The four stages of the hyper-casual publishing funnel

In Supersonic’s latest webinar with TikTok for Business, Nadav Ashkenazy, General Manager at Supersonic, and Anni Ben Yair, Head of Global Business Solutions at TikTok discussed tips and best practices for hyper-casual game growth. Nadav walked through the steps of the hyper-casual funnel, from ideation to testing and getting your game up to the top charts, while Anni spoke about the growth path of hyper-casual games on TikTok and mastering creatives to globally launch your game. 

Read on for a summary of each presentation or watch the webinar below.

The four stages of the publishing funnel

Nadav explains that there are four steps to the hyper-casual publishing process: ideation, the first test, building your game, and finally, growing it. Let’s dive into each one and understand why following these steps will help maximize performance.

Step 1. Ideation

Before thinking of your next concept, start with understanding the current trends and a market analysis - staying up to date with industry changes is crucial once you start your ideation process. For example, a market analysis shows that the top sub-genre market trends of 2021 are: ASMR, mini-games, puzzles, FPA, io, 1 vs 1, platformers, and runners (most dominant sub-genre).

Keep in mind that many genres are scaling fast so don’t limit yourself to just one - with the right team and execution there’s room in any sub-genre and it’s better to fit the idea to your studio’s skills. After mastering the current trends in the market, there are many different techniques to come up with a fresh and innovative concept - whether it’s an evolution of existing concepts, merging elements from different games, matching a specific mechanic with a trending theme (for example, runners + feminine), or innovating a mechanic or theme under an existing trend.

Step 2. The first test

After picking your idea, it’s time to go into the first test. Start by generating a lean MVP with a clear gameplay theme. Be sure to look for an indication of marketability, and try several themes using a single template. Following this process will allow you to fail quickly and pivot easily. Remember to believe in the process and stay persistent. If you’re following the right ideation process, it’s only a matter of time until you nail your hit.

Step 3. Building the game

After seeing marketability potential, you can start building your game. Throughout this process, combine your own intuition with data to back it up - look at retention, playtime, design events, level drops, and A/B testing. 

When building your game, always keep your target audience in mind and remember that hyper-casual games have to be easy enough so they can be played by everyone. Every game answers different needs, so think about what type of experience you want to build among users. In addition, stick to a variety of content, implement a good sense of reward and progression, and be sure to consult with your publisher to find the balance between production speed and perfection.

Step 4. Growing the game

You’ve picked the right concept, tested marketability, built your game and in-game metrics are looking good. Now it’s time to grow it.

Nadav explains that the number one goal is maximizing profits, “top of the charts is not what we optimize for, of course, it's a blessed outcome and a sign of significant profits."

Step four is a combination of two different roles: UA and maximizing LTV. UA includes using best practices and strategies to optimize for each network, granular and data-based bidding, smart testing based on accurate data, and a focus on creatives. In fact, finding the right creative can be equal to increasing LTV by 50%. The second role is maximizing LTV. Unlike UA, which is largely the responsibility of the publisher, maximizing LTV is a joint effort between the developer and the publisher. Once you’ve launched your game, you can use Supersonic’s LiveGames platform to maximize your LTV. Check out our blog for more info.

The growth path of a hyper-casual game on TikTok

Next up is Anni from TikTok. Anni explains that Tiktok’s product solutions are designed to match advertisers with relevant users among different touchpoints, using the power of community. TikTok’s hyper-casual community is dominant and fast-growing - over 60% of gamers on Supersonic’s top games are using TikTok. Anni advises, “if you have a new game, partner with a strong publishing house like Supersonic and leverage TikTok’s momentum”. Let's see how the hyper-casual game industry can benefit from TikTok’s platform. 

Creative strategy

TikTok uses a native ad strategy across different auction formats. The ad unit that performs best for hyper-casual games is integrating the ad within the ‘For You’ feed along with organic videos posted by TikTok users. “Native ads work best, by using TikTok’s ‘Smart Creative Tools’ solution you can easily create them,” Anni explains.

Lifecycle on TikTok and honeymoon phase

A short life cycle is in the nature of a hyper-casual game. During the “the honeymoon phase”, as Anni calls it, TikTok uses high exposure at massive scale to maximize your game performance. Here it’s best to implement a no-bid strategy to spend the full budget with low CPAs - creating the benefit of efficient budget allocation with high lift.

Soft launch lifetime

Once you get your game going, have your final prototype, see good results on TikTok, you want to ask yourself, where do I want to launch? Tiktok, Pangle, both?

First, you want to plan your geos and target markets, then plan your bid strategy. Use the lowest bid to get a strong lift that supports a stable CPI and maximum profits. Regarding budgets, Ann suggests you start with a solid budget and don’t make any changes during the launch date. Although you can use different ad formats, playable ad formats perform best and deliver relatively high increases in IPMs, help you maximize your margins, and shrink CPIs. Once you reach the post-honeymoon phase, the idea is to stabilize scale through A/B testing a low vs cost cap bidding strategy.

Practices and benchmarks

Some key UA tools Anni mentions for TikTok include:

  • Bulk import: Create or edit campaign groups in bulk
  • Lowest cost bidding: Aiming for efficient spending
  • ACO: Let the system deliver ads using the best creative ranking
  • API: create and manage campaigns using smart API integration
  • Split testing: Always A/B test
  • Smart creative tools: Create and edit your creatives 
  • AEO: Algorithm that optimizes towards your ROAS KPIs (retention KPIs)
  • Reach and frequency: Create campaigns in advance

Make sure you catch the next Supersonic webinar for more insights. Stay up to date on all our events by following us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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