Simon Prytherch

What makes a successful hyper-casual game? – Simon Prytherch from Kwalee explains

There remains some debate as to exactly what makes a hyper-casual game – even for us as the UK’s biggest publisher of them!

Already widely-known in the industry is that hyper-casual games are synonymous with mobile, quick play sessions, fast development, and an ad-based model. The more important question for us, however, is what makes a successful hyper-casual game. This is something that we have dedicated significant time to answering.

We apply in-house measures that we believe are powerfully predictive of hyper-casual success, too numerous to share here. However, we believe that they can be best summarised with a few key principles.

The first is unsurprising: the game must have mass appeal. Topping charts worldwide cannot be achieved any other way, especially when a low Cost Per Install (CPI) is so crucial. You should also think explicitly about how hyper-casual games are presented to the audience; will your game have strong appeal through video ads?

Visuals are the key to this, and there’s more to consider than simply making sure that they are appropriate for all ages – also consider whether you’re gearing towards players of a certain culture or gender. This shouldn’t limit you to sterile cubes, but always consider who you’re shutting out with your graphical flourishes.

Also consider how most people play mobile games: in short bursts, with one hand, and in portrait. Long story arcs and complex mechanics are not part of most players’ daily gaming diets, so keep things simple and bite-sized.

Harder to quantify, but no less important, is a game’s ability to deliver satisfying moments. These are of course subjective, and it will take much play testing to confirm consensus across a broad spectrum of players, but you should work to accentuate these moments where possible. In our game Drop & Smash, this took the form of a ‘Smash Cam’ to really elevate the payoff delivered when your object falls and destroys its target below.

The difficulty is to be simple without oversimplifying. One way to approach this can be to take familiar mobile mechanics – for example, tap to jump – and then applying a twist, like allowing players to adjust the height of their jump by tapping and holding. While hyper-casual games don’t need to retain players at the same rates as other mobile games, successful ones will have meaningful progression with new things to experience.

Indeed, hyper-casual does not mean that you cannot give the player a sense of freedom and discovery in the game world. Take our title Clean Up 3D, in which the player can freely steer their vacuum cleaner around an expansive world, eventually growing beyond the confines of the building to consume cars, buildings and even aeroplanes.

But the truly great thing about hyper-casual is how quickly and simply you can develop and iterate upon these ideas. If you have even just the nub of a concept, there’s little excuse not to give it a go; you could be closer to making the next hyper-casual hit than you think.

Simon Prytherch brings over 30 years of industry experience to his head of publishing role at Kwalee, with previous positions including 7 years at Codemasters, CEO of Lightning Fish Games, Chromativity and Fluid Games, and as a software development manager at Amazon.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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