In February, I wrote that the next big casual gaming phenomenon would be hypercasual, but even I did not expect the genre to take off as quickly as it did. Last week, Goldman Sachs invested about $200 million in French hypercasual game company Voodoo. The next day, Zynga announced it acquired hypercasual game company Gram Games for $250+ million. These deals follow Zynga’s acquisitions of Harpin and Peak Games’ card business for $142 million. With about $600 million in deal, money talks, and money is saying hypercasual is for real.
What are hypercasual games?
Hypercasual games have a single mechanic and a single goal, so they are very easy to learn. Mastering them, however, is almost impossible, as the games get more challenging as you try to reach a high score. Effectively the core game loop is very straightforward, do one thing, get rewarded (so you can try again) and keep repeating to get a higher score.
Are hypercasual games here to stay?
As I said in February, unlike fads, hypercasual taps into the key to product success, simplicity. Most successful products are not crammed with features that generate a lot of checkmarks on a competitive analysis. Instead, products with very few options generate tremendous value. Uber is valued at tens of billions and when you open the app you are asked where you want to go, and then you are given 3 or 4 options to get there. You are not picking the color of the car that collects you, the height of the driver, what route they will take, etc., which is all handled by Uber. Apple is another great example. The iPhone and iPad have virtually no extraneous features or options.
The science behind simplicity is neuroscience, particularly related to cognitive load. Cognitive load is how much info people are processing at any one time. A simple user experience minimizes cognitive load, thus not creating too much strain and making enjoyment more likely.
Many people often do not realize it is much harder to make a simple product, just as it is harder to create a five slide presentation than a 50 slide one. Keeping a product simple means you must decide what features to exclude, so you need to understand your customer and what you are trying to achieve. Given the market’s feedback to Gram and Voodoo last week, the effort is worthwhile.
Do opportunities remain in hypercasual?
Often when there is a spate of deals it means the end of bubble, or at least the end for small developers, but that is not the case with hypercasual. First, hypercasual is not really a genre, but more of a game making philosophy. It is about creating games with a straightforward and simple mechanic. There is no reason to believe this philosophy cannot be extended to every genre, from simple car racing games to hypercasual social casino titles. The opportunities for hypercasual are as bright now as the opportunities for free to play were after Farmville and Who Has the Biggest Brain.
What should you do
<pThe key is to learn from hypercasual rather than try to imitate what is already in the market. If you have a successful game, see how you can simplify it. What can you do to reduce players’ cognitive load. If you are looking for new product opportunities, identify what player segments currently do not have good hypercasual options and build products for these players. This can be an extension of your current customers or can create games for customers where the competition is irrelevant. By focusing on simple yet repeatable fun, there is a great opportunity in the game industry.
- Hypercasual it the hottest sector in the gaming space, with two deals valued at $450+ million announced last week.
- Hypercasual games have a single mechanic and a single goal, making them easy to learn and play but hard to master
- The key is simplicity, and the opportunity is to make your own games simpler or create products for an existing or new market that leverages simple mechanics.