Summary: The in-app purchase (IAP) business model is currently China’s most popular method of generating revenue from mobile games. However, hyper-casual games now offer developers a new way to make money as in-app advertising becomes a more viable source of revenue. Will this affect the dominance of midcore and hardcore games?
The rise of hyper-casual games in recent years has significantly altered the landscape of US and European mobile game markets. With instant playability and ‘snackable’ gaming experiences on offer, titles in this new and exciting genre have put a considerable squeeze on midcore and hardcore games in a battle for overall market share.
Titles such as Helix Jump and Ballz are great examples of success in this genre, illustrating the appeal of minimalistic interfaces and instinctive gameplay for both amateur and experienced gamers alike.
Despite this trend, hyper-casual games have not been able to fully capitalise on the biggest gaming market in the world – China. But why not?
As it becomes more viable for developers to monetise hyper-casual games due to more reduced advertising redirection restrictions from Android app stores, we may well see hyper-casual games find victory at last in a new and prosperous territory.
Gamers in China have the potential to love hyper-casual games just as much as Westerners do. But until now, developers have focused almost entirely on midcore and hardcore games – traditionally the only genre that China have produced themselves – largely due to their ability to generate better financial returns than any other genre.
These games do this by employing a number of tactics that encourage users to make in-app purchases (IAP).
Developers who are eager to make returns on their investment have been seriously preoccupied with identifying ways to maximise returns. They’re unsurprisingly dedicated to looking for opportunities to convert users into paying customers by offering an enhanced experience in exchange for money.
One of the biggest barriers for hyper-casual games has been restrictions from China’s hundreds of Android app stores when it comes to redirecting players to other locations that aren’t within the gaming platform. As this is such a large part of the hyper-casual business model – due to its reliance on ad-revenue for profits – there has been little room for maturity in the sector, resulting in the dominance of midcore and hardcore games that offer better chances for monetization.
Hyper-casual games employ minimalistic interfaces and instinctive gameplay to offer users highly entertaining gaming experiences over typically short sessions.
But things are changing. The rules surrounding in-app adverts and redirection have relaxed recently, opening up space for this genre to make gains in China’s mobile games market.
For developers, this offers new opportunities to generate revenue from hyper-casual games in China without embarking on the complex task of encouraging users to make in-app purchases.
Games like Subway Surfers and Anipop are great examples of hyper-casual games that have found success in the Chinese market. Ultimately, they illustrate how gamers in this region do indeed have an appetite for simple, ‘snackable’ and highly entertaining hyper-casual games.
As the market shifts and ad revenue becomes a more viable business model, we predict a change in the Chinese gaming market with new hyper-casual titles set to make their presence felt.
Popular tactics for IAP-based games include prompting players to purchase experience points, special equipment and prizes, or good old-fashioned loot. Inevitably, these methods involve changing and complicating the actual structure of the game.
Using in-app advertisements, on the other hand, allows developers to focus on creating exciting, simple and lightweight games that anyone can dip in and out of without investing huge amounts of time (or money).
Hyper-casual games can choose from a range of advertising formats to generate revenue such as interstitial and reward-based videos, or even interactive content.
While ad monetization strategies will still need to be factored into game design to align UA strategies with publishing and monetization objectives, their impact on the actual gameplay tends to be much reduced in comparison to titles that rely on IAP for monetization.
If you’re hoping to find success in China with your hyper-casual game, don’t forget to consider localization to increase your chances of popularity and connection with your new audience.
As ad revenue becomes a viable business model, things are set to change. For those developers looking at Western games for Asian markets, however, that doesn’t mean things are going to be straightforward.
Among the biggest challenges is the time it takes to gain approval from the State Administration of Radio and Television (SART) and how this sits in juxtaposition to the innately fast-paced hyper-casual gaming market.
So what is important in hyper-casual games in China? For game developers eager to capitalise on the potential of China’s highly lucrative market, a reliable local partner will allow you to maximise your chances of success, helping you to navigate any relevant restrictions and break down barriers to access China’s mobile games market and the country’s hundreds of millions of mobile gamers.
Baseball Boy essentially blends two simple experiences together, allowing users to hit home runs while also exploring a new and interesting landscape.
With easy accessibility and a high satisfaction factor, it has achieved huge popularity as a hit hyper-casual game.
Ranked among the most popular games in the Google Play app store, this is perhaps one of the best examples of a successful hyper-casual game.
Helix Jump uses simple dynamic gameplay and engaging visuals to offer gamers a truly digestible and satisfying experience.
Fruit Ninja is a great example of how a hyper-casual game can be adapted effectively for the Chinese market.
Achieving wide recognition and success in download rankings, the game offers users a dangerously moreish gaming experience.