Developing a Marketing Strategy During the Hyper-Causal Gaming Boom
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The pandemic took a hit on many industries in 2020, but one industry that saw massive growth was the hyper-casual gaming industry.
As people looked for ways to pass the time and forget about the world around them, mobile downloads of easy-to-play, engaging video games began to rise -- and it hasn’t stopped since.
This growth has presented gaming developers with an opportunity to tap into a market that requires minimal effort but provides a high return on investment when done right.
But just because you built, it doesn’t mean they’ll come. In fact, without the right marketing strategy, chances are good they won’t even be able to find you.
By putting together a plan that drives people to your app, optimizes your content, and provides them with an experience they want to come back to time and time again -- you’ll find more success.
In this article, we’ll look at the areas you’ll want to focus on to drive success and market your app for continued growth.
Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover:
- An overview of the hyper-casual gaming industry
- The metrics to track to determine the success of hyper-casual games
- Marketing opportunities within the hyper-casual gaming industry
Hyper-Casual Gaming: An Industry Overview
Hyper-casual games are games that are simple for players, require little to no learning, and have no set time restraints. They provide users of all skill levels and experience a fun and engaging pastime that doesn’t require much thought or time commitments.
This is just one of the many reasons why the hyper-casual gaming industry has become popular. These games provide players with an easy way to step away from their daily activities and decompress without any major commitment.
Because these games are so simple to play and don’t require users to commit large amounts of time to them, they’re widely adopted by various user types.
Most hyper-casual games are free to users. While some may have the opportunity to purchase ad-free experiences, most hyper-casual gamers are accustomed to and accept in-app advertising.
Here are a few examples of the most popular hyper-casual games in 2021:
- Helix Jump
- Rise Up
- Jelly Jump
- Fun Rate 3D
- Crowd City
While hyper-casual gaming is becoming more popular and accessible with smartphones and tablets -- it’s not necessarily a new idea. In fact, games like Breakout, Pac-Man, and Tetris paved the way for today’s hyper-casual games.
Growth in the Hyper-Casual Gaming Industry
Over the last few years, the hyper-casual gaming market has grown quickly.
A large part of this growth is likely due to the global pandemic and people looking for new ways to pass the time or a distraction for the world around them.
In 2019 hyper-casual games made up around 45% of the total download volume across all mobile games, and in 2020 the downloads for this gaming segment rose from 7.8 billion to 11.8 billion.
Those are some pretty drastic increases in user downloads and engagement, and the revenue growth follows the same trends.
In 2021, the mobile gaming market as a whole had over a 5% increase in revenue, putting revenue right around $90 billion.
With the boom that the hyper-casual gaming industry has seen over the last few years, it’s safe to say that this trend won’t let up anytime soon. Players are actively engaged with their games and continue looking for new, exciting games that can help them pass the time.
Metrics to Determine Success of Hyper-Casual Games
From a design perspective, hyper-causal games are lightweight and have a minimal design, making them easier to produce. With retention rates averaging around 8.3% after seven days,
hyper-causal games are well worth the effort for developers.
But retention rates aren’t the only success metric that developers need to be focused on. There are two main areas you’ll want to focus on when tracking and measuring the success of your games, those are:
- User acquisition
- Game monetization
Each of these can be broken down further into a few specific metrics that you can track. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Tracking User Acquisition
The very first step in your growth strategy should revolve around improving user acquisition. Without a solid plan for attracting new players, you won’t have much success growing your presence and increasing the number of installs.
To track the success of your acquisition efforts, you’ll want to follow the following metrics:
- Cost per install (CPI): the amount you spend for a paid install
- Organic uplift: the number of organic users acquired
- Retention rates: the number of people who keep your game installed for an extended time
Knowing that most hyper-casual games are free, you need to have a strategy around how you plan to monetize your experience. This can be done in a variety of different ways, but there are a few specific things you’ll want to track to determine the success of your efforts.
To track the success of your monetization efforts, you‘ll want to pay attention to the following metrics:
- Average revenue per user (ARPU) - the amount of revenue driven from each user on average
- Lifetime Value (LTV) - the amount you should be paying for each paid install
- Return on advertising spend (ROAS) - this metric takes LTV and CPI into consideration and helps you determine if your game is generating revenue
Marketing Opportunities Within the Hyper-Casual Gaming Industry
The boom we’re seeing in the hyper-casual gaming world presents developers with a unique opportunity to improve their marketing efforts to attract new users and increase revenue -- you just have to know where to start.
Whether you’re a brand new developer set out to create the next big game or already have a few top-rated games under your belt -- knowing how to market your apps is a vital step towards success.
From improving customer acquisition through app store optimization and decreasing the inevitable churn rates to finding ways to monetize your experience, you have to have a plan for it all.
In this section, we’ll take a look at a few different things you can do to make the most out of your marketing strategy during this booming era for hyper-casual gaming.
Improving User Acquisition
Understanding that user acquisition is the key to continued growth is one of the main areas you should focus on when thinking about marketing in the gaming industry. Without a steady flow of new users downloading your games, you won’t make it very far in the gaming world.
There are a few key things you can do to improve your user acquisition efforts. Let’s take a look at two areas that you’ll want to focus on to improve your game’s marketing strategy.
Focus on App Store Optimization
To successfully get your hyper-casual game the attention it needs, you’ll want to start with app store optimization (ASO). If your game is not optimized correctly, it won’t receive the visibility it needs to be found and downloaded by new players.
If you’re familiar with the idea of search engine optimization (SEO), app store optimization is just the app store version. Each app store has its algorithm that they use to rank and display apps to users -- and those algorithms change regularly.
Staying up-to-date with ASO trends will help your games rank higher and receive more downloads -- and it’s a free way to improve visibility and market your app.
While there’s no checklist for app store optimization, there are a few specific steps you can take to optimize your app content for both the Apple App Store and Google Play, including:
- Have a descriptive title
- Use the right keywords
- Describe your app properly
- Display high-quality screenshots
- Include a preview video
- Promote your app in the correct category
- Don’t ignore the design of your icon
- Encourage positive reviews
These different elements will help you attract more players and grow the presence of your hyper-casual game.
Developing an ASO marketing strategy is a must if you’re looking to rank your game in app stores and organically reach new users. Making this step an essential part of any new game launches will set you up for marketing success from the start.
Reduce High Churn Rates
One of the downsides of hyper-causal games is that they often have high churn rates over time, which means that finding ways to retain customers and keep them engaged over a long period of time should be a top priority for you.
Knowing that retention rates drop drastically within the first week of a download from around 30% to just 8% after seven days -- finding a way to keep people engaged is vital.
So how do you keep users engaged and interested in your game? To start, your game needs to be easy to play, grab user attention, and keep them engaged -- but that’s easier said than done.
If your game doesn’t provide the player with enough variety, they may likely lose interest. Stay ahead of what levels are tripping up players and find ways to tweak the game to help them stay engaged, rather than get frustrated and delete the app.
You’ll also want to focus on your long-time fans. They’re the ones who have kept your game downloaded for an extended period of time and continue to come back and play when they’re sitting at home bored.
To keep this audience group engaged, you need to continuously improve the gaming experience and add new features to your game.
Keeping this audience engaged is essential because these loyal fans can be one of your best marketing tools. They’re the ones who will be leaving positive reviews to help improve your app store optimization efforts and will spread the word with their network about the game -- even in a digital world, word of mouth is still a great marketing tactic.
Improving Game Monetization
Knowing that most hyper-causal games are free, you need to be thinking about how you plan to monetize your games. Without a monetization strategy, you won’t see a return on investment, and you won’t have the funding you need to continue marketing and growing your user base.
There are various ways that you can monetize hyper-casual games, but we’ll take a deep dive into two of the most common ways it is done.
The first and probably most popular way to monetize your game is by selling in-game advertising.
In-game ads are expected to reach $56 billion by 2024 -- that means this is an effective way to grow revenue and monetize your gaming experience. But you need to be thoughtful in how you present these ads to your players.
While users actively playing these types of games have become accustomed to advertisements as part of the experience, that can also become a roadblock for your ads.
If people ignore the ads you sell, or the metrics aren’t adding up, you might lose revenue streams. You need to develop an advertising strategy that works for both your customers and your business partners.
Don’t over-promote products and take away from the gaming experience. Instead, put the advertisements into the experience as a whole. Provide gamers with benefits to watching ads like other in-game currency or extra lives. These things will keep a player engaged and increase the visibility of the ads.
Another valuable way to increase revenue from a hyper-casual game is to make in-game purchases available. These purchases can range from additional lives and currency to clothing and accessories for game characters.
In-game purchases are something that will likely be most successful with your longer-term players. They’re the ones who are committed to the game and are eager to complete the next level -- even if they’ve already lost an entire day’s worth of lives.
To successfully promote in-game purchases, you’ll want to make it easy for customers to purchase items within your app. Depending on your in-app purchases, this could also be a great way to keep retention rates high with new items released over time.
Future Outlook of the Hyper-Casual Gaming Industry
The future of the hyper-casual gaming industry looks bright. While the initial gaming boom started with the pandemic, there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
That means that now is the perfect time for developers of all skills and levels to find the ideal marketing strategy to promote their hyper-causal games. As more people continue to look for new ways to distract themselves from their everyday life, the world of hyper-casual gaming will only keep growing.