The Evolution of Hybridcasual
In January 2019 a notorious article predicted that the then-booming hypercasual genre would eventually become unsustainable. More than a year later, Apple announced IDFA deprecation. The fallout has kept a few of us here at Naavik busy all the way through 2020 and 2021. The clearest way out, especially for the most established hypercasual companies, became hybridcasual. Now that the dust has settled -although Unity's new pricing scheme could form a new challenge- there is more clarity around the strategies of the companies that chose this path; a perfect time to look at their best practices.
Firstly: what is hybridcasual? Homa Games defines hybridcasual games as "maintaining the simplicity of hypercasual games while including more sophisticated progression mechanics. This genre requires audiences to make time to play to improve long term user engagement". While this definition covers part of it, at Naavik we like to specify that the progression mechanics need to be added onto an Arcade core. But even then the question remains: can every Arcade core serve as a base for a hybridcasual game? Does this definition of hybridcasual encompass everything we now know?
Arcade games –or games with instantly understandable core mechanics– obviously existed since long before hybridcasual or hypercasual. Games like Temple Run (2011), Hill Climb Racing (2012) and Subway Surfers (2012) are great examples as they started out differently and only later in their life cycles modernized their way to monetize, by pivoting towards an ad-driven model. Each of these three classics was downloaded 100M times or more in the last 12 months.
While these games likely earn a pretty penny through ads, they lack significant IAP revenue to be labeled hybrid. The IAP revenue comparison with arguably the biggest hybridcasual game of today looks very different. For example, Subway Surfers has seen 250M downloads and $9.8M in net IAP revenue over the last 12 months. In comparison, Survivor.io has seen 62M downloads and $276M in net IAP revenue over the same time period. These are not the same kinds of games, even though they cater to similar audiences.
The three games mentioned above don't have a meta that is deep enough to leverage best-practice IAP monetization as seen in casual (specifically live ops). Games must be built with truly free to play economies and meta games to be able to achieve this. On top of that, practically all hybridcasual hits have a power progression that is used as the main thread to build the meta progression onto. A hypercasual-esque marketing angle also needs to be found to reach the desired marketability, driven by hyper-accessibility.This article will dive deeper by dissecting some notable hybridcasual titles, including SayGames' Dreamdale, Voodoo's Mob Control and Collect 'em All, Madbox's Pocket Champs, Habby's Survivor.io and Homa's Fight For America 3D.
By doing so, we can answer the following question: what are best practices in hybridcasual, which strategies are being used to develop them, and what prerequisites ought to be in place to build these games successfully?
The above games are interesting and successful examples of hybridcasual games with IAP/ad-revenue splits that favor ads more than conventional casual games. They all have instantly understandable core gameplay optimized for maximum accessibility and marketing strategies that leverage this. Most also have metagame features that leverage the power progression on which their cores are built, so they have enough space to keep running meaningful live ops.
These games are also notable for their mass-audience to deep-monetisation fit. Hybridcasual games introduce casual F2P audiences to RPG-esque progression mechanics; the best hybridcasual games are able to mature hypercasual players into full-fledged gamers.
While the game selection covers well-established companies and lucrative games, other emergent companies hoping to claim a slice of the hybridcasual pie are circling. We can't cover all emerging hybrid titles in-depth, but we can show a downloads and revenue breakdown of games from other notable companies.For those that want to delve deeper into the hybridcasual segment, check out:
- 1945 Air Forces by OneSoft
- Bullet Echo by ZeptoLab)
- Hunt Royale by Boombit
- Lonely Survivor by Cobby
- Art of War Legions by 89Trillion
- Mr. Autofire by Lightheart
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