Sunday is a hyper-casual publisher and developer from Hamburg, Germany. They develop games in-house with several product teams and publish games from external partner studios.
Starting developing concepts by yourself or together with your team, one of the most critical points is the early development stage. First, you need to understand the market you’re in.
Analyse the market
You’ve checked out the top charts, seen a project that’s been there for weeks, and thought: why don’t you have a similar game? Why not copy it? Usually, such concepts don’t make it to the charts, so never make direct clones of games from the top charts.
I have never seen a single good cloned game that achieves the original results. Instead, you should focus your time and your potential on other things. You can look at what’s trending right now, but you have to add your variations.Christoph Sachsenhausen
The concept of a trending runner is a perfect example of a “gold mine”. By “gold mine” means an easy development project — for example, High Heels! by Rollic. The project turned out to be a success, and then everybody started trying their variations of the ideas. Developers tried to invent their runner with a new concept, themes, and mechanics that fit the genre well.
You have to be as fast as possible in terms of development. For example, if a certain trend goes up, you have a few days/weeks to jump to the chart’s top. So if you see 3-4 of your competitors making games similar to the original, the moment is probably lost. Speed and quickness in spotting a trend is very critical.Christoph Sachsenhausen
It’s essential to have something special in your game because otherwise, it will be another clone. So your game has to be at least 30% different from the original.
Moonshot projects or projects that “take-off”. This is a difficult challenge for developers, but the potential for such a project is super high. Moonshot projects are often trendsetters. How to achieve this? By combining two entirely new genres that have never been connected before. As a tool to help you in ideation you can create a large spreadsheet of different genres/themes and combine them.
Moonshot projects are not easy to implement; it’s not a “gold mine”, but it will be a big hit if you can pull it off.
Avoid classic gaming themes
Every publisher will tell you: Don’t do a game in a pixel art theme, avoid zombie themes, don’t do fantasy because that doesn’t convert.
Most people who design hyper-casual games also play games. Familiarising yourself with the Steam charts will make you want to do something similar from there. Yes, those games collect millions of users, but that’s not the hyper-casual segment. So why shouldn’t we implement these ideas in casual games? Why do all publishers advise us to avoid it? You have to have an understanding of how hyper-casual games work. First and foremost, it’s games for mobile devices!
How do games distribute on mobile devices? Through the app market. But for people to find your game, it’s essential to engage in advertising through social media and ad networks. Whether that is Facebook, TikTok, or ironSource, it doesn’t matter as long as you find your user. Instead, you need to get the user interested in 3 seconds, and that’s important!
90% of hyper-casual games on the market have an LTV of $0.3 – $1. The LTV of casual and midcore games is $15+; that’s a different category altogether.
Your hyper-casual game needs to reach players outside the core gamer audience. That’s why you need to choose a theme that fits EVERYONE, even people that don’t play games.
Make BIG changes
You have a game concept; you start tests and get pretty bad metrics in day 1. Games like this don’t work in the market. So you try to improve it by adding new features, content, levels, game object variations, etc. But there is a big problem with this approach.
Try new concepts from scratch. A good idea immediately resonates with players. It doesn’t make sense to add features on top of features and then content and skins. If something doesn’t work, don’t try to fix something that can’t be fixed; better to come up with something new, maybe even start a whole new project.Christoph Sachsenhausen
When you see that you have very promising base KPIs, you can add more content, balance levels and even send your game to release.
Stable version and GIT
You always want a good, stable version of your game that you can go back to at any time. This is where something like the version control system, GIT (software for tracking changes in any set of files), comes to the rescue.
I strongly recommend using GIT. It’s the best option you have. It’s a bit tricky to get into, it might scare you if you’re a young developer, but it pays off in the long run, especially when working with a team.Christoph Sachsenhausen
You launch the game and have a hit if it’s done right. So what do you do next?
Enjoy the moment, celebrate! But, the project is ongoing; right now, you need to optimize your game and raise the LTV with your publisher.
Learn from mistakes
But much more often than launching a hit, you fail with your game idea. The worst thing you can do is just move on to the next project and learn nothing from the previous one. What you should do instead is to sit down with your team and analyze your gameplay and videos. Divide everything into three categories: gameplay, camera and character/toy. Define clear actions you should do for your next project and what you should no longer do.
Keep the assets from previous projects
You can easily extract value from a failed prototype by salvaging the art assets from the project. Make a library of previous assets and save them to your GIT repository. Let everyone on your team have access to this library. It’s much quicker to reuse old assets than to create completely new ones. Remember what we talked about initially; speed and quality are essential.
Create gameplay templates and libraries
You have tried to create a game in the runner genre, and it was not successful for some reason. But, in fact, you almost have a finished project. You can strip it down to the bare essentials and can use it as a basis for your next game.
Let’s say you’ve designed an obstacle for a runner, some kind of rotating sword that tries to hit you; you can save that as a template for your following product. Or, you come up with a resource management system, you can also use that for your next project.