Hybrid Casual — the new trend in mobile?

Hybrid Casual — the new trend in mobile?

For anyone checking mobile games news, or really by just playing some games casually, it's probably clear that hyper casual games are very popular, successful, and here to stay.

But there is one big, ingrained problem with hyper casual games, which we have discussed in the past: they are usually developed very quickly, with the aim to keep development costs low, and then attempt to maximise return of investment quickly, before users churn and jump into their new favourite game… sometimes in a matter of minutes!

Then there's also the other, logic problem that follows: if a game is easy and fast to develop, then making a clone of it is also a very easy endeavour , generally. On top of low retention rates, this also brings all sorts of issues with app discoverability: users searching for a game that a friend recommended, might actually end up installing a competitors' instead!

As a final note, some studios have a record of launching higher quality games than, usually, hyper casual games deliver - and sometimes they have this reputation to maintain, and are not looking for a small, instant success, but rather a long-lived one, which of course might take some extra effort to release.

All these things considered, and we start getting into why some developers are taking cues from hyper casuals - after all, they're usually a load of fun! - but also adding on top all the previous knowledge, tools, and expertise, they have gained with previous projects, likely more complex. This brings us to a rather new kind of games: hybrid casuals.

Corona Wash & Vax, a game by KOBU Agency. Play it at www.coronawashandvax.com

What is an Hybrid Casual game then?

Same way as there is no "official" definition for what an hyper casual game is, hybrid casuals suffer from the same thing.

But as we get to understand that a game looks and feels like an hyper casual, because of super simple controls, or basic visuals, the same is true for the new category.

As such, building on top of these aspects of game development, hybrid casuals take a more ambitious and complex approach and add to them, usually in a few different forms.

Extended Core Loop

Starting with a snappy and addictive gameplay mechanic is a great way to build a game. Add some high scores to beat, currency to collect, and customisables to unlock, (plus the odd advertising integration in order to generate some revenue) and you got yourself a nice foundation for your new project.

But if you have the extra time and the ideas, why not take it an extra step further? The point is to think how, with existing mechanics and content, your game can become extra playable and last for longer.

Here's a simple example: already have some different levels in your game? Add a new difficulty tier to each of them, and grant some new rewards for their completion! This just doubled your content for a very little investment.

Deeper Economy

The most basic economy implementation has its advantages: easier to developer, easier to understand, easier to enjoy.

But this can also grow boring after a short while, and maybe some smart players can even find a way to quickly accumulate a big fortune if your economy and ways to generate currency are too simple.

A great way to keep things interesting, is making your game's economy more varied.

How do you do that? You can consider one, or even two, additional currencies, that players need to collect in order to unlock new levels, characters, or skins. Look for opportunities where different currencies could be given, instead of always using the same one. Maybe all can be collected inside a single level, just making one of them harder to reach and collect; alternatively, there might be special levels where a rare currency is collected, instead of the standard one; last but not least, the "rare" currency could be purchased only with real money, which then makes your most dedicated players the most profitable ones as well.

Multiplayer Experience

A tricky thing to accomplish as a single developer or a small team, but adding multiplayer to a game opens up so many new possibilities, that it is no wonder that the most successful mobile games are built right around this.

After all, if you could beat a real player instead of a bot, that would be way more rewarding, right?

Some of the bigger teams focusing on hybrid casuals are taking this route, by starting with the common elements that make an hyper casual game, but adding a true multiplayer layer on top of it, which makes the overall experience more interesting and different from match to match.

This brings another benefit to the mix: real multiplayer can be very hard to implement, and in turn, to copy. This ensures that a brand new game is not so easily cloned, and thus retains its exclusive value to players for much longer

If you are looking for inspiration to add value to your own game projects, these might be great ways to chase. Add one, or all of them to an existing game, and likely you can make users retain for longer, and further separate your product from your competitors'.

Pay close attention to new games that you play from now on, and try to find cues for such mechanisms being present. Surely you will be able to find them here and there ;)