The fiercely competitive nature of the hyper-casual market dictates that new games - or at least game concepts - need to be made fast and often in order to beat the odds for launching a hit game. In this industry, an inefficient use of time could lead to a game concept that passed its marketability test with flying colors becoming irrelevant, with high CPIs. In other words, timing is make or break. Luckily for hyper-casual developers, unlike other more complex genres, these games are straightforward from a development standpoint, and minimal viable products (MVPs) can be churned out and tested for marketability in a matter of days.
The most competitive developers and publishers in the hyper-casual world are those who are frequently releasing new games, chasing hit after hit. Because hyper-casual games have relatively lower LTV and late retention rates compared to other genres, and that they’re often based on fleeting trends, it’s important to constantly have another hit in your back pocket - existing successes generally have relatively short shelf lives. In order to do that it’s crucial for developers to scale output and find effective ways to save time in the development process - below we give three tips from Supersonic's Niv Toubal for doing just that.
1. Use templates
One effective tool for rapidly churning out game concepts, from a development standpoint, is using design templates - a strategic part of the development process that can help save time and reduce operational overheads.
Templates can include basics elements such as the game menu, the win and lose screens, and the in-game store. They can also be used for slightly more complex elements, such as different models, or mechanics, in the game. Collection models are one example: the way a character navigates the game to pick up coins or objects, and visual cues that appear during this process. Another example are haptics, AKA the touch mechanics. By using a development engine such as Unity or Unreal, developers can save templates of the fundamental mechanics and features of existing games for future use.
For instance, we at Supersonic made templates for rotation models, in which the user applies their finger to rotate an on-screen 3D object. We used these models in totally different contexts and designs, but the core structures remained the same. By saving this rotation model as a template, we saved valuable time that enabled us to focus on the design aspect, such as how the model should look, aesthetically speaking, in the context of the game. Removing avoidable development overheads helped us ensure that our game was built swiftly and remained relevant in the fast-moving hyper-casual market.
2. Move to a new stage of development daily
Because hyper-casual games are categorized by their relatively simplistic designs, they can be developed from start to finish in a matter of weeks - far quicker than in other more complex game genres.
Game development is split into three parts: game design, game development, and game art. A useful framework for hyper-casual developers to work fast and scale their output is implementing a process to ensure the game moves into a new phase of development every day or two.
On day 1, the game designer should define the basic mechanics of the game concept, and create a game design document that will then be passed onto developers for the next stage. Basic mechanics include how high the character jumps, how fast they run, and what haptics to use and where (swiping, tapping, rotating, etc).
Once this is finished, the development team should take over to build out those mechanics into a minimal viable product. After working on this for a day or two, game artists should enter the process to define the artistic vision of the game. This loop continues until the game is ready for soft launch, hopefully within a month.
This operational structure is particularly suited to medium sized games studios, where there are multiple game concepts to build out simultaneously. That’s because it’s effectiveness lies in its ability to support a constant flow of work: each time a game designer, developer, or artist finishes their work on a certain game and passes it to the next stage, they should begin the same process on other projects.
A final note to bear in mind is that the order we use at Supersonic might not be the optimal order for different game genres. For example, an aesthetically-driven game concept where the product follows the art might begin the development process with the art stage.
3. Use market research tools to quickly identify trends
If we look at the top charts for hyper-casual games, it’s clear that many of the most successful titles are based on new trends - platforms such as Tiktok and Youtube inspire game concepts ranging from tie dying t-shirts to trucks driving over objects. In order to move fast and tap into these trends to create viral game concepts, before they fall out of fashion, it is key that you make the most of market research tools like App Annie and Sensor Tower and use them on a weekly basis.
The main value of keeping a constant eye on the trends and mechanics emerging in the top charts is that they can inspire game concepts that have a higher likelihood of succeeding. Ultimately, this increases the probability of creating a concept that sticks, saving you from wasting time on other game concepts that are less likely to have a product-market fit.
Focus on the US top charts and observe any patterns in terms of viral trends or mechanics that games are using. Complement this strategy by researching directly on social media platforms like Tiktok and Youtube to find viral trends as and when they emerge, and see if you have the skill set to translate them into a marketable game concept.