During prototyping testing, your goal is to prove that there’s a place in the market for your hyper-casual concept and that it can scale into a profitable business. The proof isn’t in the pudding, though - it’s in the performance metrics that come after running the test.
Danielle Cohen Reich, Director of Gaming at Supersonic, shares the 3 most important KPIs developers should check when testing their hyper-casual prototypes to prove they can be scalable, profitable games. These are all predictive metrics for revenue and LTV that can help you confirm with more certainty whether your game has legs or you should go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.
The most important KPI when prototype testing is CPI, or cost per install, which reflects the marketability power of your concept. Marketability indicates the size of the potential audience for your game and predicts how well they’ll convert from an ad impression to an install on several different UA channels. As you test more creatives across several UA channels, you’re better able to predict the marketability power of your prototype. But, you want to be as efficient and quick as possible during prototyping to avoid investing too many resources before seeing the potential of your concept.
On social networks, there’s no better metric to analyze the marketability power of your prototype than CPI. A low CPI is confirmation that many users understand and enjoy your game - and that your game can scale affordably.
That’s because the goal for hyper-casual games is to reach a very wide audience, so you need to be able to acquire users at scale for low cost. Aiming for a CPI under $0.30 will generate higher probability that your game appeals to users. With a CPI in this range, you can start making game improvements that improve in-game metrics like retention and playtime instead of focusing only on lowering CPI.
On an SDK network, you should also monitor the IPM of your prototype, which stands for installs per one thousand impressions - the higher your game’s IPM, the stronger its marketability power. Analyze both the average IPM from the prototype test and the amount of app sources that generated an IPM above the average.
APPU, which stands for average playtime per user, is a metric created by Supersonic as a more accurate prediction of a game’s LTV. Calculating the expected lifetime value of your users can inform your entire monetization strategy and help you attract high-value players that lead to greater profitability. Before you implement ads, though, you don’t know how much average revenue each user will generate over the course of the time they spend playing your game.
APPU, which is measured in seconds, tells you how much time a user spends on average in your game over the course of a lifetime, or over a specific time period like the first 7 days since install, even before you monetize. It’s the closest approximation for LTV because the longer that users play your game, the more ads they’ll watch, leading to more revenue.
To calculate APPU, we use the following formula: Playtime D0+ Retention D1XPlaytime D1*+ D2*. Let’s put this to an example - check out the chart below:
Here, APPU D7 indicates the accumulation of ad impressions - if your game has a low APPU D7, then accumulated impressions are low and LTV is likely to be low, too. In this example, APPU D7 is above 2,600 seconds, indicating that users are playing the game for a long time and will view many ads. The high APPU D7 here likely equates to a high LTV. In general, you should aim for an APPU D7 of over 2000s - this threshold of APPU D7 indicates the game has enough monetization power to proceed to soft launch.
You always want users to return to your game and spend more time playing to create additional opportunities for monetization. Retention - and late retention specifically - plays a big part in increasing your lifetime value per user. Generally, you should aim for a D1 retention rate of 38% or higher on Android - this is also the benchmark for APPU.
More playtime and higher retention can lead to greater LTV, as seen with Draw the Line which earned significant profit and reached the top 5 on iOS in the US. When the game was first tested, it had an impressive D1 retention rate of 51%. Even though the CPI was high at $0.38, the high retention rate indicated users loved playing the game enough to continue returning - the game clearly had potential. Iterating on creatives and optimizing monetization helped bring CPI down to $0.21 while D1 retention remained high at 46%, D7 retention was over 12%, and playtime increased to over 900s even after implementing ads - these impressive KPIs helped the game skyrocket to the top charts and maintain profitability while scaling.
Proceed with confidence
Every hyper-casual developer should focus on these three KPIs during prototyping. That’s because they’re the most accurate indicators of marketability and LTV - and can indicate whether you should move forward to the next stage of publishing or go back to the drawing board. Taking the next step with your game must be based on hard data so you can confidently know your concept has a high chance of scaling and earning a profit.