How to Make Successful Hyper-Casual Games That Will Thrive Globally

Tips on designing, developing, monetizing, and localizing a hyper-casual game

The image has been designed by Alconost

In 2019, the top-performing hyper-casual games claimed to have 94K players — the highest ever number for the mobile market. In 2020, hyper-casual games show no sign of slackening in popularity, with 72% expansion in Q1 of this year.

If you are a mobile game developer, you may have already been thinking about developing several hyper-casual games and getting your share of this steady stream of revenue. Despite their seeming simplicity, however, hyper-casual games do hide a few pitfalls that need to be considered. Otherwise, you risk wasting your time and effort without reaching the desired audience.

So what should you do in order for your hyper-casual game to become an international success? Let’s have a look.

A quick intro to the hyper-casual genre

Before jumping into the marketing and development secrets, let’s have a closer look at the hyper-casual genre and its peculiarities.

What exactly makes hyper-casual games so special?

A hyper-casual game is a game that offers instant and minimalistic gameplay, has very simple mechanics, is repetitive, and has no time constraints.

The game Flappy Bird is a perfect example of a hyper-casual game: all you have to do is tap on the screen to avoid obstacles. And if you fail, you just start all over again.

The screenshots of the Flappy Bird game on the App Store

Other mechanics may include:

  • Timing (tapping at the right time)
  • Stacking (balancing objects in a stack)
  • Dexterity (emphasis on the player’s reaction time)
  • Rising/Falling (managing an object’s movement)
  • Swerving (avoiding obstacles — think Flappy BIrd!)

The main idea of a hyper-casual game is to offer its players instant gameplay. This means that once the game is downloaded, the user can start playing it right away. No need for login, registration, or character creation — you just tap “Play” and begin the game.

Hyper-casual games tend to have an appealing and entertaining design in order to engage the user. In addition, they need to offer a satisfactory progression model so that the user will keep playing.

And don’t forget about choosing the right monetization strategy. There are some possible options:

  • In-app ads (ads shown in the game between rounds)
  • In-app purchases (players can buy boosters or other incentives)
  • Premium model (its biggest advantage is the complete absence of advertising)
  • Cross-promotion (when a game promotes another game and encourages players to download it)

In a nutshell, a hyper-casual game is a game with simple mechanics, an attractive design, and instant gameplay.

Now that you have a good understanding of hyper-casual games, let’s see how to make them a success.

App store optimization

App store optimization, or ASO for short, is crucial for hyper-casual games. Due to their simplicity and short player life cycle (three days on average), hyper-casual games do not usually have flashy landing pages or massive promos across different social media channels. Instead, these games try to grab your attention right in the store, and this is why their app store optimization is so important.

Below are major ASO steps. Let’s see how each one impacts the success and visibility of an international hyper-casual game.

1. Localize an app description

When you upload an app to an app store, you need to add a description for it. While your game will certainly have a default description in its primary language (English, for example), you will also need to add localized descriptions in different languages if you plan to target various user groups. Ideally, you will need to prepare a localized description for each local app store to which you plan to add your game.

Thankfully, Google Play and Apple’s App Store allow uploading multiple localized descriptions for your game. The user experience improves tremendously when users see a localized app description in their own language, determined based on their geolocation.

In summary, app localization is really important, as it helps attract non-English speakers and significantly expands the audience reach. For instance, a study conducted in 2017 stated that almost 50% of all downloads come from non-English speakers. Now imagine how much of your audience you might miss out on if you choose not to localize your product.

2. Select and use keywords

Keywords are the key to game visibility in the store. If you use the right keywords, you increase your game’s chances of being seen and, consequently, downloaded.

Apple and Google have different approaches to keywords: Apple limits keywords to a total of 100 characters, while Google offers an unlimited number. Be careful not to overdo it with keywords, though: if there are too many of them, you will be penalized with a drop in your game ranking.

So if you have a hyper-casual game and want to take it global, you will need to select the right keywords for all targeted markets. We recommend going for keywords with high traffic that are used by your competition — you’ll need to do research here as well.

A tip that we’d like to share: use specialized translation services to translate the required keywords and app store descriptions. These services significantly speed up the translation process and can ensure a high-quality translation (freelance translators may not be aware of all aspects of localization).

For instance, Nitro is a service that specializes in localizing all types of web content and is used by many app developers worldwide. The main benefits of using Nitro for keywords and app store descriptions are the following:

  • All work is done via an interface (not through a manager). This means all the client has to do is upload the required content to the Nitro platform: they will receive their translation in a matter of hours.
  • Fast turnaround: 68% of all requests are completed within 2 hours, which is especially useful for urgent tasks.
  • Over 70 languages available for translation — great for accurately localizing your product for the target audience.

Considering that hyper-casual games contain a small amount of text and must be translated as swiftly as possible, services like Nitro are great for quickly releasing a high-quality product to the international market.

3. Localize screenshots

As with the game description, you will need to prepare localized screenshots for different target markets. Screenshots are considered the second-most influential factor in whether a user decides to download a game, so you want to craft them as appealing as possible.

When preparing a screenshot for your game, double-check that the language of the screenshot is the same language as in the description to avoid confusion. Additionally, you can add specific cultural elements to the design in different screenshots to attract different user groups.

A great example is the localization of the game Magic Jigsaw Puzzles by ZIMAD. In order to appeal to the Japanese audience from the start, the company localized the screenshots in the app store to look familiar and appealing to Japanese players. As a result, the company saw a 36% jump in conversion.

The screenshots of the Magic Jigsaw Puzzles on the App Store

Localization of hyper-casual games: useful tips

In addition to ASO, there are other things that need to be considered when planning game localization. Below are our recommendations.

1. Plan in advance

The first thing to do before starting the actual localization and marketing process is planning in advance. Localization is complex and involves many steps, so plan your route so you don’t get lost.

Localization planning includes the following steps:

  • Choose the target audience and select your languages accordingly
  • Design the game interface around all these languages
  • Select a localization agency to work with

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

You need to select the target audience in advance because this choice will dictate your marketing strategy. Users in different countries use different devices, platforms, app stores, and have different preferences. Hence, you need to keep all these details in mind to ensure that your game is suitable for all intended players.

The target audience selected will also impact the selection of languages for the app. If the country has few English speakers, you’ll want to translate the game into the users’ language to make it understandable and appealing. Conversely, if you see that your target audiences are okay with playing a game in a foreign language, you’ll only need to choose the short-tail (most frequently used) languages for the game.

Another common pitfall for many app developers is the game interface. When designing it, developers often have one particular language in mind — but with localization, you may have several languages that can differ drastically. If you decide to use English and Chinese, you can easily imagine the difference in height and length of the letters. Thus, if you decide to localize your game, you need to prepare the interface for localization in advance to avoid major design problems in the future.

Finally, it’s recommended that you find a reliable localization expert, whether a freelancer or an agency. Such specialists tend to have extensive experience in localization and will help you mitigate the risk of mistakes.

2. Know your audience

It has already been said that you need to know exactly who your target audience is. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the subject.

Knowledge of the target audience isn’t just about the choice of languages. There are other things to consider, such as level of interest in hyper-casual games or preferred game genre.

For example, Japanese players are still not very familiar with hyper-casual games, so you want to think twice before introducing one to the Japanese market. And in China, all the major Android stores do not allow redirection, so you must consider that as well. And don’t forget that preferences in different countries can differ drastically: some countries may prefer simply tapping, while others enjoy games that involve construction.

Hyper-casual games in China: a quick case overview

The image has been designed by Alconost

The Asian market has been playing MMO-RPG, MOBA, and RTS games for a long time, but now it seems that China has become really fond of the hyper-casual genre. About 50% of all downloads in China are hyper-casual games, and the size of this market opens up a wealth of opportunities for developers. So what are the key insights to take into consideration?

  • Localization is the key to success: if you have an appreciation for the local culture and display it in the game, your players will love it! An example would be introducing new characters for special Chinese holidays such as the Lunar New Year.
  • Chinese players like a sense of nostalgia, so game simulations such as skipping school are very well received. Chinese players also enjoy fantasy, so that might be another idea for your game.
  • Long sessions: compared to Western audiences (max 3 minutes of playing), Chinese players spend about 3–5 minutes on a game session.
  • Higher tolerance for in-game ads: Chinese players are more tolerant of ads, which is a really promising opportunity for game monetization.

All this is an example of just one audience. There are dozens of aspects to take into consideration for each culture. Take the time to do thorough research and learn about them before launching your game.

3. Implement special events and promos

In hyper-casual games you will often see the design change in conjunction with holidays such as Christmas, Easter, the Chinese New Year, or Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival. Likewise, developers can introduce new characters — an example would be Crossy Road and its Christmas update with nine new mascots (featuring an Elf, a Reindeer, and others). So it’s not just the text that you have to translate here — you have to consider cultural localization as well.

This includes changing the game design and adding relevant elements and phrases to the game (like replacing standard background trees with flowering cherry trees). But this kind of localization requires a thorough understanding of the given event, so it’s a good idea to reach out to the community for help.

4. Engage your community

Despite the minimalistic appeal and relatively small amount of text to be localized, you will still need to spend a significant amount of time on translation. And if we take an ideal business model where you create over a dozen games in hopes that one or two will produce a positive ROI, this means you will have to translate the text really, really fast.

It’s a good idea to join forces and combine professional translations with community translation for better and faster results. Whereas professional translation implies working with a professional localization agency, community translation means engaging your players’ community (from Reddit or other social platforms) and asking them to help you translate the game. In our own experience, community translation tends to be quite accurate and quick. If you have massive amounts of text, however, the community alone will not be able to manage it. That’s where the localization agency comes in.

Final thoughts

Hyper-casual games do not contain massive amounts of text, and this can lead developers to think that localizing these games requires less time and effort. In reality, the reverse is true. Not only do you need to quickly release the game — but you also want your players to genuinely enjoy it. From our own experience with mobile games, a professional localization agency can deliver the necessary speed and quality, which always pays off in terms of ROI and user engagement.

The article is written by Alconost, a professional localization company.

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Blog of Alconost Inc.

Blog of Alconost Inc.

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We localize apps, games, websites, & software and provide video production, multilingual marketing, & instant translation services. Visit us at alconost.com