ironSource sat down with Erwann Thebault, Publishing Lead at Homa Games, to get his insights and expertise on how to create and grow a hyper-casual game. Read on to learn some best practices for fostering a winning strategy for your hyper-casual game.
How did Homa get into hyper-casual games and why do you focus on this genre over others?
Homa was founded in 2018 to give hyper-casual developers - a new genre at the time - a data driven and technological approach to growth. Supported by the arrival of Carlos Mas Rodriqguez, VP Gaming at Homa, we have since diversified and innovated into new game genres, such as the ultra casual and idle arcade sub categories, as well as brought IPs into the space.
How does the hyper-casual genre differ from other game genres in terms of monetization and UA?
Compared to other genres, the average LTV is relatively low for hyper-casual games due to the shorter session length and high addictiveness. The hyper-casual genre is also very dependent on a low cost of acquisition and, second, is highly based on strong user acquisition and monetization optimization due to the low margin on absolute value.
In terms of monetization, a large portion of revenue for hyper-casual games comes from advertising - more than 90% - while a small, but not insignificant, portion of revenue comes from in-app purchases.
While other apps and games have very distinct target audiences, our products are addressable to… everyone! We work with a long list of premium partners and take a very granular approach to user acquisition to ensure we are acquiring as many users as possible, regardless of their geo and devices. Technology and creativity drive Homa’s strategy to distribute mobile gaming products across a massive audience - 5B active devices worldwide.
Where does Homa get inspiration when creating games?
We have a few processes in place to help our teams unlock creativity. First, we leverage our own technology. Our marketing intelligence team developed a series of tools that can spot upcoming trends in the market that would change user’s expectations to preferences. We then pitch unique ideas and prototypes based on this data to our partnered studios and help them structure their own ideation processes.
Second, considering ideas can come from anywhere and we have 100+ employees at Homa, we’ve built an internal ideas module so anyone in the company can pitch an idea to the marketing intelligence team. It then gets reviewed, approved, or challenged.
How do you know if a game will be a success? And how do you decide to kill a prototype?
We rely heavily on technology. We use our testing platform, HomaLab, and data-based products to assess the full potential of a prototype, and we use internal KPIs to determine whether a product is worth our full attention.
For example, for a classic hyper-casual game, we aim to reach a CPI below $0,25 in the Android US market to move forward with a game.
If a prototype doesn’t meet one requirement of our testing and pre-publishing criteria, we are prepared to “kill” the prototype and stop development efforts at any moment.
Are there any new opportunities for hyper-casual game developers to grow and monetize their games?
We think it’s important for game developers to challenge the current state of the market, and to bring a tech and data-driven approach to each stage of the publishing process. Curiosity and innovation are some of our core values, and they encourage our teams to discover new opportunities for developers and users on a weekly basis.
First, incorporating adaptive monetization is becoming valuable. Players interact differently with each ad placement within our games. With adaptive monetization, we can tailor our monetization strategy to fit each individual’s experience. This way, we can improve the gaming experience while boosting LTV.
Second, there are an increasing number of IAP opportunities. Historically, in-app purchases haven’t been a strong revenue driver (less than 5%) for the hyper-casual genre. As our games become more engaging and more premium, we’ve seen the chunk of users paying for in-app purchases rising.
Third, it’s important to take advantage of enhanced A/B testing tools. We believe that running meaningful A/B tests is the key to improving the gaming experience for our players. Our N-Testing tool has been a massive focus for our tech team in the past few months.
Fourth, the Chinese market has a rapidly growing player base and represents a strong growth opportunity for all developers. At Homa, we have invested heavily in this geo - strengthening partnerships with local players, understanding the culture around gaming, hiring specialists, etc. - to ensure we capture this incremental growth.
Do you have any tips for how to master cross promotion?
To run successful cross promotion activities, you need to master a few things. First, address the cross promotion ad to the right audience. Make sure you have a working algorithm that ensures you’re showing meaningful promotions to your audience. Performance KPIs, such as CTR & IPM, are essential to the optimization process. Second, create visuals that fit your ad placements and play around with the placements. Aside from the gameplay itself, the 3-second rule is an important element of performance. Third, create a strong brand so people feel comfortable looking into your other products. Offering unique and creative experiences will make your users interested in the rest of your portfolio.
Are there any secrets to creating a winning UA strategy for your hyper-casual game?
The secret to mastering your UA strategy for hyper-casual games is granularity. Even though we aim to reach as many users as possible worldwide, we rely heavily on data and proprietary tech tools to ensure we’re spending our user acquisition budget wisely. Mastering all user acquisition activities takes time, but it’s an important asset for a mobile games company.
We are also incredibly lucky to have a talented and motivated team. As it’s a very fast moving environment, we plan to keep investing heavily in user acquisition innovation in the next few years - new standards, new partners, and new technologies.
Why did the hyper-casual game genre grow so extensively in 2021?
First, thanks to the rewarded gaming experience on mobile, there is a growing audience of non-gamer players - we have lots of new users who rarely played any games before. Hyper-casual games address a desire for simple but very fun games.
Second, hyper-casual game growth is supported by the innovative and fast iterating nature of mobile game production. The time it takes to create a new mobile game is getting faster and faster - all you have to do is tweak some mechanics to create a rich gaming experience.
Lastly, the global pandemic boosted the number of game downloads and mobile usage. The hyper-casual genre was positively impacted by this unfortunate situation.
What are hybrid-casual games and how do you see them affecting the industry?
Hybrid-casual games are a clever merge of hyper-casual games and casual games. They leverage the best of both worlds: marketability and accessibility from the hyper-casual products and long term gameplay experience and social from the casual game genre. We came up with the term “Arcade Idle” at Homa, which is what we call the sub genre of hybrid-casual. We recently published Farm Land in partnership with the French studio, LolTap.
It’s very positive for the industry! On the developer side, it provides the opportunity for smaller and less experienced teams to work on a deeper gaming experience without commiting to a 6 to 12 months development roadmap. On the user side, it creates another accessible gaming experience for new gamers.