Trends in gaming thrive and die all the time. Today, we’ll be looking at the hyper casual genre and whether it is still successful in 2023. There are 3.11 Billion gamers around the world, and that number keeps increasing year after year.
What is Hyper Casual Gaming?
So-called “Hyper Casual” games are made to be easy to pick up and play, with little in the way of tutorials and complex user interaction.
The appeal of these games stems from the fact that they don’t need users to learn any complex game mechanics before playing, making such games accessible to everyone.
What Makes a Good Hyper Casual Game?
Let’s examine what a good hyper casual game contains:
- Easy, touch-first controls
- An addictive gameplay loop
- A sleek, minimalist graphical style
- Simple game mechanics
- Pick up and play design, usually in short bursts
Easy, touch-first controls
The importance of an easy to learn control scheme is absolutely essential when trying to make a hyper casual game. At most, you want to limit your controls to 3 different actions so that your players are not overwhelmed by choice and find your controls easy to learn without a tutorial.
An addictive gameplay loop
The best hyper casual games keep you hooked and coming back to them despite their simple appearance. “Flappy Bird”, released in 2013, was one such game that drove people mad trying to beat their high score.
Minimalist Graphical Style
Hyper casual games usually have a fairly minimalist design, with not too much detail given to the artwork, take “Race the Sun” for example.
Race the sun is an endless-runner type of hyper casual game, only requiring the player to move out of the way of obstacles to progress. Despite its simplicity, however, the game still manages to be visually appealing.
Simple Game Mechanics
It is absolutely essential for this type of game to have simple and easy to learn mechanics. Flappy Bird, for example, only needs you to tap the screen to avoid the pipes and keep your bird in the air!
Other hyper casual games; such as Super Mario Run, are spin-off titles from other game franchises. Games such as this carry the appeal of well established names in gaming, while being much easier to pick up and play than their more complicated console cousins.
Pick Up and Play
Hyper casual games are usually enjoyed as simple time killers during commutes or waiting for the laundry to finish. Games like this need to be designed so that players can dive in and out of gameplay in short bursts, so long cutscenes and a lack of autosaving are a no-go.
Successful Hyper Casual Games
Now that we’ve explored what makes a good hyper-casual game, it’s time to review some of the most successful examples.
|Name||Description||Annual Revenue||Has Subscription Version|
|Crossy Road||Tap and swipe to get the bird across the road safely.||$3.7m||Yes|
|Monument Valley 2||Intricate optical illusion puzzle game.||$10m||Yes|
|Candy Crush Saga||Candy matching game||$1.21b||No|
Launched in 2014, Crossy Road is one of the most well-known games of the hyper-casual genre. Its gameplay loop of getting your chicken across as many roads as possible is both addicting and frustrating (in a good way). This is a game that will consistently make you want to give it one more go.
Monument Valley Series
Monument Valley is proof that hyper casual games aren’t all soulless cash-grabs. Bringing in a total revenue of over $25 million dollars.
This money is thoroughly deserved, however, as the iconic mobile puzzler has won numerous awards, including Best Mobile Game of 2015. A sequel, Monument Valley 2 (2017), and an Apple Arcade Version, Monument Valley + followed later.
Candy Crush Saga
We can’t discuss hyper casual gaming without mentioning the Candy Crush series. A fan favorite of smartphone addicts everywhere, Candy Crush is a simple color-matching game where you line up treats to progress.
Multiple iterations of the game have been released, each with a slight variation in gameplay and visual styling – these include:
- Candy Crush Saga (2012)
- Candy Crush Soda Saga (2014)
- Candy Crush Jelly Saga (2015)
- Candy Crush Friends Saga (2018)
Backlash Towards Hyper Casual Games
As easy as hyper casual games are to enjoy, some recent ventures into the genre have drawn ire from the press and players alike. Common Sense Gaming goes as far as to say that “casuals have ruined gaming”.
From the Press
The press has been especially unkind to hyper casual games as of late. As mentioned earlier, “Candy Crush Saga”, has attracted extremely bad reviews, with PCMAG calling it a “one thumbed time waster”, and referring to the gameplay as “mindless color matching”.
The negative reception isn’t limited only to the press, regular players have become frustrated with the overly simplistic and uninspired mechanics of some hyper casual titles. In some circles, people even draw ridicule for playing such games in public.
As if the rather obvious drawbacks of hyper casual games weren’t enough, we wouldn’t be doing our readers a good service if we neglected to mention the obnoxious and deceiving advertising practices that some of these games employ. These can include but are not limited to:
- Misrepresenting gameplay
- Obscuring microtransactions
- Unethical practices, such as lootbox mechanics in games aimed at children
Invasive In-App Purchases
Want to skip this ad when you hit a game over? £2.99 please. If I had a penny for every time a hyper casual mobile game implored me to spend money to skip an ad, unlock a new character, or speed up construction – I’d be a millionaire.
One aspect of in-app purchases that deserves a special mention is the waiting mechanic. This will be all too familiar if you’ve played a mobile game recently.
The general idea is that the game forces the player to wait an obscene amount of time before completing the construction of a building or something else that is necessary to progress in the game.
The remedy to this waiting game is, of course – money. Often dressed up as “gems”, “diamonds,” or other such “super-duper special tokens”, this so-called “premium currency” is designed to deceive players as to how much money they are actually spending – costing players thousands in the process.
Decline of Hyper Casual Gaming
Various factors have contributed to the steady decline of the hyper-casual gaming craze, and now we’ll be taking a look at why the genre is on the way out and what could eventually supplant it.
App Privacy Update (iOS 14.5)
If you’re a geek like me, you might have noticed something unusual about the title of this section. iOS 14.5 was released all the way back in 2021, so why is it still relevant now?
The most impactful change this version of iOS brought, and one that still persists to this day, are the new app privacy rules. Starting with this update, Apple really clamped down on how much data advertising networks were allowed to track about users.
The end result of these restrictions was those ads became a less viable method of monetization for mobile games, especially the hyper-casual sector.
This change in the landscape forced game developers to find other ways of making money, and the bulk of them chose to add in app purchases to compensate.
Apple Arcade Becoming Compelling
Apple Arcade is a £4.99 monthly subscription service (UK) that provides access to 200+ mobile games. What’s notable about this, however, is that all ads and microtransactions are removed from Apple arcade versions of games. In my honest opinion, this is the best way to enjoy games of the genre.
Powerful Phone Hardware
Some of the earliest hyper-casual games were born because smartphones of the era couldn’t run anything more intensive.
Apple’s most recent iPhone 15 Pro sports real-time ray-tracing capabilities, and it’s pushing developers to take advantage of them, pushing console games onto the platform.
Graphical power like this isn’t needed for hyper-casual games, however, so it’s a clear signal that the genre is no longer a priority for Apple.
Is the Hype Over?
Yes, in a sense. Unfortunately, market forces have pushed Hyper casual game experiences to implement changes despised by many to remain profitable, such as microtransactions and relying on deceptive advertising.
Recent news stories have also made the public skeptical of the hyper casual sector, with parents banning their children from playing games that include microtransactions and faux-gambling mechanics.
So, how does the future look?
A bit brighter. The recent advent of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass allows mobile developers to monetize their games without relying on shady practices.
Hopefully, this will give rise to a new wave of innovation within the genre and allow developers to spend time creating really good games – instead of worrying about making them profitable.
Related Article: PC Games vs Mobile Games