One of the most common questions from burgeoning mobile game developers is “How do I make sure my game makes money?” While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, there are approaches that mobile game devs can employ to maximize their chances of making games that make money.
First, we must consider the type of game that’s being developed. Typically, mobile games have fallen into three categories—casual, mid-core, and core—each with increasingly passionate players. But there’s actually a fourth to consider: hyper-casual.
Most of us are familiar with casual games like Candy Crush, which is straightforward and has mass appeal. Hyper-casual, on the other hand, offers even simpler gameplay that’s reminiscent of arcade games from the ’70s and ’80s. Combined with snackable content, addictive gameplay, and very minimalistic design, it’s easy to see why hyper-casual games have risen in popularity. But beyond being popular, hyper-casual games offer game devs the best chance at reducing risk, and at making games that monetize.
With even more mass appeal than typical casual games, hyper-casual games make it easier to monetize many players via ads, rather than hoping that a small number of players will pay a lot. While mid-core and core games rely heavily on in-app purchases (IAP), hyper-casual games monetize more predictably via ads like interstitials and video.
Hyper-casual games also require lower initial investment since the core game loop is so simple. This simplicity opens up the game to everyone and enables developers to easily plot a predictable monetization curve once the specific ad units and ad intervals are decided.
While IAP may work well for some developers, it can be difficult to predict user behavior, thus difficult to predict monetization. In-app purchases also rely on a small number of users to pay a lot, which can be more difficult than getting a lot of users to pay a little by way of viewing and clicking on ads. This doesn’t mean you can’t combine both monetization strategies, but ads will undoubtedly make up the bulk of your revenue with a hyper-casual game.
Since the monetization curve for hyper-casual games is easy to predict, you’ll want to adapt your user retention strategy to the genre. With hyper-casual, you need to mainly focus on retention rates on day 1 and day 3, as well as sessions per day, since the game is available for players to come back frequently. Day 7 is also an important point to measure week-long retention. This is the best point to measure stickiness based on how often users come back to beat their high score or to resume previous sessions. With early high retention rates, game devs can monetize an app immediately, whereas games that rely on in-app purchases typically make money later in the user cycle.
Once you’ve maximized the amount of ad impressions per session and sessions over time, it’s time to double down on user acquisition. With a solid user acquisition strategy in place, your game can reach scale even without being featured in an app store.
You’ll also want to utilize gameplay-focused ads, which tend to convert extremely well since hyper-casual games are easy to understand and have broad appeal. With high clickthrough and conversion rates, you’ll have low cost per install (CPI) rates. Understanding and maximizing virality also helps hyper-casual game developers to compensate relatively low player lifetime values (LTV) with scale.
Developers also shouldn’t worry about cross-promotion in other similar games since players will be jumping between games regardless—they will come back to your game if the core game loop is addictive.
While there will always be a market for casual, mid-core, and core games, hyper-casual games offer developers the best shot at predictably monetizing their work. Their mass appeal, low investment costs, and addictive gameplay give developers a reliable way to monetize.