Raise a hand if you’ve heard the “hyper-casual games are dying” phrase at least five times in the past few months.
We know we have.
This statement is thrown around everywhere from conferences to news sites, making hyper-casual devs fear for their existence.
Are hyper-casual games dying for real? Or is the whole thing just blown out of proportion?
Let’s lay it all on the table and end the debate.
The Evidence of Hyper-Casual Games Dying: 4 Main Arguments
The discussion about hyper-casual games’ downfall didn’t start a few months ago.
It started long before that — while this market was at its peak.
The hyper-casual market flourished in 2018/2019. This was when we witnessed the creation of some of the biggest hyper-casual hits like Helix Jump, Fun Race 3D, Crowd City, etc.
During this period, CPIs were low, while downloads and revenues were surging.
But, it didn’t take long for experts to start expressing their concerns about the future of the market.
Here is an overview of the main arguments about hyper-casual games dying we’ve heard over the years.
1. “The Market is Overcrowded Which Caused CPIs to Rise”
For a couple of years, the hyper-casual market has been on a continuous rise. Since these games are quick and simple to develop, more developers started entering the market and producing (too) many games.
According to Azur, in 2022, the number of new hyper-casual releases increased by 5x in comparison to 2021.
Because of this, at one point, the market became oversaturated. Because so many games have flooded the market, standing out became incredibly difficult.
Not just difficult, but pricey too.
In the case of hyper-casual games, this means the CPIs are getting higher and higher by the day. This is a major issue because this metric is vital for making hyper-casual games profitable.
How much have they risen?
In 2018, the average CPI for hyper-casual games was $0.36 on iOS and $0.15 on Android. In Q4 2022, the median CPIs have risen to record heights of $0.42 on iOS and $0.20 on Android (Tenjin & GameAnalytics).
All in all, the CPI argument is correct, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that hyper-casual games are dying.
2. “IDFA Deprecation is Going to Kill Hyper-Casual Games”
Hyper-casual developers/advertisers were equally worried as everyone.
But, this fear turned out to be unjustified.
The thing is, out of all mobile game genres, this change has had a pretty low effect on hyper-casual games.
Why is that?
The introduction of SKAN had a strong effect on targeting and attribution.
This represents quite a challenge for all advertisers that need to reach specific groups of people and track their in-app behavior. For example, strategy gamers aged 20–30 who will make in-app purchases within a week.
The thing with hyper-casual games is — the target audience is extremely broad.
When advertising these games, you don’t need superb targeting. As long as the ad for the game is appealing, you can get a lot of downloads while targeting a broad audience.
3. “Hyper-Casual Games Are Going to Die Because of Google Play’s Ad Policy Change”
Once IDFA didn’t kill hyper-casual games, it was said that Google Play’s ad policy change will be the final nail in their coffin.
Again, this didn’t happen.
Effective from September 2022, Google Play’s new ad policy targets disruptive interstitial ads. These are all the “ads that appear unexpectedly when the user has chosen to do something else, ads that appear during gameplay, etc.
Yes, hyper-casual games were filled with such ads.
But, developers quickly found smart ways to overcome this issue. To avoid getting penalized, hyper-casual developers had to modify their games. Here are some of the most popular tactics they used for this:
- Announcing upcoming interstitial ads (for example, with “play” buttons and 5-second timers)
- Incorporating more end-of-level ads
- Increasing focus on rewarded video ads
Just like that, hyper-casual developers dodged inevitable death, once again.
4. “Major HC Publishers are Shifting to Hybrid-Casual Games”
Some of the world’s leading hyper-casual publishers recently announced that they are shifting their focus from hyper-casual to hybrid-casual games.
First Voodoo, followed by SayGames, and now Kwalee.
Hybrid-casual games typically look like hyper-casual games but have more refined gameplay and monetization. This is done by borrowing features from casual and even mid-core games.
The point of all this?
Creating games that attract a broad audience like hyper-casual games, but have better retention rates and LTVs.
A great example of a hybrid-casual game is Mob Control by Voodoo.
This game has simple hyper-casual mechanics but includes features like PvP gameplay, building meta, and a card collection system. Despite being hybrid-casual, the game is ranked (high) on the hyper-casual top charts.
At the recently held PGC London conference, Voodoo’s head of publishing, Alex Shea said a couple of interesting things about hyper-casual games and explained their change of focus.
He made it loud and clear that, from Voodoo’s point of view, hyper-casual games are dead.
Shea noted that all the successful games by Voodoo in 2022 were actually their older games. Most of their newer games failed to match their success level.
And since there are no new games with low CPI, betting on them is no longer reasonable.
Are Hyper-Casual Games Dying? Conclusions
Hyper-casual games definitely have their problems.
But to say they are dying would be an overstatement.
Here’s a wrap-up of what’s really going on, with no sugar-coating.
They Are Getting out Of Control
There’s no need to deny that the hyper-casual market is not sustainable in its current form.
The number of titles out there is simply overwhelming.
Clone games are especially problematic. Not only because they are so similar to each other, but also because they need to compete for visibility on the ad networks. As a result, they raise the CPIs for everyone in the genre.
Sure, the hyper-casual audience is broad, but it’s getting tight for all the developers competing for a fragment of user attention.
All of this has resulted in several major issues for the hyper-casual genre:
- The app stores are too crowded
- Players are suffering from game fatigue
- Developers are burning out
Hyper-Casual Games Are Changing
As the competition heats up and hyper-casual CPIs continue to rise, developers are adapting their business models.
To compensate for increased CPIs, hyper-casual games need to have better retention rates and lifetime values.
To achieve this, developers are implementing an array of casual features into their new titles. They now strive for their games to have:
- Better quality
- More content
- Hybrid monetization (ads + in-app purchases)
In other words, they are now building games for slightly narrower audiences, but with higher advertising and monetization KPIs.
Some Types of Hyper-Casual Games Will Persist
Hyper-casual top charts are filled with games inspired by social trends — from TikTok videos to Netflix’s latest hit shows.
In order to capitalize on the trend, these games need to be developed rapidly.
Developers behind these games know they may enjoy “five minutes of fame”, but long-term success is improbable.
For this reason, these games are usually built to attract as many users in a short amount of time. As soon as the trend fades, so does their popularity.
Due to their nature, it’s highly unlikely that these games will start introducing casual features.
Over to You
Now, we want to hear from you.
What are your thoughts on the discussion about hyper-casual games dying? Will you continue developing classic hyper-casual titles or plan to embrace hybridization?
Leave us a comment and let us know!
If you want help with growing your game or getting it published, get in touch!