Why hypercasual gaming app marketers need their own playbook | Pocket Gamer.biz


Alexandre Pham is Vice President EMEA at Adjust

Small and powerful hypercasual games have taken the world by storm in recent years. But the unique levels the genre engages players in are very different from intermediate and basic games, and require its own playbook to get the most out of the built-in marketing.

How hypercasual games are different

Data from Adjust indicates that hyper casual installs increased by 44% in 2021, well above the increase in installs of non-hyper casual titles (28%). But installs don’t tell the whole story: users spent 22% more time on casual games than on hypercasual games.

It makes sense that gaming and entertainment apps generally offer longer session times than, say, banking and payment apps. But while sessions for non-hypercasual games were down 0.01% in 2021, after a year-over-year (YoY) increase of 27% in 2020, hypercasual sessions were down 3% in 2021 YoY.

As a result, the average hyper casual gaming session hovered at 16.8 minutes, while casual gaming and sports gaming apps were at 21.6 and 22.7 minutes, respectively.

The hypercasual vertical is characterized by lower retention rates

Alexandre Pham

We see similar patterns when looking at time spent in the app. Median numbers for non-hypercasual gaming are much higher than in comparison verticals, with day zero (in-game median of 21.8 minutes), one (50), three (44.5), seven ( 42.6) and 30 (41) models in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Hypercasual is a completely different story, plunging much faster. Our Q4 data shows that on day zero, time spent in the app is just seven minutes, rising to 13.7 the following day. By day seven, time spent in the app dropped to nine minutes – falling to 7.6 minutes by day 30.

What the data tell us

The hypercasual vertical is characterized by lower retention rates. Looking at the fourth quarter of 2021, Adjust found that games retained the best on day one, with almost 28% of players, followed by hypercasual with 25%. However, only 7% of hyper casual users return by day seven (compared to a median rate of 13% for all mobile gaming verticals) and only 1.7% return by day 30.

This low retention rate is due, in part, to simple gameplay mechanics and developers directing users to the next game in their portfolio. The nature of hypercasual games means that marketers won’t focus their efforts on improving retention – instead, they must perfect the art of quickly monetizing users and then push them to the next game.

This also explains why hypercasual games have more partners than other apps – even other games. The median number of partners per app hovers around six for all verticals combined in Q4 2021. Gaming is above the median of other verticals at seven in total, with hypercasual even higher at 10 – bonus tip: consider increasing the number of partners you work with if you haven’t already, by looking at their creation and targeting abilities.

Hypercasual games aim to acquire the maximum revenue per user within the first two days of downloading, as retention rates drop sharply thereafter. This goal is especially important because hyper casual has the highest ratio of paid installs to organic installs, reaching 3.35 in Q4 2021. To be clear, that’s not a bad thing. Because installation prices are very cheap, casual games try to get as many users as possible to their apps as quickly as possible.

Also, during this first two-day usage window, casual games often use cross-promotion in their advertising to quickly drive users to other apps in developer libraries, and that’s also a reason why iOS 14.5+ App Tracking Transparency opt-in rates for games have been high – game users love targeted advertising.

By comparison, the paid-to-organic ratio for the entire gaming vertical was just 0.66 in the same quarter.
It is clear that when you pay for users, monetizing them takes on new importance. Hypercasual games differ from the broader vertical – not just in cost, but in the strategy required to monetize effectively. So what do marketers need to know?

How to quickly monetize hypercasual games

Aim to acquire the maximum revenue per user within the first two days after downloading

Alexandre Pham

Hypercasual games are usually free and as such rely on ads to be monetized. The fastest path to ad-supported success is through personalized ads. We often think of personalization in terms of the products we advertise or using a person’s name. But in the hyper-casual world, marketers need to think differently about personalization. This is especially in light of iOS 15+ and the increased emphasis on privacy.

Test how often you show ads. Hyper occasional users tend to be used to seeing more ads and are more tolerant of frequent ads. In fact, they can display more ads than gameplay in a minute while still capturing their audience’s attention and generating revenue.

However, there are limits. Our research shows that hypercasuals that show more than four ads per minute hit a ceiling of around $35,000 per month in revenue. The sweet spot seems to be between two and three ads per minute, a total that allows hypercasual gaming companies to increase revenue by up to 10%.

Ironically, this may mean that hyper casuals are in a better position in the post-IDFA era, where apps will need to display more ads to compensate for the loss of revenue from more targeted ads.

Marketers can also change the ad formats used (video, interstitial, native) based on user preferences. If you find that videos engage users more than interstitials, don’t waste valuable time on underperforming ads. If you’re using increasingly popular reward ads, experiment with different price points to see what users are more likely to engage with.

Monetizing free games is always a balancing act, but this is especially true for hypercasuals where players come and go quickly. But publishers can use this to their advantage, by cross-promoting other games within their portfolio – ensuring that users who enjoy one game move on to the next when it’s time for a new challenge. This keeps more of the eye on ads in their wider following, allowing hypercasuals to monetize more effectively.

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