Hybrid Casual Games: The Latest Trend in Mobile Games

Hybrid Casual Games: The Latest Trend in Mobile Games

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If you haven’t heard about hybrid casual games before, you’re not alone. They first came into play in 2019, but the term wasn’t coined until a few years later. They’re a bit complicated to break apart and define, which is why the word.

Generally, these hybrid casual games start just like hyper casual or casual games but then morph into a different kind of game as you continue playing. 

These games tend to offer a bit more depth, involvement, and interest than casual and hyper casual games. Instead of just mindless levels, you can play while waiting in line or sitting around, they involve a bit more skill, strategy, and thought. 

If you want to learn more about hybrid casual games, including how they make money, the key game mechanics, and examples of popular hybrid casual games, keep reading the article below. 

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Key Takeaways

  • Hybrid casual games are a mix of casual games and mid-core games.
  • They may look like hyper casual games on the surface, but they have many more challenges and require more skill.
  • Hybrid casual games are growing in popularity as people demand more depth, but still easy games.
  • These games employ a mix of ad revenue and in-app purchases to generate revenue.

What Is a Casual Game?

A casual gaming app is a game that is designed for everyone. They are mass-marketed to be aimed at anyone who has a gaming device, phone, tablet, or even computer. As a whole, casual games require no previous information or experience to play. 

While there can be casual games for every device, mobile casual gaming apps are the most common. It’s easy to pull out your device and play a few rounds whenever you are waiting in line or on the train heading to work. 

With hardcore games, you generally have to have an idea of the game mechanics to get started. Casual games have such simple mechanics that anyone, no matter how old, young, or new at the game, can pick up what they need to do easily. 

There are a few other characteristics of casual games as well. They tend to have stories without much depth. They provide short bursts of entertainment in the form of small missions or goals. Usually, these missions are relatively the same throughout, with only the size, difficulty, of theme changing.

Some examples of casual games include:

  • Pac-Man
  • Mario Party
  • Bookworm
  • Plants vs. Zombies
  • Diner Dash
  • Among Us
  • Monument Valley
  • Godus
  • Cake Mania

What Is a Hyper Casual Game?

While casual games are simple and made to be available for everyone, hyper casual games somehow manage to be even more simple. They have the most simplified game mechanics available. 

Hypercasual games tend to focus more on addictive gameplay than unique characteristics, stories, or characters to keep characters coming back for more. While casual games can be mobile games, hyper casual games are almost exclusively mobile. 

Essentially, hyper casual games take the essence of casual games to the extreme. Where casual games are easy to play and have short, mindless levels, hyper casual games are even more simplified, and the levels or gaming sessions are even easier and shorter. 

They are a subcategory of casual games and focus on the essence of what makes a casual game casual. This means that all hyper casual games are casual games, but not all casual games are hyper casual. 

For a long time, hyper casual games were the most popular game, beating out other mobile categories and other forms of video games. They are still popular now, but other categories of games, such as hybrid games, are starting to become more popular as demands for a little more story and depth increase.

Some examples of hyper casual games include:

  • Hair Rush
  • Crowd City
  • Muscle Rush
  • Farm Land 3D
  • Jelly Jump
  • Flappy Bird
  • Angry Birds
  • Temple Run
  • Idle Factory Tycoon

What Is a Hybrid Casual Game?

Hybrid casual games are a combination of hyper-casual and mid-core games. They offer simple games that are easy for any kind of player to pick up. However, the game itself is often much more in-depth than the traditional casual game.

Where hyper casual games are simple and only have a surface layer of gameplay, hybrid casual games are more engaging and keep a player’s attention longer. 

Because of this, the most popular game type has moved away from hyper casual games and more towards hybrid casual games. While simple and mindless hyper casual games are fine for a while, many players get bored easily.

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Hybrid casual games are just as easy and simple to play but offer a deeper story, better mechanics, and social aspects so that players can compete or play with one another. 

Compared to other categories of games, hybrid casual games are fairly new. However, they quickly rose in demand and popularity. This is because hybrid casual games work well for the middle range of gamers. 

Hyper casual, hybrid casual, and casual games all sound fairly similar, and it may be difficult to figure them out and understand what makes them different. The table below helps to clarify some of the main features of each game category to help you understand the differences. 

CasualHyper CasualHybrid CasualMid-core games
ComplexityCan pick up fairly quickly with a short tutorialCan pick it up right awayNeeds a little practice or experience to masterFairly complex, with some skills and experience necessary to play
CostGenerally free with in-app purchases and adsGenerally free with in-app purchases and adsMay be free or may have a one-time, up-front costUsually has an up-front cost, and potentially in-game costs. There are ads occasionally as well. 
DifficultyVery easy, though difficulty may increase as time goes onVery easy, with some challenging levels and goalsMid-range of difficulty. It’s relatively easy to pick up, but the difficulty may increase somewhat quicklyFairly difficult. Gaming skills are usually required to advance. 
Target AudienceEveryone; gamers, and non-gamersEveryone; gamers and non-gamersMostly gamers or people beginning to get into gaming after playing casual games.The group of gamers that are between casual and hardcore gamers. 
Life CycleShort life cycle of a few days to a monthShort life cycle of a few days to a monthFairly long life cycle of a few weeks to a few months. May have replayability featuresThe story is usually deeper and each session time is longer than that of casual games. Combined, this means mid-core games can last for quite a while, months or longer. Games may be replayable or have a long story. This is especially the case if a social aspect is included in the game. 
Examples of the game typeCandy Crush Diner Dash Slime Rancher Unpacking MinesweeperCity Takeover Harvest It Giant Rush Grass Cut Blob HeroAngry Birds 2 Tetris Archero Project MakeoverRoblox Coin Master Genshin Impact Clash of Clans Book of Demons
A table showing the main differences between hyper casual games, hybrid casual games, mid-core games, and casual games. 

Mid-core games bridge the gap between casual games and hardcore games. They are easier to learn than hardcore games and require less time per session to advance. However, they have deeper and longer games, social features, and usually some social aspect. 

Examples of Hybrid Casual Games

Because hybrid casual games are so similar to casual games, it can be hard to determine exactly what they are. This list is here to help give examples of popular hyper casual games to help you out. 

Some examples of hybrid casual games are:

  • Archero
  • Project Makeover
  • Empire & Puzzles
  • Ancient Battle
  • Clash Royale
  • Stumble Guys
  • Angry Bird’s 2
  • Board Kings

Because hybrid casual is a fairly new term, there’s still some confusion on what games fall into this category. Many hyper casual games somehow fall under the hybrid casual game category due to their similarities in some areas, and game categories must be reevaluated to determine where some games actually fit. 

However, the games above are great examples of hybrid casual games and ones that have sold well. If you’re looking to define or make a hybrid casual game, these games are the ones to use as your main example. 

Of these games, Archero is considered to be the first hybrid casual game. It was created in 2019 by Habby. It is the golden standard for what makes a game hyper casual. The game starts rather easy to learn but quickly grows in difficulty. It also requires quite a bit of skill to advance. 

There are ways to improve without having good gaming skills. For example, in Archero, you can buy better gear, level-up options, and tools to help you advance even when your skills are lacking. Most of these tools can be purchased with money, acting as a revenue stream. 

Stumble Guys, made by Kitka in 2022, is a good example of how similar hyper casual games and hybrid casual games can look on the surface. Many people refer to Stumble Guys as a hyper casual game but it’s more accurately a hybrid casual game. 

It’s easy to confuse it, though. On the surface, it’s an easy game and offers quick and simple levels. However, what moves it over to hybrid casual is the competitive multiplayer gameplay, advanced mechanics, and some skills are required to advance past a certain level. 

Benefits of Hybrid Casual Games

One of the major benefits of hybrid casual games is the amount of retention. Hyper casual and casual games tend to have very short retention that may be as little as a few days.

Generally, people have several hyper casual or casual games that they play or rotate between, but they will only play one for a few days or a couple of weeks at most before growing bored. 

In fact, hyper casual games have only an 8.7% retention rate after seven days. While there aren’t yet a lot of statistics on the exact retention rate for hybrid casual games, the complex levels and game depth lend themselves to higher retention. This means that hybrid casual games tend to have player loyalty. 

This player loyalty may lend itself to a higher amount of money spent per user, which is a huge benefit to game developers. Most hybrid casual games reduce the amount of ads they show compared to hyper casual and casual games because their players are willing to invest more money. 

Some ways that players invest money is by buying cosmetics, upgrades, and special boosts and skills. They may choose to buy them outright, or willingly watch ads to get in-game currency to buy these items. 

To entice your reader to buy items and boosts, you start with a hyper-casual style of game. This increases the attention and excitement for the game as the first few levels are easy and addicting.

Then, developers slowly work on making the game harder. If players want to go through levels at a fast speed rivaling the initial hyper-casual levels, they will have to purchase items to improve their character. 

Types of Hybrid Casual Games Mechanics

Hybrid casual games often have a mix of mechanics. Pretty much all of them contain casual game mechanics, such as fast levels, addicting gameplay, and rather quick pickup on gameplay. Other mechanics can vary. Depending on the genre of hybrid casual gameplay you have, the mechanics often differ. 

For example, puzzle games might have mechanics such as timed challenges. Strategy and skill mechanics may also play a part.

This is a bit different from hyper casual games, where the main mechanics tend to be something along the lines of tapping or fast reaction speeds. Strategy and skill may play a small part but aren’t usually major mechanics you see. 

While not all hybrid casual games have to have a social element, most of the popular games tend to have some social elements. These elements could involve fighting against other people, or with them.

The social mechanic could be something simpler such as a challenge leaderboard. It could also be a major part of the gameplay, such as joining and playing with a guild.

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Guilds are great ideas for keeping people involved in your game. If your player is part of a guild that needs everyone to fight a boss, donate research, or find important items, they will feel more pressured to go back and play the game frequently and feel worse for abandoning it than they would for a casual game. 

Main Elements of a Hybrid Casual Game

If you want to know the top 10 themes for hybrid casual games, check out the table below. 

NumberThemePercentage of hybrid casual games that include the theme
3Combat Arena17%
4Dungeon Crawler10%
5Hyper casual 8%
10Treasure Hunter4%
A table showing common hybrid casual game themes. Table extracted from a graph from Udonis.com

Besides themes, there are also the main elements. As the name suggests, hybrid casual games use a mix of various game methods.

Proper hybrid casual games will include casual gameplay with mechanics and elements from various other genres. Some of the more common genres to be mixed are role-playing, action, strategy, and puzzles. 

Additionally, there is also some level of skill involved with all hybrid games. These skills may involve something like fast reaction times, or the intelligence to solve all sorts of puzzles. 

Progression Systems in Hybrid Casual Games

When it comes to progression systems in hybrid casual games, you need to be sure that you create a system that rewards your gamers for making advancements.

By giving the players rewards for level increases and achievements as they progress, you trigger the reward system in their brains. This keeps them coming back for more and more. 

Additionally, by giving rewards to players as they meet certain goals and achievements, you push your players to feel like they want to reach those goals quickly. This means that players may be more inclined to pay money to reach these achievements quickly. But, if a player is patient, then they don’t have to spend money. 

While a pay-to-advance-quickly system is usually acceptable, a pay-to-win system tends to turn off players as they don’t feel that it’s worth paying to increase the game.

So you want to be careful with your progression system to make sure it’s fair and doable without paying but provide slight perks to those who are willing to play money. 

How to Monetize Hybrid Casual Games?

The first step to monetizing hybrid casual games is to make a game that attracts gamers. Consider looking at the market to see what the most popular hybrid casual games are.

While you don’t want to copy them exactly, try to analyze what makes the game popular and incorporate some of these elements into your own game. 

For example, do the games have fun multiplayer levels, are there mini-games that pliers enjoy, or do they like the rogue-like aspect? Figuring this out helps you to create the perfect game that players will be interested in trying. 

Then, you need to create ways that your players can spend money. Since the retention rate is longer, you don’t need to rely as heavily on ads. A few ads, especially the ones where players get the choice to watch or not for a boost, can be useful. 

However, you want to avoid overloading the player with ads. Don’t have pop-ups appearing every few minutes or ads that take up most of the screen. Instead, focus on creating items that invested players may want to buy.

Come up with cool-looking cosmetics and useful boosts. Booster packs for beginners, seasonal items, and legendary armor and weapons are all great ideas. 

Because you can have a mix of ads and in-game revenue, you have the potential to make a lot of money. This is one of the reasons game developers are pushing more toward hybrid casual games. They are still relatively easy to make but have a much higher chance for monetization. 

Think With Google offers some insight into what some in-app purchases and ad rewards could look like and what tends to be popular with gamers. “Among hybrid-genre gamers, 33% watch rewarded ads to get more lives and 28% make in-app purchases to get access to exclusive items.5

However, ads and purchases need to be relevant to the gameplay and contribute to players getting further in the game. According to hybrid-genre players, the preferred placement for rewarded ads is either at the beginning or end of gameplay to avoid interrupting the player’s experience.”

As you can see, you have to think very hard about where and when to place ads. Too many, and ones in the wrong place, will quickly lead to your players abandoning the game for something playable. 

Another way to monetize a game as a hybrid casual game is to take one of your already-developed casual or hyper casual games and monetize it. If you have a casual game that isn’t doing as well as you wanted it to, consider changing it from a casual game to a hybrid casual game. 

For the most part, all this involves is increasing the difficulty a bit, and adding various meta-layers to it. It costs a little more to fix a game, but you may have a chance to make more money and increase player retention by changing the type of game. 

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Hybrid Casual Games: Final Thoughts

Hybrid casual games are a new concept, and quickly gaining popularity. They seem to be the perfect balance between casual games that have a short retention rate and expensive hardcore games that may be difficult for new gamers to learn. 

Hybrid casual games offer benefits for both developers and gamers. Developers get the ability to make a fair amount of revenue from both ads and in-app purchases without much more effort and money invested than you would put into a casual or hyper casual game.

Gamers get something a little more fun to play long-term than casual games, but they don’t have to invest as much money or time as they would for hardcore games. 

It’s a new genre of game with a lot of potential. While most hybrid casual games will likely be mobile, it will be interesting to see if this genre reaches other game-playing devices such as computers or consoles.