Chris Pett is a Publishing Manager at Kwalee. He’s been part of the Mobile Publishing Team at Kwalee for over two years. Kwalee has worked with hundreds of hypercasual studios and is now working with some casual studios too. Many people are moving from hypercasual to casual, and Chris will tell us why this happens, what difficulties and challenges people face, and how to help circumvent them.
Why has there been a change?
We see the growth across the industry. In studios where there were 10 people two years ago, now there are 50-60 people. The massive growth in Turkey, India and other places has led to these regions transforming into hypercasual hot spots. There are lots of great developers inside and outside of those hot spots. But none of this means you can’t be part of it. Just because there are lots of people there, it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
Hypercasual isn’t dead. It’s doing as well as it has ever been. There have been tonnes of games published in the past 12 months. Many games are still doing well, and if anyone thinks that hypercasual isn’t going to carry on living for a long time, then they’re wrong. Because so many games are coming out, many passionate developers, studios, and publishers are working together to make these great games and hypercasual is growing and changing.
What are the challenges?
Many people have gone from hypercasual to casual and tried to operatewith the same team in the same mindset. In terms of production, patience has become important. Producers in the industry need to be a lot more hands-on in casual; you’ll probably have multiple producers on one casual game, especially as it scales up. Hypercasual producers might have to take a step back and reevaluate how they work in casual because it’s a different mindset to plan sprints. It’s about pre-planning and ensuring you have the right people in your team. In hypercasual, you might work on multiple areas, and once in one sprint, you’re probably focusing on only one specific area, one specific metric you’re trying to increase in that sprint.
When we move to marketing, there’s a massive mental shift. If we’re talking about ad creators, you’re not making the same ads. For the audience focus, you need to constantly research what a competitor’s doing, why they are doing this, who their audiences are, how that applies to what you’re working on, and how you can find your own way into this. Many companies use different mechanics that might not be in the game to get the attention of certain people. Also, when it comes to marketing, there’s a much wider ideation of what content is in your ad creatives and what content is in your general marketing.
You’re planning the future a lot more when it comes to casual. When designing a casual game, you need to be more focused on how this might affect something six or more months down the line. If a player has been playing this game for a year, what will his experience be? If new mechanics are implemented, how will they feel six months, eight months, ten months, or a year down the line? It’s essential to be aware of your game’s longevity, which brings us to bugs.
I’ve seen it twice. We’ve had a minor bug, and it doesn’t really bother us. It wasn’t something your average player would see; you could go ahead with that. But then we go on to a bug in a game that affects a week down the line, two weeks down the line, these bugs can become exponentially problematic, and it’s about making sure each bug you find is squashed and tested in the right place.Chris Pett, Publishing Manager at Kwalee
Kwalee has a massive QA team, but occasionally some things will slip through, and that’s why they check if it affects the game. In hypercasual, you might roll out a game over a few days, where as casual would roll out much slower. This is where you might pick up bugs and be able to take them on, analyze them and find out where they came from before they become more troublesome down the line. As well, it’s important to be aware of what you’re implementing and make sure these bug fixes don’t break anything important. It is a hypercasual thing, too however it’s a bit more prominent in a casual – synchronisation with design. The design needs to be more synchronised with the art, marketing and production side. This is where producers come in. Make sure they have the resources and assets they might need to create more creative ideas.
Art has had a massive mindset change as well. Not that the art in hypercasual is worse or in any way lesser than casual art, it’s just a more coherent style over a longer time. So make sure that whoever’s leading your art team has a particular idea of what they’re going to do, what the entire game’s art style will be, and make sure every asset is in line with that idea. It’s essential to make sure your team is on the same wavelength. Some of the feedback Chris got from people in the art departments across the industry at companies making this change is that many techniques might need to be relearned. This way, you are refreshing your memory, and you can keep up and be aware of mistakes you might make.
How to prepare
You can use hypercasual ideas you’ve had to generate new casual ideas. It is important to find that quick ideation process where you can get things down very quickly and look at how they might work. You can do this in terms of paper development. Write down the processes on a piece of paper, discuss it with your team and have regular reviews about what you should move forward; if this is going to work in the long term, build the proofs of concept. Make sure that your basic game appeals to the audience, if a base mechanic will allow you to progress into a full global launch with years of lifespan and that you’re not overextending yourself.
Make sure that the players you’re working with are the right people for your game and listen to them – care about what they say. In hypercasual there are too many ads and it’s not such a big worry. But when it comes to casual games, if you’re relying on ads a lot, you need to rethink the way you’re monetizing your game. Because your retention will drop off and you’ll start to have issues with your community.
How to plan and evaluate?
I recommend doing this for every sprint. You always should start with a question, find out what answers, research them and find out if you’ve got a problem, and with the economy, how could you balance this out. There will be multiple answers for that, and you need to prioritize which one of these answers will be the most impactful and likely get you to your goal. This will be figuring out the best time evaluation – how much time you’ll spend building this out, how long it’s going to take to find out if it’s done the job, and if it’s been impactful. Then you implement the test and evaluate how effective it was.Chris Pett, Publishing Manager at Kwalee
Testing casual might be seven days, but you’re looking at players from those seven days for the next 30 or 60 days – where do they end up? It takes a lot longer to get these results, and everyone needs to be aware of that when working with casual games because the everything just gets bigger in casual, and remember to always evaluate how the sprint has gone.
- Who did what?
- How did that go?
- What resources could they take from this onto other games?
- What did you learn?
- How did that meet your expectations?
- What’s next?
Time and team management
You need to ensure that your team and the time you’re spending on your product are worthwhile. Be aware that things can be slower, be aware that you might need to take a step back and just see how things play out sometimes because you might need to wait for 10, 20, or 30 days to get the results you want to see. That’s why AB testing is essential across the entire mobile industry. Because sometimes A might look better, to begin with, but in the long term, B actually works a lot better for players.
Recommendation: be flexible for your team, understand the goals that might need to be changed, and do reviews – make sure that everyone on your team is reviewed and happy, shares their ideas and is aware of what’s going on, make sure everyone’s on the same page. Make sure your team is progressing and your games are moving.
Five things you can over
- Fail fast. Choose a small team you trust (their vision, decisions) and test their prototypes as quickly as possible, especially in the early stages.
- Reuse. Use a lot of the assets for the projects that follow – it will be great to have a library of all the assets you’ve ever used in your games. It saves a lot of time.
- Creative. Many casual games use hypercasual mechanics to get more users on the latter end of their lives. If you’ve had a game going on for a year or two and your CPI’s have started to rise, look at refreshing creatives and do that often. Also, think about what else is working, what’s hot at the moment in hypercasual and how you could apply that to casual.
- Catalogue. A catalogue of insights and tests is going to do nothing but make the future easier. Make sure you keep all your tests, all the results, and all the AB tests you’ve done from any game in any genre. You can use them to help plan out the future of your next game.
- Innovation. There’s no more innovative a group of people than hypercasual. Finding the things that will make your casual games stick out and innovate with a hypercasual mindset is wonderful. Take it with you if you move into casual games.