Casual games are becoming all the more popular on the app stores, but how do they truly compare to the more established genres? GameAnalytics answer just that.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Iván Bravo, Director of Customer Operations at GameAnalytics. With years of experience as a data driven marketeer, Iván knows firsthand the difference that having the right data can make.
More and more developers can now be seen dipping their toes into the casual and hyper-casual ocean. We know that these relatively new categories are leading the way in the games industry, but how do they really compare to the more established genres?
You may have seen GameAnalytics’ previous benchmarks report (you can find it here, if you haven’t), but this time they’ve pulled fresh data, with a focus on the Arcade and Casual genre. If you’re considering starting work on a casual game or have just produced one, this post is just for you.
Before getting started, you should know that this data has been pulled from a sample of 3+ billion global players, 70K+ games across 20 genres, with a focus on Q2 2018 to Q1 2019.
What’s different about hyper-casual?
Hyper-casual is not (yet) an App store category, and most games are classed as either Arcade or Casual. From what we can see in GameAnalytics’ data, the majority of hyper-casual games live under Arcade, so you’ll want to treat hyper-casual as ‘Arcade’, and casual as ‘Casual’ for the sake of this post.
And with these two genres, GameAnalytics not only compared them against each other, but also the other categories in the App store as well (they’ve also thrown in some retention tips to keep you ahead of the game). With that out of the way, let’s take the plunge.
Top stats at a glance
- Arcade (hyper-casual) top performers get the most traffic — 94,000 DAU (Daily Average Users)
- Top Performing Casual games’ traffic is more modest — 26,000 DAU
- Arcade games have annual player sessions 5x longer than the industry as a whole
- Casual games have 43m sessions a year (in-line with the industry average)
Arcade gaming does have its weaknesses — in terms of session length, it underperforms compared to other genres. But by just how much? Let’s see:
- Casual genre games outperform Arcade gaming, with session lengths twice as long
- In a list of 20 genres ranked by their session length averages, Arcade is an eye-watering 19th
Let’s put this into perspective:
- The median industry session is about 14mins 30secs
- Arcade gaming sessions only manage 6mins 42secs
This metric can seem disappointing but remember – hyper-casual gaming is known for being a quick and easy form of entertainment. Unlike other genres, it has a more impulsive gameplay style, so always bear in mind that gamers might have shorter game sessions than other types of games.
An update on DAU (daily active users)
The casual gaming genre is booming
DAU (daily active user) stats are looking pretty good for casual games. As you can see, the number of people playing titles in this genre is generally on the rise, and has increased by over 50% in the last year alone. The run-up to Christmas was a particularly rosy period for the sector (which suggests studios are ramping up their marketing campaigns around this period).
However, the hyper-casual genre is still top of its game…
Bear with us. The Arcade (hyper-casual) genre is seeing an overall decline in DAU – it looks a tad downbeat, right? But see how DAU is significantly higher than in casual gaming. That’s because top-performing arcade mobile games remain 3.5x more popular than the average for the industry.
…and is getting at least 5 times more traffic than other categories
Arcade gaming receives at least 5 times more traffic than the second-largest genre – that’s 167 million sessions a year, compared to just 43 million for casual games.
Despite this, arcade gaming has one of the shortest session lengths, coming 19th out of 20 genres, with even the top-performing Arcade games almost falling short of the median session length figure for casual games. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise though, with hyper-casual games built on basic core-loops and simple reward systems, it would make sense for it to have a higher session count and lower session length that other genres.
Who’s winning at retention?
Arcade gaming is beating casual (only just)…
In the retention stakes, Arcade gaming just about beats Casual gaming, but only just. Top-performing Arcade games find themselves among some of the top 5 genres for D1 (day 1) retention, at 42%, whereas Casual games can be seen with 40% (pretty close, huh?).
When developing your game, it’s critical that hyper-casual games (and arguably some casual games) manage to get at least 35% D1 retention. Any lower and you may need to cut your losses (most publishers won’t accept anything under 40%).
Starting off with a healthy retention rate is critical, as the biggest drop-off in use tends to occur within just one week of gameplay for both Casual and Arcade games.
As you can see, only the top-performing arcade games get anywhere above the 40% marker. The arcade sector’s average misses the target by 10 percentage points, indicating that there is likely room for improvement for the majority of games out there (and just proves how competitive the market really is at the moment).
…but comes 10th at D7 retention
Usually, after a week of gameplay, Arcade games typically fall to 10th place in terms of retention by genre — by this time, they will have fallen behind the likes of puzzle and word games.
That first-week retention is critical for publishers and studios alike, but the median arcade game has a habit of not making the grade by D7. If your game’s core-loop isn’t still replayable by the end of the week, it simply won’t get the retention required to make it viable in the long-term.
So, how can you retain your players?
As you already know, retention should be one of your top considerations when developing any hyper-casual/casual game experience. This being said, not all is lost if you find your game underperforming. There are a number of ways to boost retention.
GameAnalytics actually covered this topic before in one of their previous posts: 5 ways to increase retention.
Understanding player churn
It’s pretty well known that arcade players will tend to have a pool of games in their pocket, and will happily move on to the next sparkling new game. Retention can be slippery to hold onto, and finding out the scale of churn is tricky. If you’re not doing so already, then we seriously recommend you make the most out of cohorts in your analytics tool.
Cohorts essentially will help you learn if your latest build really does improve retention, or if something else is getting players to leave. (Here’s some more info on cohorts, if you would like to learn more.)
And some other tips to improve retention:
Perfecting your core loop
- The last thing you want is for the gamer to get fed up or bored. Rejig your core loop and make sure retention remains healthy by D7. (Here’s a nifty blog on this, to lend you a hand.)
Getting your timing… right.
- Publish at the optimal time – smaller studios may wish to take advantage of the lack of big titles being released at the height of summer, as doing so ensures they get more attention, rather than being crowded out during the Christmas rush, when more heavy-hitters enter the market with releases.
And knowing what monetization strategies work
- Ad monetization works for top-level of gaming studios. Push notifications or simple timed-promotion are just some of the ways you might be able to mimic winning strategies.
Hyper-casual churn is a given – focus on what really matters
- Don’t feel disheartened about the high level of churn. It’s important, but so many other factors have to be considered too. Here’s a guide to hyper-casual gaming GameAnalytics recently produced, crammed full with tips and takeaways.
GameAnalytics is actually refreshing their benchmarks report for Q1 2019. To avoid missing this, sign up to their newsletter and you’ll get a copy straight to your inbox when it’s released. You can expect this towards the end of June/beginning of July.
If you have any questions about GameAnalytics’ data, or would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to them on their website.