As hyper-casual games face increasing competition, developers are looking to add more features to increase retention. An article from GameAnalytics, the original of which can be read here, breaks down six tips for hyper-casual game developers.

Hyper-casual games today face problems because of too much competition. This both increases the cost of attracting new players and eases churn. And it’s problematic because, with the high price of attracting new players, hyper-casual studios expect high retention rates for profits.

Hyper-casual developers have realized that to maintain high retention rates, they need more features and aspects of the metagame. The tactic is to keep the core gameplay short and straightforward but add meta-features that encourage players to return.

This article looks at how to achieve this shift. What features to add to hyper-casual games, and how to turn the game into a hybrid casual hit.

Create an economy, not just a currency

Develop a currency system: coins, gems, or mana shards that will have more than one or two uses. The trick to a sound currency system is to create an economy. Creating a reliable system is not easy. Game Maker’s Toolkit describes five parameters for an in-game economy:

  • Method. Resource Creation Method. Adjust this parameter to affect the pace of play;
  • Inventory. A place that shows the player how many resources he has;
  • Converter. Converts a resource into another resource. Experience into levels. Coins into potions. Raw materials into weapons. It is better to reduce the resources the player decides how to use than to create many resources with few uses;
  • Drain. An action that removes a resource. For example, wasting ammunition to fire a weapon;
  • Merchant. He buys and sells but has his desires. In other words, an advanced converter.

This is vital in turning a hyper-casual game into a hybrid-casual game.

Development System

Add role-playing mechanics — class systems, level-ups, and stats that improve the character. Most importantly, make sure the progression system has a direct impact on gameplay.

Five signs of a sound progression system:

  • Character stats. Standard parameters: strength, skill, and intelligence;
  • Level experience. As the player progresses, experience accumulates. Level systems allow players to choose which stats to increase;
  • Passive skills. Passive skills — abilities which increase a specific rate or give another advantage;
  • Equipment. Items that can be found or made that increase the character’s stats;
  • Classes. The class, the player, chooses directly depends on what stats are changed when the level increases, what items he equips or what passive skills he receives;
  • Quests. Quests, in which rewards are linked to the rest of the promotion system. Offer daily or weekly prizes for completing several quests, perhaps granting specific resources.

How do these stats affect gameplay? You can either directly affect the primary cycle or the meta-function. For example, an increase in strength can instantly increase health. The progression system is not necessarily confusing or complicated.

Collectables

Collectables entice and attract gamers. Here are five types of collectables to consider:

  • Cosmetics. Items of this type don’t change the gameplay but play on the «coolness» factor;
  • Characters. Create a portfolio of characters, even if they don’t make too much of an impact on gameplay. This will work if you use classes;
  • Achievements. These are specific tasks that reward players with a badge for bragging rights or even an in-game passive ability;
  • Story. Don’t underestimate the power of a story. Unlocking short stories about characters, snippets of information about the world, or even background information will please players;
  • Trade items. Rare items that players trade with each other: cards, weapons, or even characters.

The difference between a resource and a collectable item is that a collectable item is the end goal. Such an item cannot be converted. The idea is that the player spends resources to get collectables.

The main thing is to ensure that the game has thought about where the player sees the list of collectables.

Personalized Settings

After resources, progression systems, and collectables, think about personalized settings that individually affect the gamer’s gaming experience.

  • Avatar. The player’s avatar is the character the gamer uses to represent themselves;
  • Home. Let users create and modify the layout of a room or house. You can also add city building elements;
  • User experience. Interface, music, and level backgrounds.

These settings can be linked to collectables and the development system. But for starters, it’s better to give players choices.

Narrative

The narrative shouldn’t be overly complicated. It works as long as it gives a reason for the user to play. Regardless of the narrative plot, there are vital features the game will need:

  • Character. All characters have one thing in common: motivation. Even a bouncy ball can have a character if you clearly define what drives it;
  • Conflict. There is no story without conflict. There are four types of conflict: against the villain, against the monster, against nature, and yourself;
  • Change. To do this, answer the question, what changes as you go through the game?
  • Conclusion. You don’t necessarily need an ending, but a final point in which the player feels he has accomplished something.

But remember, don’t tell the story ultimately. The narrative needs to be present. Subtle hints in level design are often more impressive than a page of text.

Playing with friends

Competition stimulates engagement. Social features turn the hyper-casual game people play on the train into an ongoing contest between friends. Here are five typical social features to add to the game:

  • Chat. Keep a close eye on what players are saying; allowing public chat between players can help build community;
  • Friend Lists. Allowing players to add friends not only helps retention but also encourages gamers to invite new users into the game;
  • Guilds. Allow players to create clans and guilds. If these guilds are linked to a separate promotion system or daily quests, this will add another level of encouragement;
  • Leaderboards. Compare players to each other and force them to move up the leaderboard;
  • Tournaments. Challenging players to compete in a specific tournament against each other is an effective way to maintain the community.

Keep an eye out for retention

Hyper-casual games show a trend that is moving toward the hybrid-casual genre. But adding a few of these features will quickly turn a game into one that will attract and hold gamers’ attention.

Whatever new features you add to hyper-casual games, keep an eye on player retention day in and day out. Use platforms and tools to track key game metrics.

Side note: The hyper-casual publisher’s guide to collaboration.