Whether you call them idle arcade or arcade idle games, one thing’s for sure – this genre is quickly transitioning from niche to trending. Due to its unique mix of genres and improved engagement metrics, this profit-generating genre is getting a lot of attention from both game publishers and investors.
Find out why in our analysis of the arcade idle genre and market!
What Is an Arcade Idle Game?
As the name implies, arcade idle games combine the intuitive gameplay mechanics of classic arcade games and the simplified resource gathering and progression systems of idle games.
What made these games attractive to players and lucrative to publishers is their unique blend of game mechanics and monetization methods which result in more engagement and subsequently more revenue.
Essentially, you get the low/medium CPI hyper casual games tend to have, but strong engagement and retention metrics that are more common among mid-core games.
According to research done by SensorTower and Homa Games, arcade idle games have almost 50% day-1 retention rate and average D0 playtime of 25 minutes with a CPI of 40 cents.
Because of genre mixing, we categorize arcade idle as a hybrid casual game subgenre.
Understanding Hybrid Casual Games
The main idea behind hybrid casual games is to mix and match game mechanics from different genres. Most commonly, there’s a simple hyper casual core with mid-core meta and power progression.
The goal of combining different genres is to improve poor retention traditional hyper casual games often suffer from, reaching a broader audience, and creating new monetization opportunities. You can think of hybrid casual games as a step up from traditional hyper casual games or even as their evolution.
According to SensorTower, a leading mobile intelligence platform, hybrid casual games outshine hyper-casual games in terms of US download growth on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Not only that, but SensorTower’s research showed that hybrid casual games offer longer playtime and session durations compared to hyper-casual games, with players spending nearly twice the amount of time playing them.
The same is true for arcade idle – the trending subgenre of hybrid casual games.
As a result, more and more developers and investors are turning to arcade idle and other types of hybrid casual games.
Arcade Idle Market Overview
Arcade Idle games first started appearing back in 2020, when Homa Games started publishing games like Harvest It, Craft Island, and Farm Land, which is still one of the most popular games in the genre.
Many other games like Stone Miner, My Little Universe, and My Mini Mart followed suit. And what started as a niche market a couple of years ago is now getting more mainstream.
In 2022, players downloaded hybrid casual games 5.1 billion times! (SensorTower) This includes all hybrid casual subgenres, including arcade idle, but it’s still a strong indicator of how popular these games are.
What’s more, hybrid-casual games earned $1.4 billion in revenue in 2022, which is a significant growth compared to 2021 when the revenue was below $1 billion. (SensorTower)
Arcade Idle Market: Revenue and Downloads
If we look at AppMagic’s graph of the arcade idle market from 2021 up until now, it’s clear that this segment is growing each year in terms of revenue.
There were two significant spikes in revenue. The first one was in the summer of 2022 when most leading arcade idle games saw a substantial spike in revenue. The second one was in early 2023 when arcade idle games made record profits.
Another indicator of how well a certain market segment is performing is downloads. Unlike arcade idle revenue, downloads were not experiencing such clear growth. There were many ups and downs from 2020 up until now, but peak downloads happened in 2022.
Arcade idle games in 2023 so far were slightly less successful in terms of downloads compared to 2022. But this market segment is still very promising, especially with new trending games emerging such as Burger Please, which are leading the downloads. (Click here to read my analysis of Burger Please).
Learn about the top arcade idle games in terms of revenue and downloads in the following section.
Top Idle Arcade Games of 2023 So Far
- Alien Invasion
- My Little Universe
- Pirate Raid
- My Perfect Hotel
- Zombie Defense
- Wasteland Billionaire
- My Mini Mart
- Stickmans of Wars
- Aquarium Land
Data source: AppMagic. Get 3 days of free access to all AppMagic’s features, as well as 10% off, by clicking on this link.
Most Downloaded Arcade Idle Games 2023
The following arcade idle games are driving the majority of downloads for this market segment. We see some of the same games from the list of top-grossing arcade idle games, along with some newcomers like Burger Please.
- Burger Please
- My Mini Mart
- My Perfect Hotel
- Farm Land
- Aquarium Land
- Craft Commander
- Alien Invasion
- Wasteland Billionaire
- Zombie Defense
- Dig Deep
Data source: AppMagic
Leading Idle Arcade Publishers
If we look at publishers of leading arcade idle games, three names stand out – Homa Games, SayGames, and Supersonic Studios.
- Homa Games are pioneers of arcade idle games and have published more than 30 hybrid casual games and casual games. In October 2022, this French publisher secured $100 million in Series B round, following a $65 million Series A round. So far, Homa Games has acquired two studios – RisingHigh and Ducky Games.
- SayGames is another leading hybrid casual publisher with dozens of games on the app store. They’re known for successful titles like My Little Universe and Dreamdale. Earlier this year, Say Games surpassed 4 billion lifetime downloads, which is quite an achievement.
- Supersonic Studios has an impressive portfolio of more than 70 games with over 3 billion downloads total. It was acquired by ironSource back in 2015.
Other leading arcade idle publishers include Rollic Games, Azur Games, Multicast Games, Lion Studios, and Voodoo.
What made all these publishers start releasing arcade idle games? Let’s find out.
Main Elements of an Arcade Idle Game
Arcade idle games are characterized by simple arcade core and idle meta layer and progression systems.
Idle game mechanics provide a sense of progression and long-term goals, while the arcade elements add excitement and immediate rewards. This combination keeps players motivated to achieve milestones and unlock new features while enjoying active gameplay challenges.
As a consequence, it opens up many exciting monetization opportunities.
I’ll explain how these different elements work together – you can also use this as a blueprint for creating an arcade idle game.
Before we get into specific game mechanics and meta-layers, I want to talk about themes. The overall theme developers choose for an arcade idle game plays a big role in its success.
Having a theme that’s not only trendy but also relatable boosts the game’s marketability and keeps engagement up.
Most commonly, we see themes related to everyday life and jobs. For example, farming, cooking, working at a supermarket, restaurant, or clothing store, etc.
Simple Arcade Game Mechanics
An arcade core is what gives arcade idle games that hyper casual feel that has a mass appeal. Because of the simple controls, players can jump right in and start playing.
Most commonly, players control a stickman avatar using visual joystick controls. They just need to move around – there are no complicated controls that take days to learn.
The reason why movement is such an integral part of this genre is because it directly engages players. Unlike traditional idle clickers, arcade idle games have an avatar and players need to constantly move it around.
By moving, players can also explore the map, discover various points of interest, as well as collect resources, earn cash, and other items.
Along with the joystick mechanics, stacking is another popular mechanic for arcade idle games. Stacking resources is very satisfying but also looks cool, which makes it marketable.
But these simple hyper casual mechanics are not enough to make an engaging game that will retain players for a long time.
This is where idle elements come in.
In traditional idle games, players can make progress with minimal or no interaction. The most common ones are idle clickers where players simply need to tap or click to earn currency.
The main challenge in such games lies in strategically using currency for upgrading or unlocking new content.
Arcade idle games borrow that concept, but simplify it to reach a wide audience. The idle elements serve as a meta layer that adds depth to the simple arcade core mechanics.
There are several idle progression systems used in arcade idle games and all of them are tied to progressing through the game economy.
Resource collection is one of the main idle features. Depending on the theme, players collect things like crops, animal products, raw materials, etc. The goal, of course, is to accumulate as many resources as possible.
Players also collect money generated from selling resources.
The purpose of resource collection in arcade idle mobile games is to provide a sense of continuous progression and reward, even when players are not actively engaged in the game.
Another important aspect of the idle meta gameplay is the ability to unlock new items and zones, expand, and further explore the map as the game progresses. Players use in-game currency to unlock new areas and each new zone brings them more profit but it gets more expensive to unlock.
This power progression system in arcade idle games gives players long-term goals, which keeps them coming back.
Let’s take Farm Land as an example. In this farming game, players use money earned from selling collected resources to unlock new map tiles. That allows them to expand their business, explore, and discover new land, vendors, crops, and animals.
A great way to let players know there are exciting new areas to unlock is to show an empty area with
Next up is character and/or environment upgrades. This is the main progression system in arcade idle games that drives players to keep going and strive to max out all the upgrades.
Players spend the money they earn on upgrading their avatar (e.g. skills, abilities) or objects and items from the game environment (e.g., farming equipment, kitchen appliances). In some games, players can also hire workers and can upgrade their skills and abilities, which adds more complexity.
The purpose of upgrading is to increase capacity, efficiency, or production speed, which results in even more resources. But the cost to upgrade also becomes higher.
For example, in Burger Please, a trending arcade idle game, players run a restaurant chain. They can update the speed and capacity of their avatar and workers as well as various restaurant objects like kitchen appliances and cash registers.
The final piece of the arcade puzzle is monetization. Here’s how it all comes together.
So we’ve established that arcade idle games have two main power progressions that provide long-term goals: expanding/exploring and upgrading, i.e., becoming more powerful and efficient.
Monetization features are directly tied to these progression systems.
By watching ads, most commonly rewarded video ads, players can speed up their progress. They don’t have to wait to collect enough resources to unlock new content or upgrade – they get it instantly.
For example, players watch an ad and in turn, they get to hire an employee, increase their speed, upgrade their tools, etc.
Such rewarded video ad offers can be very enticing, especially once unlocking and upgrading becomes more expensive due to exponential inflation.
To maximize profits, arcade idle games also incorporate in-app purchases as an additional monetization feature. IAP offers often include more permanent versions of rewarded ad offers, a no-ads option, and various bonuses.
Publishers can use rewarded video ads to test in-app purchase offers and adapt them to players’ needs.
Thus, unlike traditional hyper casual games that rely solely on ads, arcade idle games utilize both in-app purchases and ads, sometimes even subscriptions. We call this approach hybrid monetization.
Arcade Idle User Acquisition Trends
Creating a balanced arcade idle game is only half the battle. Successful publishers understand how to market their games and consistently grow their player base.
Ad creatives are the core of a good user acquisition strategy for arcade idle games. A good ad can not only bring you thousands of new players, but also lower CPI.
According to the ad intelligence platform AppMagic, arcade idle ads with the most impressions belong to leading games like My Mini Mart, Aquarium Land, Horse Life, Burger Please, and Alien Invasion. The majority of these impressions come from India, Brazil, and the United States.
For this genre, utilizing gameplay ads is key. Show clear gameplay footage that portrays core mechanics and gives a taste of additional features.
For example, Mini Mart’s top-performing arcade idle ad creative highlights the stacking mechanic which is simple but incredibly satisfying. Also, it makes it easy to understand core gameplay – collecting store items, shelving them, and servicing customers.
Ads for Burger Please also showcase the satisfying stacking mechanic and basic gameplay. It’s easy to understand and makes it clear to players what they need to do to make progress.
Arcade idle publishers also target players based on interests and motivations for playing by highlighting specific game features. For example, Aquarium Land’s ad creative zones in on the game’s collection system, a popular meta layer in hybrid casual games.
Arcade Idle Games: Final Thoughts
Now we want to hear from you!
What are your experiences with the arcade idle genre? Do you think this genre will become more popular? Let me know in the comments below!