Every developer dreams of millions of downloads for their game. The TapNation team, whose games have received 350+ million downloads, shared a helpful article, and we selected the most essential things from it. So let’s find out how to make a hit game, shall we?

Game Concept Perspective

We all have a preference for games. Try not to design a game based on your own tastes. Instead, the goal is to create a game for many users.

Competitors

The principle is simple, you have to follow the top charts every day. Games in the top 10 clearly have a low CPI (cost per install). So you need to identify market trends and try to understand what players like. This will help you think in the right direction.

Brainstorming

This step is crucial because a well-designed game is a successful game. It is best to brainstorm with people familiar with the hyper-casual market. When you present your idea, other participants can ask leading questions, which will help you think more broadly. Once the concept is clearly defined, put it in writing, including details and features.

Prototypes

Hyper-casual games are played for a few minutes a day, so it’s short session games. Create levels that are 1-2 minutes long. Develop about 10 levels. Since you don’t know if your game has potential yet, the more intuitive, clear and simple your game is, the more people you will attract.

Promotional creatives

This is the most important part of the development process. The advertisements will determine how many downloads your game gets.

Stick to the advertising formats for Facebook and TikTok. For each platform, it is recommended to test from 4 to 6 ad videos with the following specifications:

  • Facebook implements a number of specific formats for ads: 1:1 (1080×1080) – 4:5 (800×1000) – 2:3 (1000×1500) – 9:16 (1080×1920). As for the duration of the videos, they should not exceed 15-30 seconds.
  • In TikTok, one format is 9:16 (1080×1920). In fact, the bottom part is taken up by text and icons. Therefore, it is important to consider these factors and focus the game’s action on the part of the screen that is clearly visible in the app. The video should not exceed 10-20 seconds.

The first 3 seconds of your video will determine whether the user will continue to view your video.

Frustration is an excellent way to get users to click on ads. The person viewing the ad should think to themselves: “I’m sure I can do better”. An ad consisting only of examples of “fail” greatly increases the number of views and interactions among users.

Art Direction

A bright palette is very effective in hyper-casual games. In more detail, we described it in our article. Don’t be afraid to use bright cartoon colours. Instead, play with the brightness and level of detail. In some games, it’s more advantageous to use realistic artwork; in others, more cartoonish styles or low-polygonal models.

Testing different types of scenery, cameras or palettes will give you results that can cut your CPI in half.

Testing

TapNation simultaneously tests games on TikTok and Facebook. If your results are promising at the end of D3, you can extend your ad campaign for another 2 days. This will help you see how much your CPI will drop during the extended test phase.

Interpretation of results

The results will not be the same for all platforms and operating systems. For example, Android has lower CPI than iOS. However, we recommend that you start testing with Android for initial tests. Here are some facts to help you interpret your results.

Facebook: The release of iOS 15, combined with a big increase in CPM on Facebook, changed the way you interpret CPI:

  • CPI > $1: the project is not profitable.
  • $0.60 < CPI < $1: you need to rework the product a bit, change a few elements and try another test. If you manage to reduce the CPI, keep working. Otherwise, the project will not be profitable.
  • $0.40 < CPI < $0.60: This is a good indicator. Refine your product by adding detail and more variety in decorations and colours, and you can halve your metrics.
  • $0.30 < CPI < $0.40: You can publish a game with this result for specific games with a very high LTV. But, it’s better to keep making changes until you achieve a more significant reduction in CPI.
  • $0.20 < CPI < $0.30: good figure. Use A/B testing to reduce CPI even further. If new tests return higher CPI, go back to baseline, focus on user retention and LTV.
  • $0.20 < CPI: If you get CPI below 20 cents during your first Facebook test, there’s a good chance the game will be a hit.

The main goal, lower CPI by changing secondary elements and re-testing the project. Focus on user retention and LTV metrics. After that, you can be sure that your product will be profitable and can reach millions of downloads in 1-2 after an influx of users.

TikTok: is a relatively new platform with a very low CPM in terms of user engagement. For the same price, you would spend on Facebook, in TikTok, your ads will get twice as many users:

  • CPI > $0.70: the project is not profitable.
  • $0.40 < CPI < $0.70: it’s worth redoing the project a bit.
  • $0.30 < CPI < $0.40: the game is close to good CPI but not yet ready for publication, except in exceptional cases with very high LTV and high user retention rate
  • $0.20 < CPI <$0.30: looks promising. Make changes to the palette, characters, scenery or camera. The goal is to cross the $0.20 threshold.
  • $0.10 < CPI < $0.20: product is ready for publication if LTV and retention rate are good. Again, use A/B tests to achieve an even lower CPI.
  • $0.10 < CPI: the game is a hit. Still to refine the product, work on retention rates and LTV.
Conclusion

Hyper-casual games are very profitable. But, it’s worth a lot of testing to do. The market is competitive, and trends change very quickly. So you have to constantly be persistent and develop new ideas.