Hyper casual games dominate the charts: They accounted for nearly 80% of top game installs in 2019 and more than doubled their total install count in early 2020. The category has taken over mobile gaming, and many publishers are looking to develop their own world-beating hyper casual titles.
For those looking to enter this arena, this article covers everything you need to know about hyper casual games design. From the fundamentals to the finer points, it’s an invaluable guide to creating these increasingly valuable games.
Want to learn more about hyper casual games? Check out Hyper Casual Games: A Publisher's Guide.
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What Are Hyper Casual Games?
Hyper casual games are defined by their radical simplicity, fun, and accessibility. Hyper casual games achieve this through straightforward goals, minimal mechanics, basic controls, and repetitive gameplay — enabling users to start within seconds. User engagement is often driven by a progressive intensification of the game’s fundamental challenge.
How to Generate Hyper Casual Games Ideas
Every creative endeavor starts with an idea, but creative ideas can be challenging to come by. Fortunately, there is a formula to coming up with winning hyper casual concepts. You need to tap into themes with universal appeal, figure out how to tweak successful game mechanics, and consider how you can get everyone involved in the fun. Let’s take a look at each of these brainstorming tactics in turn.
Appeal to everyone: When George Lucas was writing Star Wars, he worked with legendary scholar Joseph Campbell to make sure his story spoke to universal elements of the human experience. Similarly, you want your game to evoke concepts and themes that everyone can relate to — the more fundamental, the better.
Innovate by inches: Many game designers frustrate themselves trying to create a wholly original concept or gameplay mechanic. While this can certainly happen, banking on this approach to payoff is risky. Instead, find a proven formula, then think about how you could improve on a few elements. You can build an incredibly successful game by just tweaking what already works.
Teamwork makes the dream work: If possible, think about how your game could incorporate a team effort. Humans are social creatures, and games that allow people to connect tap into a powerful part of our psyche. Collaboration is the engine that drives human enjoyment.
Have your idea in hand? Great. With the basics sorted, you’re ready to begin the design process.Back to top
Understanding Hyper Casual Games Design
While this game category is straightforward, it also has its subtleties. Covering all the hyper casual games design fundamentals, this section will help you build the best experience possible for your users.
Many hyper casual games have no characters. If they do, they often bear little resemblance to the fully realized player characters that drive many games. Remember, the focus here is instant playability, so should you decide to include a character, remember that they aren’t the core of the experience — the gameplay is.
When it comes to the aesthetics of hyper casual games, the principle is striking simplicity. From your color palette to your use of space, you want to create a visual experience that is bold, beautiful, and minimal.
Color palette: Keep the color scheme focused and calibrate for maximum impact. It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to give the user an instant sense of what the game is about.
Geometry: There is an elegance to the simplicity of hyper casual games — and make sure that’s reflected in the shapes the user sees on screen. As bare as the game environment might be, it also needs to be beautiful.
Spacial dynamics: White space is your friend. Cut out any unnecessary elements and give what’s essential ample room to breathe.
You want your visual design to mirror and enhance the gameplay, not distract from it. So be ready to discard any game elements that do not direct the user toward the task at hand.
Now we’ve arrived at the heart of the design process: hyper casual game mechanics. From building the perfect race car to creating a tower of blocks, the mechanics of your game are the fundamental challenge that draws users in and makes the experience compelling. Review the list below to find the gameplay mechanic that feels right to you.
Rising/falling gameplay allows a user to control the vertical movement of objects in space, usually to navigate obstacles.
Tap/Timing gameplay asks users to tap the screen as needed to navigate an environment or accomplish a specific task — think Super Mario Run.
Dexterity gameplay asks users to tap the screen in a particular pattern to clear a level — think Tap Tap Revenge Tour.
Merging gameplay requires users to unite elements that look alike — and avoiding those that don’t — to achieve a goal.
Stacking gameplay challenges users to stack objects on top of each other to accomplish a goal — think Tetris.
Growing gameplay asks users to create a larger and larger object by consuming other elements — think Snake.
Turning gameplay hinges around turning left or right with optimal timing, using a swipe or tap.
Swerving gameplay is similar to turning, but the user needs to keep their finger on the device while they play.
Puzzle gameplay requires users to solve a problem with a restricted number of movements.
Optimizing Your Design
Once you’ve sketched out your design, you can now start refining. Researchers Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek developed the MDA framework to help developers understand how to iterate on game design. According to their work, the game experience is divisible into three components:
Mechanics: the elements that make up the game
Dynamics: the interaction between the user and these elements
Aesthetics: the game’s intended effect on the user
This framework allows game designers to understand how changes at any component level will affect the other two, giving them a clear sense of how to systematically optimize their game design. Any aesthetic goal you might have, for example, needs to be grounded in the mechanics of the game and produced by its dynamics. Each component of the chain is interrelated, so mapping out your design using this framework will help you see — and improve upon — the entire system.
If you’ve decided on how you will employ characters, what your game will look like, how it will work, and ironed out the kinks, you’re finally ready to talk revenue. In the next section, we’ll discuss how publishers can approach hyper casual game monetization.Back to top
Exploring Hyper Casual Game Monetization
Because of players’ low commitment to hyper casual games, publishers typically don’t see a particularly high in-app purchases (IAP) conversion rate. Consequently, publishers use less demanding monetization strategies to drive revenue like banner, interstitial, and rewarded ads.
Banner ads are the lowest friction approach of the three, as they do not require users to divert their attention from playing. However, this characteristic comes at a price: They usually do not generate the same level of revenue for publishers as alternative methods. That said, they can be less likely to create negative sentiment among users.
Rewarded ads provide mutual benefit. Users can earn in-game rewards in exchange for viewing ads. This combination is powerful and typically results in high publisher earnings, campaign effectiveness, and user satisfaction.
Interstitial ads ask the most of users, as they can interrupt the game’s flow to show a user ad content without anything in exchange. While common, the effectiveness of this monetization method depends on the audience, so testing is essential.
It’s important to note that no one approach to monetization is the best in all circumstances. In all likelihood, your strategy will include a mix of methods. The right combination will depend on the characteristics of your game and the expectations of its users. Don’t get discouraged if a particular approach doesn’t work for your situation. It takes time to develop the ideal recipe.Back to top
Finding a Mobile Advertising Partner
Successfully designing and launching a hyper casual game is a massive project, so it’s often a good idea to find experienced partners to ensure your titles generate the results they deserve. Moloco has spent nearly a decade helping mobile publishers acquire users and grow revenue through data-driven campaign optimization. Our proprietary platform leverages machine learning to transform your data into sustainable growth. To learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals, reach out.