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026: Hyper Casual Games – Retention, Mobile Publishers and the Domination of Hyper Casual Mobile Games.

Game Dev Podcast - 026 - Hyper Casual Games & Retention

It’s certainly official, Hyper Casual games are dominating the App Store Top Charts.

In early 2017, we saw the rise of Hyper Casual games going main stream with publishers like Voodoo.io leading the way with their smash hit paper.io.

Apple recognised the genre in their 2017 roundup by including the Hyper-Casual Trend in gaming.

Apple 2017 Trends of the Year

Apple Trends 2017 - Hyper Casual Games

 

These usually lightweight games, consisting of nothing much more than an addictive core loop on launch, are typically a few steps ahead of a MVP ( minimal viable product ) or prototype. Mostly monetising through Ads rather than IAP’s, it’s unlikely you’ll see many of these games in the top grossing ranks, or indeed often even the publishers are not recognised as top performers as those charts are traditionally curated through platform revenue, but this is super big business.

Pushed heavily via social media / influencer campaigns ( Snapchat / Instagram / Facebook ) top mobile publishers can achieve extremely low CPI’s ( cost per install ) and thus propelling these simple, small mobile games to the pinnacle of the App Stores with a relatively modest budget.

Because if this, they are highly scalable and massively sharable and can often go viral pretty fast.

 

Hyper Casual Games

7 out of the Top 11 Free iPhone Games are Hyper Casual as of 30th July 2018.

 

This really is a Win/Win for both Publishers and Game Developers alike. Publishers can measure retention metrics to see if the game has potential fast and cheap, whilst developers can produce games way faster than normal as these stripped back games generally have little actual content or depth.

As Jilly was sadly unwell today, I stripped out a section of a recent webinar we held talking all about Hyper Casual Games, the retention benchmarks the Top Mobile Publishers are looking for and how, as game developers, we go about tracking this data.

Top Hyper Casual Game Publishers

VoodooVoodoo.io

Lion StudiosLionstudios.cc

Crazy Labs | TabTale – Tabtale.com

TastyPillTastypill.com

KwaleeKwalee.com

PlaygendaryPlaygendary.com

KetchappKetchappStudio.com

Gram GamesGram.gs

Hyper Casual Game Retention Benchmark Metrics

We go way deeper on this subject and deconstruct some of the most successful Hyper Casual Games in our Course “Seriously Snackable” but there’s some real actionable content from the webinar too. I expand on some of the ingredients we need to put into our games to elevate our chances of success.

Whilst in essence this all sounds rather easy and fast, achieving these numbers is super tough. The winners are the games that you generally look at and think “jeez, that’s so simple why didn’t I think of that!”

We’ve yet to try and build a Hyper Casual game ( ours all fit into the Casual genre ) but we’ll soon be on the case and it’s super exciting.

If you want to dive deeper into all this, be sure to check out the Academy where there’s tons of great video content, courses, detailed deconstructions and epic game dev conversations going on.

 

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

021: Why designing under constraints will make you a better game designer.


Game Dev Podcast - 021 - Game Design Constraints

Working under constraints, especially in a creative field, can be a challenging but highly effective way to build up your inventiveness. Often when starting out a project, setting some kind of constraint can force you into action and get your brain thinking in a different way.

For instance, it’s time to start a new game project. “Let’s now build a game.”

You’re at your workspace.. Cool… erm… yeah… so… yeah… erm…

Now, let’s imagine you put some constraints on the project:

“Let’s build a game with only 2 colours” or
“Let’s build a game in 48 hours” or
“Let’s build a game with only Triangles.”

By starting with some constraints in place, whatever they may, can be a hugely powerful jump point to get those creative juices flowing.

One story sprung to mind as we started discussing the topic today. Supposedly Ernest Hemingway bet some friends that he could write an entire story in just six words. Impossible you may say and this seems like quite a dumb idea. However, here’s how Hemingway did it:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

How long it took him to choose those six words is anyone’s guess, but this does demonstrate that often seemingly impossible briefs can get you thinking outside of the box and force you to flex your creative muscles.

When it comes to designing games, constraints are often a fantastic way to generate unique ideas and push beyond boundaries. You need to be a problem solver and stretch the normal, which typically can end up with extraordinary results.

Here’s 4 ideas to apply to constrain your next project:

Theme / Time

Game Jams are a great way encompass these constraints. Game Jams are usually set over a 48/72 hour period and that immediately enforces the time you’re able to complete the bare prototype.

 

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

– Parkinson’s Law

 

It’s amazing how much you can actually accomplish when you work to deadlines. Often as indie game developers, especially if you’re making your game as a side hustle, we don’t have any fixed deadlines, it just takes as long as it takes. This is a sure fire way that most likely your game will take way too long or worse still, never get finished at all.

By enrolling in a game jam and taking it seriously, the condensed time frame forces you to take action and think sharp. Even if you’re never going to make a masterpiece in this amount of time, the exercise alone is well worth doing.

Fun Fact:

Chameleon Run ( Apple Design Winner 2017 ) was born in a game jam ( Ludum Dare #26 ).
Ján Ilavský could only use one working hand during the game jam after breaking his arm in a kickbike accident shortly before. Ján is colour blind and relied on his wife, who went on to pick the pink and yellow look of the game.

Game Jam Entry:

 

Official Trailer:

 

 

A good game jam theme is generally a concept that can be interpreted in many ways be it mechanics, design, game theme – It should be open to allow ultimate creativity. If you’ve never considered entering one we’d highly recommend it to push yourself out of your comfort zone. What’s the worst that could happen!

Artwork – Shapes

Setting yourself boundaries in terms of graphics is also a great exercise. Limiting the shapes you use to construct your games can really push your creative muscles. The first few worlds of our game Impossible Caves ( Worldwide Apple Feature ) consisted of just 3 triangles! This has now become somewhat of a meme between myself and Jilly, however, the level design ideas that came from that was just awesome.

 

One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.

– Jeff Bezos ( Founder Amazon )

Artwork – Colours

Restricting your colour palette can also be a challenging and fun process. 2 bit maybe? The use of colour is always a super important factor when it comes to building games, it sets the mood, tone and feel. Try it and you’ll be surprised how much influence the colour actually has on your game design! Often we use colour almost without thinking, it’s an easy way to define areas, show baddies and re-enforce win aspects.

Limiting your options visually here can spawn interesting ideas and create unique design challenges.

I hope that gives you a few ideas to try and build up your creative intelligence, let us know! Constraints Breed Creativity.

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

018: Top 5 Hacks to Stay Motivated When Building Your Games.


Game Dev Podcast - 018 - Game Projects & Finding Motivation

This week we discuss our Top 5 hacks to ensure you stay motivated during your game development cycle. Keeping energised and focussed is critical to meeting those deadlines, however loose they may actually be. We all struggle with motivation from time to time, it’s inevitable, however  you can definitely influence your own motivation if you can actually figure out what you want, set and commit to your goals and try and push through those difficult phases.

Make That Commitment

Set the goal and just start! Often starting off can be the biggest hurdle. Once you have something working and moving, the hurdle will suddenly feel less of a huge obstacle. Often, and especially if you’re a solo developer, game creation needs to take place between family and / or other work commitments. It’s a very fine balance to achieve.

Try setting a daily / weekly time ( say between 8pm and 10pm ) where this becomes your regular game building session, and don’t deviate from this. Pretty soon you will be accustomed to turning up at your computer and you will start to see results.

Set Bite-Size Achievable Goals

Set small goals. Your frequent progress can be super rewarding when you hit each mini milestone. Write down no more than 3 tasks to complete at any one time as long, exhaustive lists can be massively overwhelming and daunting. These will blast your motivation out of the window so avoid them at all times. Small, manageable lists will move yourself forward faster. Period.

These do not have to be anything major however, but by making 3 small steps in progress each day or session, will move your project along at a healthy, steady pace.

Public Accountability

Write a contract to a friend or you can even make a pledge and donate the proceeds to charity if you lose. This is quite out there and controversial so really depends on your personality type.

There are many people who I know have done this and it works really well for them, but it’s not something I have ever done. That said, there have been plenty of times where we’ve put rewards in the air to motivate us into completely a certain task.

Think of this like a pretend competition:

“If we finish this by 4 o’clock today, then we take tomorrow off – deal?”

or

“if we can get this done by the end of the week, then we’ll have that fancy dinner”.

Using this Punishment / Reward tactic, albeit slightly left-field is pretty powerful and to be honest, kinda fun. It’s really whatever works for you.

Don’t Break the Cycle or Skip

Turn up everyday no matter what. Showing up and doing something is great to push through any barriers you’re procrastinating over. This is a great way to form that habit of working on your game.

When you begin to string together these consecutive days or sessions, you’re way more unlikely to want to break this sequence that you’ve built up. It’s pretty powerful stuff.  Again, this comes back to habit forming behaviour and well worth experimenting with.

Join a Community

Get around likeminded people who won’t let you quit – be vulnerable and open, it actually really helps!

Post your game progress / Set up your own Devlog to track progress and be accountable.

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

014: 5 Ways to Make Money with Games and the best way to Monetise Your Mobile Game.


Game Dev Podcast - 014 - Making Money with Mobile Games

So you’ve built your game, spent countless hours crafting each and every pixel, polished it to the end degree and now you’re ready to launch it to the world! But, just how are you going to make money from your brand new mobile game?

You should be thinking about monetising your mobile game from the moment you start to build, and this can have a big effect on how you actually end up constructing your projects. As game designers and builders, it would be absolutely fantastic to serve up our games with no ads, but as small indies, we need to earn money!

Ads are a necessity in our world unfortunately, but if done with the least amount of intrusiveness and a little thought towards our players, we can still monetise well. Let’s go over some of the popular monetisation methods open to us indie game developers today and ones we’ve used ourselves in our hyper casual / snackable games.

Simple eCPM Equation

eCPM = ( Cost Per Mile Historically ) How much per revenue per x1000 impressions.

Example:

The eCPM is $5.00.

For every x1000 times the ads are displayed, you receive $5.00.

Interstitials

Interstitials can be shown after game over, so for an endless running game these serve purpose from the off. Just how many game overs is acceptable? In theory you could show these after every single character death, but this obviously depends on how ‘brutally’ hard your game is. If your character dies often, your player is going to end up being bombarded with ads and this will almost certainly end in a game ‘delete’ from their device. As a rule of thumb, interstitials set at every 5 – 7 game overs is much more digestible and a little more friendly to the player.

Banner Ads

UI Screens: A great way to monetise for both portrait and landscape games and typically set at the bottom of the screen.

In Game: Again, typically placed at the bottom of the screen for portrait games  Most players, including ourselves find this method of advertisement the most unobtrusive and ‘comfortable’ just make sure you don’t unfairly place your in game play button too close to the banner placement! Players will feel cheated and you may well end up with another delete on your hands.

Banners can be set at the top in a portrait game depending on what your gameplay is all about, for example, if you have a downwards scrolling or static play game. It’s possible to make banner placements on a landscape game as long as they don’t effect gameplay.

When we’re thinking of ideas for a new project, being game developers of mainly casual, snackable games, we will always try to head for a portrait version if it fits, because of the great benefits banner ads offer.

Rewarded Videos

Players love rewarded videos because they offer complete choice and remind the player that they are in total control over whether they watch an ad or not. The option to watch a short video for the reward of double coins, or time, or an ‘instant’ character or world unlock, is utterly at their command. Most players will embrace that ‘get it now’ offer, where some will prefer the challenge of completing objectives of the game knowing they have done so without a quick fix.

Rewarded videos can potentially increase retention in your game, players know there is a way to achieve game advancement without the grind of playing for weeks to get the same rewards. It can be the difference between getting bored with the grind and deleting, to unlocking a great new character or power up that refreshes the interest to play further into the game.

In App Purchases

These come in many forms, buying characters, coin packs, gem bundles, power ups or upgrades just to name a few. Offering your player the first couple of characters for example as a free reward for completing the first few levels or objectives in your game, can open up their curiosity to the rest of your In App Purchases.

If they have enjoyed the experience of something new for free as a bonus, then they will see further offerings as a fair exchange for making a purchase and potentially that ‘feel good’ factor. It gives the player the chance to settle into your game before being bombarded with ‘buy now’ pop ups and the like.

Sponsorships

Although not too common in the realms of us Indie Dev’s, making partnership deals with Youtube or Instagram influencers can be a great way to leverage audiences and ultimately drive traffic to your games. Typically, these deals are secured on a revenue share basis where you’ll handle all the building and technical side and they take care of the marketing side.

Often these can be instigated via simple DM’s and generally these influencers will be open to a conversation at the very least. It’s a good idea to have something pre-built to show them when crafting your pitch, as this can increase the excitement and make the project proposition a real thing.

There’s also product placement, IP collaborations with famous brands and even celebrities to throw into the mix. However, there’s a ton more hoops to jump through to make a deal of this nature happen, but hey, thinking big never actually hurt anyone!

Highlights, Quick Wins & Takeaways:

1. Interstitial Ads – Full screen pop up ads typically shown on Game over screens.

2. Banner Ads – Ensure these do not interfere with the gameplay and/or UI buttons.

3. Rewarded Videos – Used to reward players by gifting Coins, Lives, Level Unlocks, Characters etc.

4. In App Purchases – For Hyper Casual games be sure to include a “Remove Ads” consumable IAP at least.

5. Sponsorship – Team up with Influencers or Brands for an Epic Partnership!

Links & Resources mentioned in this Episode:

 

Ad Network SDK’s


Chartboost
https://www.chartboost.com/

Admob
https://www.google.com/admob/

Applovin
https://www.applovin.com/

Revmob
https://www.revmobmobileadnetwork.com/

Facebook
https://developers.facebook.com/docs/apis-and-sdks

Leadbolt
https://www.leadbolt.com/

InMobi
https://www.inmobi.com/

Reward Video SDK’s:


Vungle
https://vungle.com/

Unity Ads
https://unity3d.com/unity/features/ads

Adcolony
https://www.adcolony.com/

Ad Mediation SDK’s


Fyber ( Formely Heyzap )
https://www.fyber.com/

TapDaq
https://tapdaq.com/

MoPub
https://www.mopub.com/

Ironsrc / Supersonic
https://www.ironsrc.com/

Appodeal
https://www.appodeal.com/home/

 

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy