case, people love mid-core games. So let’s take a look at some of the main characteristics of mid-core games that set them apart from the other two categories and make them so enjoyable to play.
Easy to Download and Operate
Mid-core games should be easy to download, install, and run and shouldn’t take up too much
space on the device they’re downloaded to. You shouldn’t need an elaborate tutorial in order to start playing the game, and you shouldn’t need to purchase special equipment in order to play the game. All you need should be a device that you probably already own like a phone or computer, and if it’s on the computer, it shouldn’t require complicated actions to play it, either just the mouse or a few keys on the keyboard. Basically, there shouldn’t be too much in the way of you playing the game, it should be as easily accessible.
Minimal Hand-Eye Coordination and Reflexes Needed
Mid-core games are different from hardcore games in that they are more inclusive, and they do this by not requiring amazing hand-eye coordination or reflexes to play. That doesn’t mean you won’t need those skills at all, but you won’t need expert skills to enjoy some good game play.
Easy to Learn, Progresses Incrementally
As stated previously, there shouldn’t be a complicated tutorial necessary to play the game, the user should be able to pick up how to play relatively quickly, adding skills as they go. A good game will allow the user to pick up the necessary skills as they play the game and get more experience so that they progress as the game does.
Should Not Be Too High-Stakes
High-stakes games usually require a longer play time and more knowledge and skill necessary in order to beat the game. They can be fun of course, but are usually time-intensive and less attractive to those who aren’t skilled at playing games. There are a few factors that affect the stakes, this means:
- Mistakes made early in game don’t affect you later
Players shouldn’t unknowingly make a mistake and then continue to play and find out several levels and hours later that you failed due to one mistake made at the beginning of game play. It’s too complicated and much too like a hardcore game. It also doesn’t respect the player’s time, which is imperative when playing a mid-core game. You will not keep more casual users if they must constantly play with the fear that a mistake now will cost them later. Users want to have fun.
- Death or failure does not make you lose too much progress
Its normal to die or fail a level after making too many mistakes, but if dying or failing in the game is too costly, it’s going to cost you users. Death or failure shouldn’t mean too much lost progress.
- You don’t have to play the game through several times to learn how to win
Games that require you to play and lose the game multiple times before winning don’t necessarily appeal to more casual players, and you won’t be able to keep them this way. The game should be easily playable from the first playthrough, and should be enjoyable for the user.
Shorter Play Sessions
Of course, you want players to play your game for long periods of time, but having exclusively long play sessions means that users need to block out time to play the game, and for users that don’t have a lot of time, that is simply not an option. Mid-core games should allow the players to play in short bursts so that they can play the game during breaks or downtime. Shorter play sessions can be achieved with the help of the next point.
Frequent Save Spots
What will allow shorter play sessions is frequent save spots. This also cuts out a problem we talked about earlier, if death or failure makes players lose a lot of progress. Frequent save spots allow players to fail often without losing their overall progress in the game, as well as it allows them to leave the game and return later.
Clear, Overarching Goal with Sub-Goals
One of the things that will capture and keep the attention of a player is having a main goal that they will accomplish by completing the game. But the issue with that then is if that goal is too hard to complete, they won’t want to finish. Which is why having smaller sub-goals that, by accomplishing them, show progress toward the final goal, will keep players’ attention long term.
These are not the only things that make up mid-core games, but they are the main, defining elements. Simply put, midcore games offer many of the elements of hardcore games, in a more casual way, allowing you to deeply engage in the gaming experience, but not need to immerse yourself in the gaming world to do so.
Mid-core games have been around for a while now, but regarding how they’ve developed, it’s mostly been with the times. As certain genres of games get more popular, like MMORPGs and augmented reality games, those kinds of mid-core games tend to pop up and dominate the scene for a while. The great thing about mid-core games is that they will probably stand the test of time, as they appeal to such a wide audience and are such a broad genre. With the advancement of technology, we’re likely to see mid-core games with better narratives, better graphics, and more online playing options.
The biggest development in mid-core gaming trends is that for years, many mid-core games needed to be purchased, or a subscription to play needed to be purchased. But Fortnite burst onto the scene in 2018 and was free-to-play, giving anyone who wanted to join the ability to play and changing the way mid-core games monetize. Now, monetization schemes tend toward the free-to-play (F2P) model, raking in money from in-game purchases, in-game ads, and reward monetization.
Monetization Scheme Tips
If you weren’t aware, most gaming apps currently with the highest revenue can be considered mid-core games. It’s a highly lucrative gaming genre. Mid-core games that need to be purchased, or need a subscription in order to play are not bad monetization schemes, but they are harder to sell to people if the game doesn’t have an already established user base. Which is why the F2P model became such a popular model for mid-core games, as you can build your audience by allowing them to play for free and getting them hooked, then allowing them to make their gaming experience better by spending money or watching an advertisement.
We touched on monetization schemes in our article “How Much Do Apps Earn From Advertising,” so check out that article for more information on the specific schemes. In this article, we’d like to give some tips on how to make your monetization scheme more successful.
- Avoid Pay-to-Win Schemes
The whole point of a game should be to win it off skill alone, and you will lose users if they need to pay in order to win the game or even pay to gain the skills or tools necessary to win. If they wanted winning the game to be behind a paywall, they would simply purchase a game. You can obviously offer paid ways to advance yourself in the game, but players should also be able to achieve that by playing as well, even if it means extra playing time.
- Players Love Customization
What can really drive revenues is giving players the ability to customize their gaming experience through purchasing different things for their avatars such as costumes and weapons. This gives players the chance to enjoy the game while playing to their strengths and likes.
- Advertisements Shouldn’t Interrupt Gameplay
In fact, they should expedite it. If you choose in-game advertisements as your monetization scheme, they should add to the ecosystem of the game. For example, shooters and MOBAs take advantage of players’ desires to skip over timed lock-downs of the game by allowing them to view an advertisement. Your monetization model should work seamlessly with your gameplay.
- One Word: Microtransactions
A game that’s free-to-play, but then ends up charging astronomical amounts for in-game purchases will quickly turn players off. It’s better to keep costs low, but efficient. Sell to players why spending that small amount is justified because it will dramatically benefit their gameplay. If you can do this, they will keep coming back to spend those few dollars here and there and it adds up.
- Community Adds Value
In games that allow players to play in teams, oftentimes players will be willing to spend money to buy something that will benefit the team as a whole. Options like purchasing a power up for yourself, and everyone on the team getting a small power up as well. Don’t discount the power of social benefits. Players love to win as a team, and are more willing to spend for the collective benefit.
To end the article, we thought we’d go over some popular examples of successful mid-core games.
Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans is a mobile strategy game where you build a village, raise a clan, and then battle other clans. The game is considered freemium, meaning it’s free to use, but you can buy things in-game to speed up the process. Clash of Clans is a great example of microtransactions. Everything is really cheap in the game until you get deeper into it, but at that point you’re already invested and don’t have a problem spending the cash.
World of Tanks
World of Tanks is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) where you battle mid-20th century era combat vehicles. It also ascribes to the freemium model, where you can buy things to speed up game play, but there has been criticism online that users are not necessarily interested in doing this faster, as opposed to wanting to be able to customize their tanks more. World of Tanks is an example of a game that could greatly benefit from implementing our tip about allowing customization. They have also been criticized for being pay-to-win as some tanks are considered overpowered, and you need to buy things in order to beat them.
Smashing Four is both an online and mobile PvP turn-based multiplayer strategy game where you send your hero into battles for trophies and orbs that contain rewards such as hero cards and gold. You can buy in-game currency to buy things like orbs and gems, which help you in the game. Like Clash of Clans, Smashing Four utilizes microtransactions, which end up helping players strategically upgrade their heroes.
As you can see, choosing the correct monetization strategy like Clash of Clans can not only lead to improved gameplay, but also encourage players to spend more as they play more. World of Tanks is a great example of a game that has a good monetization strategy, but one that could be improved and end up making the game even more of a success.
A successful mid-core game not only encompasses a monetization scheme that seamlessly fits into gameplay, but also brings in players from both the casual and the hardcore gaming spheres. They’re a huge market currently as they are a great jumping-off point into a deeper world of gaming for a lot of newbie gamers. A well-designed game can keep users playing for years. Clash of Clans and World of Tanks have been around since 2012 and 2010 respectively, for reference.
And as technology and the internet advances, who knows where we could see mid-core games go? They’ve already demonstrated that they’re here to stay, and it’s likely that they’ll only become bigger, especially as the world moves more online. But even as big as they’ve become, success in the mid-core gaming sphere remains relatively constant, the biggest element being an engaging and challenging concept for your game. So if you’re designing your mid-core game, keep that in mind. It can be tempting to focus on how you’ll make money, but the most important factor is drawing customers in and keeping them, which you do through enjoyable gameplay.
19 March 2021
How to Get Started in Game Development and Succeed
Building a game is one thing, building a successful game is a whole other story. There are hundreds of thousands of mobile games on both the App Store as well as Google Play, but only a handful ever land in the hearts of the people and make it to the top of the charts, allowing them to make billions of dollars and stay relevant for years.
Most games never see that kind of success, so what makes the ones that do, stand out? Games with high revenues and user numbers like PUBG MOBILE, Honor of Kings, Pokemon GO, and Candy Crush are games with different objectives and modes of play, yet they all sit at the top. Surely they all must have some things in common that make them highly successful, especially games like Candy Crush and Honor of Kings, which have been around for years — since 2012 and 2015 respectively.
When looking at these leading games, you can definitely see similarities. Their monetization schemes flow with the UI — making the gaming experience seamless, the community behind the project is supportive, the art used in the games is colorful and unique. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of what truly makes a great mobile game later in the article, but we’re going to start where most of these games started: from the bottom, at the foundation. If you have been around in game dev for some time, you might find some of the theses of this article pretty straightforward, but many of us forget the most trivial things when theory comes to life.
Building A Game From Scratch
When starting out in game development, it’s crucial to get the basics down first so that you can build any kind of game that you would like, and adjust it until it’s perfect. Game development isn’t only coding, it’s a special kind of development. So to get started:
- Keep it Simple
Come up with a simple idea for a game that you want to try developing to start. It can be tempting to try to emulate your favorite complicated mobile game but if you’re new to this, it’s better to stick with a simple idea that you can develop with relative ease to learn the basics. As you get more familiar with programming, you can obviously either add on to the game or create more complicated games. Prepare yourself to the fact you won’t be able to earn much from your first game just because the chances that you are able to do better than the top 30% of the most profitable games are pretty low and that’s absolutely okay.
- Choose a Game Engine
It’s not just code that builds the game — you use a game engine, which is a special environment that allows you to construct games. They are built entirely for this purpose! The game engine allows you to combine all the elements of the game, which obviously includes code, but it also includes artwork, animation, and building the levels to your game. And of course, there are quite a few game engines to choose from. The most popular are Unity and Unreal Engine, but there are many other options out there, you just need to find the right fit for you.
If you already know how to code, you’ll want to choose a framework that uses the coding language you’re already familiar with. If you don’t know how to code yet, that’s alright! Just try to choose an engine that will allow you to focus your attention on developing the game. The biggest piece of advice we have when it comes to choosing a game engine is to find one that you can stick with. Sticking with a framework will allow you to get better at it and eventually master it, opening up a world of possibilities for your game. There are many zero coding solutions, visual libraries, and so on, and so forth, but compiling those pieces into something nice might take even more time than writing a code and having a designer by your side, if you’re doing this for the first time, at least.
- Practice Building Games
You’ve chosen your simple idea, chosen the framework, now the only thing left to do to reach the level master is to practice building games. Start with building 2D games because it’s simpler. In a lot of frameworks, you can easily switch the game over to 3D if you prefer it that way. But 2D will allow you to learn the intricacies of the framework, and once you get a handle on it you can easily make the switch to developing 3D games.
Like we said, we’re building your mobile gaming smash from the ground up, and making sure you understand the engine starting from the simplest level and working your way up will allow you a lot more freedom as you start to design more complicated games. The best teacher is experience, so putting in the hours with the game engine just developing games is, in short, the best way to perfect your skills.
- Add the Details
The last step after getting familiar with your game engine and building your simple game is to add the details that really give a game that extra boost. This includes things like artwork and sounds. You may think these things aren’t that important, as long as the foundation of your game is solid, it’ll be a hit. But don’t overlook how much a good aesthetic, the right sound effects and music can benefit your game. A good foundation is necessary, but compelling details will take your game to the next level.
Once you get the basics down, you can start to build your chart-topping game, no matter how complicated. And because you’re now an expert at the game engine you’ve chosen, you’ll have full confidence to develop the game of your dreams, no matter how complicated. And since we’ve gotten the technical side of game development out of the way, it’s time to circle back to the nitty gritty part that we mentioned earlier. As important as knowing how to actually build the game is, there are quite a few conceptual ideas that will help you in the creation process.
The Recipe For A Successful Game
What is the recipe for mobile game success? Knowing how to build any kind of game is understandably important, but it’s not what is going to keep users returning to your game to spend their hard-earned dollars. Good game, bad game, mid-tier game, building it isn’t the issue. Previously we mentioned what the most successful games have in common, and now’s the time to discuss exactly what those things are.
- A Solid Community
Mobile games are nothing without the users that play them. And while acquiring new users will be the goal when the game releases, the real success comes from getting those users to open your app again and again and again. A new download is a small success, but the real test is whether or not the user keeps your game on their phone, and actually plays it regularly.
Now imagine you build up a loyal community of users who love your game and sing its praises. It’s free marketing for one, but it also gives you a solid user base that keeps coming back to your game and spending money in it. Building a solid community of users is a surefire way to keep your app topping charts and earning revenue.
So how exactly do you catch and keep a user?
- User Experience
This is arguably the most important part of designing a successful game. There are literally hundreds of thousands of games out there, and if your user experience is lacking, users have zero issues with deleting your app and downloading a different game. But thanks to modern psychology and many of the games that have already been released, there are genuine theories you can implement that make the user more likely to continue playing your game and to keep them coming back to it.
There are a lot of elements that make up the entirety of the user experience, so let’s discuss those that have the biggest overall impact.
- User Interface
We have all encountered games and just apps in general that are confusing and sometimes downright infuriating to use. Your UI should be intuitive and easy for users to navigate with little-to-no prior usage of the app. If your game has the user clicking too many times just to get to the start of the game or level, the user will just delete the app. Take your time designing your UI so that it fits well with your game’s functionality and also allows the user to seamlessly navigate the game.
Flow may sound like UI, but it’s not. Flow is more so the storytelling of the game and how it sucks you in. Your goal is to get users to not only return to your game but to spend their precious time and money on it, and the way you do that is by building the game so that the levels challenge the user, and reward them at the right moment.
Where is the ad placement (if that’s your monetization scheme)? Does it pop up at an inordinate time or does it flow effortlessly with the game? If you choose in-app purchases to be your monetization scheme, strategically placing an offer to buy something in the game in order to progress can affect how long users play your game and how much they spend.
A small hint: the most successful games have monetization seamlessly built into the flow of the game. Each in-app purchase is offered at the most opportune time, when the user is most likely to complete the purchase. Likewise, games with ads don’t play them in the middle of a level, breaking the user’s concentration, they’ll play the ad when the user is likely to continue playing after watching.
Keeping the attention of the user is the main goal, so don’t ignore how important flow is to the overall attractiveness of your game!
- Positive Reinforcement
Good old classic conditioning, it works every time. There’s no better way to get your user to return time and time again than rewarding them. You can easily increase retention and engagement by offering bonuses in your game based on the amount of time played or for watching an advertisement. To tie this in with the last point, when you offer your reward is important too. Offering a reward that will help the user against the final boss they’re about the face, if only they watch an ad, allows you to bring together good game flow, positive reinforcement, as well as monetization.
Another facet of positive reinforcement is simply creating and releasing new levels as the game develops. Users will eventually reach the end of the game and then what? Maybe they’ll play it again but that’s not really likely. You can keep them coming back for more by releasing new levels periodically, or by having them unlock new levels as they play.
Unlike console or PC, when it comes to mobile games, you’re competing with every other app on that user’s phone. Which means that any overly complicated game tutorials or super in-depth plotlines could easily bore your user and make them exit the game.
Don’t crowd your screen with too much stimulus and if you need to provide a tutorial for your game, try to do so that you only give the information needed, exactly when it’s needed. You don’t need to put a long-winded tutorial that overloads the user with information at the beginning of the game. Sprinkle smaller tutorials throughout the levels to keep users engaged.
- Monetization Scheme
The thing is, no game is successful with monetizing, but making money should not be the main goal of the game — users can tell immediately when the game is just meant to make money and not actually provide them with a quality experience. Put simply, your monetization scheme should compliment your game and flow well with it.
If you offer in-app purchases, they need to actually be necessary to progress in the game, otherwise users won’t purchase anything. Everyone is used to advertisements in mobile games, but if you place your ads at the strangest times during your game, users will get annoyed with them popping up at the worst times and just not play your game.
And don’t be afraid to adjust your in-app purchase prices or the placement of your ads once you gather more data and can tell what your users would be more receptive to! You may find that being flexible allows you to make more money in the end.
If you would like to learn more about the different kinds of monetization schemes, our friend and colleagues have an article with a brief overview of them here.
You can have the best mobile game in the world, but if nobody knows about it, nobody is going to play it. You’ve presumably spent all this time learning how to use a game engine and developing your game and it’s likely you’ve spent a lot of money too. Don’t waste your investment by skimping on marketing. You need to get your app’s name out there, and you need to get it installed on phones, opened, and loved by users. The key to effective marketing is to know your target audience, otherwise, you’re just throwing your money into the void. You want the people who are actually likely to download and play the game to see your ads.
When designing the ads for your game, consider your visuals. What best showcases your game? Consider if playable ads are an option. There are so many ways you can make your marketing budget work for you.
If your marketing skills are far from perfect or you cannot fit that kind of activities in your tight developer’s schedule, consider finding a publisher with both budgets, time and expertise to do that for you;)
- Uniqueness – the most important part.
Almost all top grossing games, and broadly, all successful apps have one thing in common: they are either the best of the kind, or unique, or the first to meet the audience’s demand. You might spend a fortune to build a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) that is as good as any in the top 3. But players wouldn’t bother to migrate to your game since they have “a life” somewhere else, saved progress and hours spent to reach the in-game goals. Why choose something that is just slightly better? To win that kind of audience, you need your product to be an absolute bombshell, a revolution in MOBAs. Or, think of match 3 games. What on Earth can you contribute to the genre that hasn’t been done before? Maybe you can (we believe in you!), but you’ll need really big money to make everyone understand that (see pt. 3).
We’ve given you a lot to consider when starting out in game development. Much of the time, if your game is not successful, even in the mildest sense, it’s because it’s missing one or more of the things we’ve listed above. But not to worry, as long as you have a solid idea for a game design, you can include everything we’ve mentioned. And you can always tweak and adjust your game as you get more users and they give more feedback. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the most successful mobile games.
In conclusion, keep the user in mind as you develop your game. You can never go wrong keeping your customer in consideration. The goal is to earn revenue from your app, but you can’t do that unless people actually download and play the game regularly.
But perhaps becoming a master game developer is not what you had in mind, despite having a solid idea for a game that could become the next top earner. On the other hand, maybe the marketing side is the knowledge you lack. You have a solid game but the struggle now is to get it out to people. Either way, we at Playcore have got you covered. Whether you need help developing your game or making sure everyone knows about it, we can offer our expertise and help bring your app to the top of the app and revenue charts. Just contact us to discuss your game development and marketing options.
16 February 2021
Mobile Gaming in 2020 – A Year in Review
If you have a smartphone, chances are that you have at least one mobile game downloaded to it. Most smartphone users have had a mobile game or two on their phone in their lifetime. Many of us remember mobile gaming’s greatest hits like Temple Run, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and even newer ones like Pokemon GO. While some of the hits experienced momentary hype, some mobile games have stayed relevant and popular to this day. Individual mobile games may have fleeting popularity, but one thing is for sure — mobile gaming is here to stay.
With that said, that doesn’t mean that the mobile gaming industry is immune to the changes of the world. The industry looks vastly different from how it did when it first started, as technology advances and consumer interest change. With the rapid rate of technological advancement and how quickly consumer interest can change, each year brings about new trends. We’re going to take a look at some of the trends of 2020, some of the statistics, and we’re going to discuss the future of mobile gaming. Strap in for the ride!
Trends of 2020
We can all agree that 2020 has been a big year in a lot of different ways. Mobile games have been trending more popular for years now, but with most of the world staying home for some portion of 2020, you can expect to see some new mobile gaming trends popping up.
- Cloud Gaming
You want to play a game, but you don’t want to download the app, or perhaps your phone isn’t fast enough to process the game. No worries, cloud gaming will allow you to pay a fee and access the game straight from your mobile device, using only the power of the internet. Cloud gaming is at its start and with advancements in 5G technology, it’s bringing PC and console games straight to your mobile phone, without the need to use up precious memory space with a large MB app. Just this year, Xbox brought over 100 games to mobile through their cloud gaming technology. We can only expect to see more of this in 2021.
- Augmented Reality Games
We’ve all heard of Pokemon GO, the augmented reality mobile game took the streets by storm when it was released in 2016 and is still one of the most popular mobile games to date having been downloaded over a billion times. It even saw it’s highest revenue ever in 2020 despite the pandemic. Again, with 5G advancements, faster internet speeds are possible, making AR the new thing. The ability to immerse the user in the game is what sets AR apart from other mobile games. Like cloud gaming, AR is just starting to find its legs, and we expect incredible growth in the realm of augmented reality mobile games in the future.
- Blockchain-Based Games
Blockchain-based games have been around for a while now; many people who were a part of the crypto world a few years back will remember the CryptoKitties craze of 2017. While CryptoKitties was one of the pioneers, 2020 saw more blockchain games entering the market and experts predicted it could become an even more lucrative industry. While blockchain games still are not mainstream, they’re trending towards it. And with Bitcoin’s recent rise and subsequent fame in the news, blockchain looks like it’s here to stay and we expect no less of blockchain games.
- Cross-Platform Play
Games have, historically, been restricted to one platform — computer, mobile, or console. But thanks to technological advancements, many games are starting to offer the ability to play on multiple platforms — including mobile. Games like Fortnite can be played on PC, Xbox One, PS4, androids, and even more. People don’t want to be limited to playing their favorite game on only one platform, and in 2020 we saw more games being offered on more than one.
- Multiplayer Games
What’s better than playing a mobile game? Playing a mobile game with friends, of course! Whether you play with your own friends, or people from around the world, or whether you play to compete or play to cooperate, a lot of fun can be had from playing multiplayer games and with a global pandemic pushing everyone inside, one of the best ways to connect with other people in a fun way was right in your hands. Games like Among Us took the world by storm, and Mario Kart is always a fan favorite. Games like Pokemon GO incorporate AR with multiplayer to include a wider range. Multiplayer games have been around for years, but now they’ve gone mobile.
- Hyper-Casual Games
In our already busy lives, sometimes we just look for some respite in a simple, easy-to-play game. There’s no need to think too hard, no complicated UI, just an incredibly engaging game. 2020 was no exception and hyper-casual games might be considered the biggest trend of the year. Hyper-casual mobile games consistently top app download charts, and the genre is not likely to go away any time soon. Ad revenue for these games is much too high and the games are much too addicting for users. 2020 saw hyper-casual games anchor itself as a staple mobile game genre and it’s likely to stay that way for some time.
Many of this year’s biggest trends were a result of emerging or advancing technology, which is exciting because it signals that they will grow and evolve. Who knows what these technologies will look like and provide in the coming years? While the future is uncertain, one thing is not: technology will only keep advancing and we may see these trends become even more popular in 2021, or we might see them pivot into something new entirely. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But we can’t just define the year by it’s most popular trends, we can also review the year in numbers, so let’s take a look at some of the most informative and interesting statistics of the year.
The Year in Statistics
Numbers don’t lie, and they always tell a story. Without further ado, let’s examine 2020 in statistics.
- In terms of global gaming revenue, mobile games accounted for 51%, console games for 25%, PC games for 24%. This means that mobile games not only bring in the most revenue, they also have control of over half of the market, and are only expected to take more from there.
- Mobile game market revenue was an estimated $63.6 billion dollars, which is higher than any other year. Experts project that it will only grow and even reach over $100 billion by 2023, which is a mind-blowing number.
- The world market for mobile games is massive as there are more than 2.4 billion global mobile gamers, with 213 million of them being in the US. But despite the US being in the news constantly, it’s not actually the biggest mobile gaming market.
- Currently, that moniker belongs to Asia, as it is currently the biggest gaming market with more than $41 billion in revenue. This is hardly a surprise when one looks at the vast area of land the Asian market covers as well as the immense number of people who live on that land. China has the largest population of any country period, which is why this statistic is more than expected.
- In most countries, mobile phones are the most popular device to use to play games. Mobile gaming revenue holds the biggest market share, so it stands to reason that mobile phones would be the most popular platform to play games on. What makes this statistic even more interesting is that across countries this seems to be the truth. In some countries the popularity is more evenly spread across different devices, but mobile phones still hold some small lead.
- Candy Crush came onto the market back in 2012 and it has stayed wildly popular since then and this past year $473 million was spent in Candy Crush. It still remains one of the top grossing iPhone mobile games, as we can see by the statistic.
- The market share of mobile games of global revenues is an estimated 57%, and it’s projected to rise two more percentage points to 59% in 2021. In terms of market share of global revenue, mobile gaming is taking over. Once cloud gaming, augmented reality, and even blockchain gaming become more mobile friendly as technology advances, who’s to say that mobile gaming won’t take an even bigger share of the market? Time spent on mobile devices increases every year, and it’s logical that time spent playing mobile games will also increase every year.
- The top 5 most popular mobile game genres are Casual, Puzzle, Arcade, Action, and Racing respectively. Casual, Puzzle, and Arcade are all very close in popularity, then there is a slight drop to Action and Racing. As we stated in the trends section, hyper-casual games truly established themselves as their own genre this year, so it’s likely we’ll see them included on this list in the years to come.
- More than half of mobile games revenue comes from only 3 genres: Puzzle, Strategy, and Chance. If you think about it, it makes sense that these three categories net the most revenue — we’ve all been stuck trying to figure out puzzles before, many people are more than willing to spend a few dollars on hints. Chance as a genre would include any kind of gambling games, which innately require money. Strategy games are also the kind that many would pay for hints.
- The hyper-casual game market is worth more than $2 billion. That’s quite a large piece of the pie for the newly-minted genre. But because these games are easy to play and very engaging, they’re easily addictive and those who play hyper-casual games often are 10 times more likely to download more games than other game players.
- 33% of all apps downloaded are mobile games. That amounts to almost ⅓ of the share of downloaded apps. As you can see, consumers love mobile games.
- Among Us was the most downloaded mobile game of 2020. This online multiplayer game took the world by storm, flooding social media and taking itself all the way to the top of the most downloaded list with 264 million downloads globally.
Those are just some of the statistics from 2020 that paint a clear picture for mobile games: they are here to stay, and here to grow. We can only expect to see bigger numbers in 2021, especially as the number of mobile smartphone users grow.
What Can We Expect in 2021?
While we can’t accurately predict what will happen in the future, we can very well take our knowledge of the current state of affairs and make educated guesses.
- Cloud gaming and mobile streaming will increase mobile gaming
With the enhanced ability to stream games directly to your phone, it’s likely that more people will start utilizing this option. Microsoft has their xCloud, which allows users to stream Xbox games to their phone. We’ll probably see other companies start to follow suit. It’s a huge market with untapped potential. Imagine being able to play your favorite PC or console game on-the-go? Plus, what one big company does, many others will follow. Microsoft threw down the gauntlet with their cloud gaming platform, and other big gaming companies are likely to follow suit. Expect to see more cloud gaming platforms pop up and more ways to stream games directly to your phone.
- AR games will increase in popularity
In the last few years several popular augmented reality games have been released like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Minecraft Earth. In 2021, we’ll probably see the release of even more AR games and it’s likely that mobile games that we know and love will release a version with AR. It’s projected that by 2022, the value of the AR market is going to surpass $170 billion, and both Google and Apple have AR platforms. Augmented reality is the new ‘thing’, and we can see that with how much is being invested into the market and the support it receives from big tech.
- Multiplayer games will become more popular
Among Us, a multiplayer game, was the most downloaded mobile game of 2020. Online multiplayer games like Fortnite have been made available for mobile in addition to their original PC version. Many people are stuck inside, unable to see their friends in person because of the pandemic, which isn’t likely to end soon. In 2021 we’ll probably see multiplayer games increase in popularity as a way to stay connected with friends, and we’ll probably see it combined with other trends like cloud gaming and AR.
- The Emergence of New App Stores
Monetizing your mobile game is the goal, and it’s not always easy. But did you know that both Apple and Google charge a 30% commission fee? That’s a hefty price to put on a monetized mobile game. Popular multiplayer game Fortnite was taken off both the App Store and the Google Play store and made available for download on it’s own platform, which charges only a 12% commission. While it’s still more convenient to make your mobile game available for download on the App and Google Play Stores, we’re likely to see more platforms emerge in the next year and after and we’ll probably see games migrate to these new app stores.
2020 was a big year, but it’s only just the start. 2020 saw the solidification of hyper-casual games as a genre, cloud gaming and cross-platform gaming started emerging, and mobile gaming in general saw an increase. 2021 should bring a continuation of many of these trends, and should see an increase in mobile gaming again.
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and the next few years are likely to bring about new technology as well as new uses for current technology. In recent years we’ve gotten new things such as AR and blockchain games, and we’ll probably get to see even more new high tech emerge to advance the gaming world. As streaming to mobile phones gets faster there could even be a boom of mobile gaming as more people use their phones to play than other platforms. Keep your mobile phones updated and ready for the next few years as new games emerge, new ways to engage and play with friends, and new technologies come into existence to help move mobile gaming forward.
24 January 2021