In this episode of LevelUp, Paul Woodbridge, Director of Design at MAG Interactive, shares what goes into designing and making a hyper-casual game, his team’s development process and standard KPIs, best practices, and the future of the hyper-casual genre.

This episode is part one of a three part series focused on designing, monetizing, and marketing hyper-casual games.

Read on for edited highlights from Woodbridge’s podcast:

How To Make Hyper-Casual Games

“The number one thing is that a hyper-casual game has to be instantly understandable. There’s no tutorials, so it needs a low level of mastery with a low skill ceiling. And also, a low level of forward planning.”

“For example, if you put ads in a chess game and make it free-to-play, that wouldn’t be hyper-casual. The amount of energy and concentration it takes to play the game is too much for standing in the bus stop, which is where people are playing these kinds of games.”

“If you can show your hyper-casual game in an ad, and people instantly understand what the game’s about, you’ve succeeded – that’s a hyper-casual game. It needs to appeal to a wide audience.”

“In casual games games, the whole business model requires people to be playing a month later, six months later. That’s why you’re always thinking how to ramp up the difficulty, how to give the players something to strive for – all those massive elements come into the design. But with hyper-casual you don’t have any of that. It’s just about the initial 5 minute experience – that’s the game. You can put all your effort into that, without having to worry about what the player’s going to do six months from now.”

Quick development cycles

“We launch a game, and if we’re not comfortable with the KPIs, we kill it. If the team says, ‘there’s something here and we just got it wrong,’ then absolutely we’ll try again. But in our experience, you might as well just make something else. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of iterations and trying to get something that’s not quite right a bit better. But I think your time is better spent just giving up. Especially in these 2 week development cycles.”

“We look for styles that both look good, and are also quick to develop. So we came up with this idea of paint, where we just need one particle effect, and then a flat texture, which we can then change in code to different paint colors. It kind of came about just through the limited development time.”

Hyper-casual as a testing tool

“Part of the purpose of our team is to try stuff out for the company – new tools, new tech, new game genres. We can test those out a lot quicker than the rest of the company can. One of the things that excites me most about the development process is using hyper-casual to test out ideas quickly, seeing what the public thinks of it, and doing something with that knowledge. That helps guide our more traditional games.”

Setting KPIs for hyper-casual games

“We definitely want more than 40% day 1 retention. If we can hit 50%, that would be great. We do care about day 7 – but that’s almost a cherry on top.”

“You have to look at your metrics in relation to ARPDAU . I don’t mind if someone plays my game for one day, and watches 100 videos in that day. That would be a perfectly valid business strategy. We say, okay – our ARPDAU is X, our average retention is Y, and our CPI is Z, now does it all add up?”

“The beauty of hyper-casual games is that we can know the LTV very quickly. Because we’re not looking at day 360, we can say with certainty that our LTV is X so we need to get our CPIs to Y, etc.”

Iterations don’t make a difference

“I’m not sure if this is the same for other hyper-casual games, but what’s been surprising for me, was no matter what I changed in the game – the KPIs didn’t change. The players might have been getting further, but they were still watching the same number of ads and still churning at the same player day. It comes back to my point that yes, you can iterate and get some kind of improvement, but ultimately there is a limit how much you can change the KPIs.”

The biggest developer mistake

“The biggest mistake any developer can make is holding onto something that isn’t blowing it out of the park. Maybe users are playing for 10 days, and watching 10 videos a day, but the CPIs are $1. Then you’re thinking, if only you could get these CPIs down! But you might not be able to. Despite the great ARPDAU, and great player days, your time is probably better spent working on something else than iterating this game. Of course, when you have a 1 or 2 week development time, it’s much easier to move on to a new idea.”

CPIs for hyper-casual games

“The CPIs are driven by the art style, the core game, and how easy it is to communicate that idea. The Paint Hit ad which we got great CPIs with, is really just a video ad of the game, of someone tapping it. That worked – people got it, they saw it, and wanted to download it.”

Cross-promoting hyper-casual games

“We haven’t cross-promoted from word games to hyper casual games. That’s because the CPIs are much higher on the word games, and we don’t really want to push them to our lower CPI games. But we should try it. Obviously, it would be great to push our lower CPI games to our higher ones, but it turns out the ones who move are not our best performing players. But we do cross-promote among games in our hyper-casual portfolio. That way, we essentially get a CPI for our entire portfolio.”

Which ad unit works best for you?

“In Paint Hit, we were surprised by how much we made from interstitials. We thought rewarded video would be the key monetizer, but interstitials are making up half the revenue.”

Is there a saturation points for videos?

“There is, but we don’t count them. We’re not going to change the experience just because we’ve reached saturation point. I do think pacing between videos is important. The bigger that gap can be, the better. Of course, you need to look at the financials and figure out where the most money is being made.”

The future of hyper-casual games

“I think if the hyper-casual genre does mature and start putting in things like chests and timers, it will stop being hyper-casual. But it’s all cyclical. I’m sure hyper-casual will dominate the charts this year, but it wouldn’t be surprising next year for the CPIs to get too high, and seeing casual games come back. Then we’ll probably see hyper-casual again the year after. I don’t think this genre will exist in the same massive place at the moment, but there’ll always be hyper-casual games.”

Read more about the hyper-casual movement: “Hyper-Casual Games: What Are They and How do You Monetize Them?” ,”The Rise of Hyper-Casual and 2018 Gaming Trends” , and “The Truth about Hyper-Casual”

Listen to the full gaming podcast .
Want to learn what goes into making the world’s most popular games? Subscribe to LevelUp to never miss an update.

ironSource Blog

The Source

Ad Monetization and User Acquisition: Q&A with Tapps Games

Ad monetization and user acquisition are two sides of the same coin. For example, UA teams are dedicated to realizing true app growth, whereas monetization teams are driven to generate revenue. Taking this into account, it’s almost logical that gaming..


What’s the Hype with Hyper-Casual Games? Part 3: Marketing

In our final chapter of LevelUp’s hyper-casual series, Ryan Davies, Digital Marketing Manager at Kwalee, shares his thoughts on running successful user acquisition campaigns for hyper-casual games. Read on for edited highlights from Davies’ podcast: Failing “Failing is critical, especially for hyper-casual games because you’re dealing with such a fast rate of content. You have..

Nordeus Talks Ad Monetization, Brands, and Industry Trends

Nordeus, a Serbian mobile game studio, is far from being the new kid on the block. Their hit title Top Eleven has been live for nearly a decade and has 200 million registered users, across Facebook, iOS, and Android. While Nordeus’ games are more IAP focussed, in-game ads still provide a significant source of revenue..


The Future of Programmatic Mediation

In this episode of LevelUp, Pieter Kooyman, Chief Advertising Officer at Miniclip, sets the record straight on ‘programmatic mediation’ . He defines the term and predicts what the mobile industry can expect to see in the new year. Read on for edited highlights from Kooyman’s podcast: Many names “Let’s start by listing all the names..


2018’s Most Popular Level Up Podcasts

2018 was quite the year for ironSource’s LevelUp Podcast. We launched the LevelUp podcast, produced 13 episodes (and 2 seasons!), generated thousands of listens, and made some awesome friends along the way. With the new year upon on us, we thought to curate a list of our most listened to LevelUp podcast episodes with some..


The Convergence of Monetization and Design

One of the biggest mistakes a developer can make is only thinking about monetization strategies after designing their game. The choices you make in the initial phases of designing your game will influence the success (or failure) of your app monetization model. We spoke with Matthieu Brossard, the Publishing Director at What(Games) by Gameloft. What(Games)..

아이언소스 팁: 휴가 방식으로 UA하기

1. 여러 개의 창의적인 포맷을 구동하세요 일부 게임의 경우, 플레이어블(Playable)광고가 가장 수익성 높은 광고 포맷입니다. 다른 게임들의 경우, 비디오와 인터렉티브 엔드 카드(IEC)의 결합이 가장 좋은 광고 포맷이지요. 무엇이 여러분들에게 가장 적합한 포맷인지를 알아내는 유일한 방법은 각각 A/B 테스트를 해보는 겁니다. 우리는 보통 플레이어블 광고가 보상형 비디오 공급에서 가장 좋은 퍼포먼스를 발휘하고, IEC 방식은 중간광고에서 가장..

ironSource Rock: UA the Holiday Way

Reading the same decks, talking about the same best practices time after time gets a bit boring. We thought to share our best user acquisition tips in a completely different format. So we recorded a music video. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy our Christmas gift to you! 1. Run multiple creative formats For some..


How to Make Hyper-Casual Games, Part 2: Trends

In this episode of LevelUp, Tom Kinniburgh, a mobile consultant for game studios, who also runs the popular blog Mobile Free to Play, talks about the history of hyper-casual, monetization and user-acquisition best practices, working with publishers, and more. This episode is part two of a three part series focused on designing, monetizing, and marketing..


Highlights from IAB’s Opt-in Value Exchange Advertising Playbook for Brands

Opt-in ads The IAB just released the ultimate playbook for brand advertisers. The first guide of its kind, it gives brand advertisers all the information they need when it comes to rewarded or opt-in ads. According to the IAB, “opt-in value exchange advertising is an ad format that is growing in importance … numerous studies..

Interested in becoming an ironSource partner?

We’d love to hear from you.