State of Hyper-Casual, October 2022

Lately I’ve come across a lot of articles about how #hypercasual is dying, competition will be even more fierce, publishers are tightening their restrictions due to recession etc. Here’s my two cents over the topic

First of all I have to say that hypercasual is here to stay. Short lived high engagement games that offer a fun experience will always find it’s place on the market. Simplest form of fun with little to no friction. But there is no denying that HC has past its golden age, yet genre is not dying, development studios are.

COVID growth enabled publishers to offer lucrative PPP and exclusivity deals to the newcomers of the industry without any prior game dev experience. On top of that industry media heavily promoted success stories, big purchases and marked HCs as the easiest way to money. This caused an influx of inexperienced studios that opened their eyes to the industry with just HC. To be brutally honest most of the games that come out as prototypes even lack a core game loop and shouldn’t even get past the ideation process.

With the rapid growth, publishers had to recruit Product Managers from different industries due to lack of experienced talent available. These PMs mostly have analyst backgrounds without any game design/development experience. Sadly, most only value data and data only. Data is valuable as it is, but it should mostly serve as evidence, not as a conclusion. If data worked that way we would have designer AIs and golden templates by now 🙂 Thats generally the reason why we see studios with killed games with one publisher can post success stories of the same game with another. Fun trumps data.

Due to the nature of HC, brute forcing worked when there were growth overall. It’s simple as the interaction between CPI and LTVs. Prototype costs act as CPI and published games as LTVs. With ad restrictions are tightening and rest of the world is catching up with social media marketing it’s much harder to find a sustainable CPI and development costs are only getting higher due to inflation. On top of that ad revenues are getting smaller and smaller year over year. It’s hard to justify creating blank games in hopes of finding a hit. Gap between CPI’s and LTVs are getting closer day by day. This lead publishers to try and find hits surgically with experienced studios. Finding an experienced studio with the know-how is hard and costly due to prior brute forcing. We still see studios with big hits that can’t sustain their pipelines and have no concrete knowledge why their game became a hit. With enough tries sometimes stars can align.

Competition was always fierce independent of genres/mediums. Industry was never easy. Studios with the required know how and experience will always be much more valuable than others. As PPP era comes to a close, studios should try and ask why their games failed/succeed and extract know how from them. Getting a paycheck by testing a blank game or growing without knowing why is never sustainable.