By the end of 2019, around 44.5% of the US population (147 million) is expected to play mobile games on their devices.1 This figure has been rising year over year since the first gaming apps were downloaded from the app store in 2008. Mobile games are now the most popular app category and account for 35% of all downloads. Growth is not anticipated to slow down any time soon either, with 158.9 million US users (46.8% of the population) expected to enjoy games on their mobile devices by 2023.
The range of gaming apps is extensive, with categories such as casual, mid-core, and hardcore available to players. Another genre called hyper-casual games has grown to take the spotlight throughout the marketplace. With an estimated annual revenue of $2-2.5 billion2 and substantial investment3 in hyper-casual app developers, this market area is continuing to level up.
In this blog post, we explore the ascendance of hyper-casual games and how they can be leveraged for highly successful in-app advertising campaigns.
What Are Hyper-Casual Games?
Hyper-casual games are lightweight mobile games that allow users to engage in a simple, easy-to-understand gaming experience that provides an immediate emotional response and instant satisfaction for the player. They have global mass appeal and transcend audiences of different ages, genders, and cultures. Simplicity is key for hyper-casual games; intuitive UI and basic game mechanics allow users to launch the game and play almost instantaneously, often without a tutorial. The uncomplex and gratifying nature also makes for a highly replayable and addictive gameplay experience.
Hyper-casual games are specifically designed and built for the modern in-app advertising ecosystem and monetization strategies. In contrast to other mid-core or casual gaming apps, which generally operate on an in-app purchase model, hyper-casual games mainly rely on advertising to generate revenue, through a mixture of banners, interstitials, and rewarded videos
Why Have Hyper-Casual Games Taken Off?
Hyper-casual format games are by no means a new concept. However, a combination of factors has enabled this genre to dominate the app stores’ top downloaded charts in recent years.
The worldwide expansion of smartphones and internet-connected mobile devices has been key in reaching user groups of all demographics throughout the world. The casual nature of hyper-casual games has found a gap in this marketplace, providing users with a platform to dip in and out of gameplay with minimal commitment, when waiting for an appointment, traveling, or simply relaxing at home.
As the mobile gaming market has matured, so has its monetization model and this has been key in facilitating the success of hyper-casual. Mobile games originally relied on premium, up-front payments in order for the user to download the app. The in-app advertising ecosystem has developed, coinciding with users becoming more accustomed to accessing free apps and games. This method of monetization has proven to be the most lucrative way for publishers to generate revenue. The sheer scale of downloads and mass appeal of hyper-casual games ensures that they have become one of the best platforms for in-app advertising.
Why Advertise in Hyper-Casual Games?
With media usage increasingly shifting to apps, mobile games are big winners with consumers, and offer advertisers with diverse audiences and high engagement rates. Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits for advertisers investing in hyper-casual games.
Audience Scale and Market Growth
Approximately 660 million4 users played hyper-casual games across the globe in 2018 with the genre generating around 22 million app installs each day, so the potential reach for advertising campaigns is huge. Not only is the audience already massive, hyper-casual games are one of the fastest-growing media verticals out there.
High-Quality Audience Demographics
Gaming is now a mainstream activity, with 86% of all internet users confirming they have played games on at least one device.5 Mobile is the most popular channel for gaming across all ages, genders, and income groups, with 66% of both male and female users playing games on their smartphones.6 The stereotypical image of the teenage male gamer is now a thing of the past.
High-Scoring Ad Formats
Just like other types of mobile games, hyper-casual offers a wide variety of display and video ad placements:
One of the most effective monetization strategies used for hyper-casual games is rewarded video ads. Playable for at least three seconds and up to 30 seconds, these highly engaging ad formats are preferred by users over other types of ads. Smaato data shows that click-through rates are 18X higher for rewarded videos versus standard banner placements in hyper-casual games, yet their eCPM is only 8X higher. Not only do they deliver higher conversions for advertising campaigns, rewarded videos also help gaming apps hold on to their audience. If a player reaches a tricky point in the game and is struggling to continue, voluntarily watching a rewarded video ad can help them out with a bonus item or hint.
Interstitial Video and Display
Usually placed during natural breaks in gameplay, interstitial ads are highly visual and can be delivered in both video or display formats. They give brands an opportunity to take advantage of a highly engaged audience during breaks in their entertainment. Interstitial video ads can generate click-through rates 24X that of banners, with an eCPM only 3X higher.
Traditional in-app banners are also an effective ad format for hyper-casual games. Easily implemented into a game’s interface, banner placements can be displayed on-screen and during gameplay. They can cost-effectively reach a large number of users with limited risk to brands testing out hyper-casual game advertising.
Just like other genres of gaming apps, hyper-casual games provide a brand-safe environment for advertisers to reach consumers with their campaigns. Advertising on a website can often put a brand’s messaging at risk of appearing next to inappropriate, user-generated content. Mobile gaming apps need to be approved before they are accessible to consumers, so this risk is minimized, providing a safe platform for brand integrity.
What’s Next for Hyper-Casual Games?
More and more hyper-casual titles are launched each week, ensuring that the landscape is fiercely competitive and ever-changing. With so many apps out there, developers and publishers may need to add new features to stand out from the crowd. One thing for sure is that hyper-casual games have gained a high score in the marketplace, providing consumers with apps they regularly enjoy and advertisers a platform to deliver successful campaigns.
For actionable insights into the mobile gaming landscape and how to level up in-app ad campaigns, download The Mobile Games Playbook today.
Sources: 1eMarketer, March 2019 | 2Venturebeat, March 2019 |3Reuters, May 2018 | 4ironSource, 2018 | 5GlobalWebIndex, March 2019 | 6eMarketer, April 2019