Looking to transform your mobile gaming ideas into hybrid-casual games that instantly attract players and skyrocket your revenue? You found your ultimate guide! This article is your treasure trove of insider tips and advice on creating hybrid-casual games.
Success, after all, is all about mastering the right strategies.
So why wait?
Let’s set the stage for your next big gaming triumph!
Joining the Hybrid-casual Game Revolution
If you’re still new to the genre, here are the basics you should know.
But that can be very challenging.
Hybrid-casual games are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to do just that – attract a diverse range of players, from casual to hardcore gamers. Essentially, they’re closing the gap between (hyper)casual and mid-core/hardcore games.
Wondering how well are hybrid-casual games performing?
In 2022, hybrid-casual games earned $1.4 billion in revenue (SensorTower), proving that this innovative hybrid genre can be extremely lucrative.
It’s particularly popular among hyper casual developers and publishers, and there are good reasons for that.
Recent SensorTower data shows that players spend nearly twice as much time playing hybrid-casual games compared to hyper casual games. Not only that, but hybrid-casual games have longer playtime and sessions, which is another reason why they’re an attractive option for game publishers.
If we consider these statistics, it’s no wonder that there’s a growing trend toward hybrid-casual games, which are slowly but surely replacing traditional hyper-casual games.
Here’s how to create them.
Two Main Approaches to Creating Hybrid-casual Games
The two main ways of creating hybrid-casual games are:
- Create a hybrid-casual game from an existing hyper-casual or casual game
- Create a hybrid-casual game from scratch
Which one you choose depends on your specific circumstances. For instance, if you have a casual or hyper-casual game that’s not performing as well as it used to or as you want it to, I’d suggest you hybridize it.
In this case, you’d keep the hyper casual or casual core, and add various meta-layers to it.
However, if you think you have a winning idea for a brand-new hybrid-casual game, then start fresh.
Whichever approach you choose, you can benefit from the tips and strategies I outline in this article.
Analyze Market Trends
When creating hybrid-casual games, I suggest you start with some good old market research. This will help you identify gaps in the market and explore different concepts, which is the first step to creating hybrid-casual games that will rule the top charts.
To begin, take a deep dive into the mobile gaming industry by analyzing the latest industry reports, trends, and statistics. I suggest mobile gaming reports by mobile intelligence companies such as SensorTower, data.ai, GameAnalytics, GameRefinery, and others. There are also many interesting reports and market analyses on our blog.
This will give you an idea of the current state of the market and help you identify any emerging trends that may impact the type of game you want to create.
Focus on specific game features and mechanics of popular mobile games and try to identify which ones work best and why.
Research Player Preferences
Next, examine your target audience and their preferences.
Who are your potential players? What do they like and dislike about existing mobile games? What motivates them to play?
To answer these questions, you can conduct surveys to gather insights directly from your target audience. If you don’t have enough resources for that, you can also look at social media posts and user reviews of similar games to understand what players are looking for in a game.
To identify your target audience, consider standard factors such as age, gender, interests, and behavior. Analyze the demographics of existing players in your target category and look for patterns and trends.
It’s important to strike a balance between appealing to different types of players like casual and mid-core players. Your game should be designed to engage various player groups, while still offering a simple and accessible core gameplay experience.
Here comes the fun part – exploring different ideas for your game and coming up with fun game mechanics to combine.
Brainstorm Ideas and Explore Various Concepts
Once you have identified your target audience and gathered insights into their preferences, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas and exploring various concepts for your hybrid-casual game. This is a crucial step in the game development process as it lays the foundation for the entire game design.
There are many brainstorming techniques you can try. But what tends to work best for me personally is to simply start writing things down. Whatever comes into your mind, write it down on a piece of paper or a preferred device. Doesn’t matter whether you think the ideas are good or bad – the main purpose of this is to get your creative juices flowing.
Don’t be afraid to consider outlandish concepts. After all, hybrid-casual games are all about the unusual combinations of themes and game genres.
Once you have a list of ideas, begin to narrow down the options based on feasibility, audience appeal, and uniqueness. Consider which ideas align best with your target audience and which have the potential to stand out in a crowded market.
Identify Different Game Genres and Mechanics to Combine
Now that you have at least a general idea or concept, start thinking about specific game genres and mechanics that might work well together. Just as a reminder, hybrid-casual games consist of a simple core + meta-layers.
I find that the easiest way to do this is to start with core mechanics – they’re the backbone of your game, while everything else is built around it. If you make sure that the core gameplay is polished and intuitive, you’re off to a great start. Then think about which meta-layers would be an interesting fit.
The core can consist of intuitive mechanics such as swiping or tapping, or slightly more complex ones like puzzle-solving or matching. As long as the core is straightforward and easy to pick up – you’re good.
Next, think about the meta layers you want to incorporate with that core. Most commonly, mid-core elements are used for this. These could be elements such as character development, resource management, city building, design, customization, complex puzzles, narrative elements, collection systems, and power progression systems.
Don’t forget to consider how you can blend different game mechanics seamlessly. You don’t want your game to feel disjointed or confusing for the player. Instead, strive for a smooth and intuitive gameplay experience.
Game Ideas for Creating Hybrid-casual Games
Here are some fun ideas of which game mechanics you can combine to get your creative juices flowing.
Puzzle core + RPG meta layers
This game could mix classic puzzle gameplay with light RPG mechanics, such as character leveling and equipment upgrades, inventory management, and skill trees.
Idle core + collection systems
Combine a simple yet addictive gameplay of idle city-building with collection mechanics, such as collecting rare resources or building unique structures.
Sports game core + narrative elements
A simple sports game based on tapping mechanics that blends together the fun and excitement of sports gameplay with a narrative story. For example, players could follow the ups and downs of a sports team’s season.
Match 3 core + social features
This is a relatively common combo for hybrid-casual games, but choosing a unique theme can make it stand out.
For example, players could manage their own beach resort, completing match 3 levels to earn money and expand their property. Social features could include inviting friends to visit their resort and participate in multiplayer mini-games.
Interactive story core + customization features
Core gameplay mechanics of interactive story games are simple – it’s mostly just tapping to make choices. Add to that more complex personalization options for characters and stories and you got yourself a cool hybrid-casual game.
Arcade core + idle meta
These are just a few examples – the possibilities for hybrid-casual games are virtually endless. The key is to find a combination of gameplay elements that will appeal to a wide range of players and stand out in a crowded market.
As you refine your list of ideas, begin to develop more detailed concepts for your game. It’s time to delve deeper into gameplay and game mechanics for hybrid-casual games.
Simplify Core Gameplay to Appeal to a Broad Audience
When creating hybrid-casual games, you should simplify the core gameplay as much as possible to make it accessible to a broad audience. This means stripping away any unnecessary complexity and creating intuitive and easy-to-learn mechanics that can be understood quickly by players of all skill levels.
One way to simplify core gameplay is to focus on a single objective or goal that players must achieve in order to progress through the game. This objective should be clear and easy to understand, with simple and straightforward mechanics that are easy to grasp.
Another strategy is to reduce the number of controls required to play the game. You can accomplish this by using simple touch or swipe gestures, or by limiting the number of buttons or on-screen elements that players need to interact with.
To avoid overwhelming players, introduce new mechanics gradually as players progress through the game. Use tutorials and tooltips to explain new mechanics in a clear way.
Visual cues and animations can also help players understand how the game works. For example, if a player needs to drag and drop an object to complete a task, use an animation to show them how to do it.
Integrate Meta Layers to Add Depth and Drive Engagement
Now that you have a simple core, you can start building on top of it. Consider progression systems and meta-layers that will add depth and complexity to the game.
This is a key point in creating hybrid-casual games because it’s what defines the genre. Without meta layers, you’re left with a simple core – a traditional hyper-casual game.
Typically, developers add meta layers like collectibles, light building/construction, customization features, RPG elements, narrative layers, and social features. Each of them can enrich the gameplay experience.
But because these are mostly mid-core elements, you have to simplify them a bit to avoid overwhelming players.
It helps if you understand each meta layer in depth and how popular hybrid-casual games integrate it, so make sure to read the following section.
Collectibles are a popular meta layer where players are encouraged to collect items, characters, or achievements throughout the game. This provides them with a sense of accomplishment and a reason to continue playing.
According to GameRefinery, the number of games that implement collection systems has doubled during the last few years. What’s more, if we look at the top-grossing 100 games, the percentage of collectibles albums’ utilization went from 20% to 70%!
For example, in the popular hybrid-casual game Disney Emoji Blitz, players collect emojis that represent popular Disney and Pixar characters such as Mickey Mouse or Elsa from Frozen.
As players progress by solving match 3 puzzles, they earn emojis, each of which has unique abilities and can be strategically used in gameplay. That makes simple match 3 gameplay infinitely more engaging.
Character collection is particularly popular among games. According to research by SensorTower, character collection was the most dominant meta feature in 2022 among leading games.
Another Disney-themed game utilizes this feature – learn all about it in my Disney Magic Kingdoms analysis.
This is another popular mid-core gameplay mechanic that allows players to construct or build structures like buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Oftentimes, players may need to gather resources, manage a budget, and make strategic decisions to construct their buildings and grow their virtual community or civilization.
Building mechanics are present in a wide range of hybrid-casual games, from city-building simulations to farming games.
For example, in Board Kings, a popular hybrid-casual board game, players start with a basic game board but can expand it by building new structures like houses, stores, and amusement rides. These buildings generate coins and rolls, which players use to move around the board and collect more buildings and rewards.
In that way, the construction meta layer in Board Kings adds a strategic element to the game and makes it more complex.
Customization is a meta layer that’s easy to include in almost any game because it works great with all types of core mechanics.
It’s about allowing players to personalize their gameplay experience like decorating homes or customizing characters, which increases engagement and retention.
For example, in Matchington Mansion, players can decorate and renovate a mansion as they solve puzzles. This not only adds a sense of ownership for the player but also serves as a progression vector, providing goals to work towards.
Similarly, in Hill Climb Racing, players can customize their vehicle in various ways and upgrade its performance. It gives players a sense of progression and achievement because they need to move towards unlocking new skins and parts.
This also provides an excellent monetization opportunity – but more on that later in the article.
Light RPG mechanics are also popular among hybrid-casual games. These meta layers can include leveling up characters, upgrading weapons/equipment, inventory management, missions, and quests.
A classic example of a hybrid-casual game with an RPG meta layer is Archero.
The RPG elements come into play with the hero’s abilities, which players can upgrade to increase the hero’s damage, health, and special abilities.
The game also includes a wide variety of equipment, such as weapons and armor, which further enhance the characters’ abilities. Just like in role-playing games, each piece of equipment has different stats. That way, players have different options for customizing their hero to suit their playstyle.
Incorporating narrative elements can help increase a sense of immersion and add an emotional connection for players. This typically includes adding story elements or quests to a game, which motivates players to keep playing to see how the story unfolds.
One example of this approach is Homescapes. The game’s narrative meta layer is built around the concept of renovating an old mansion and bringing it back to its former glory.
As players progress through the game, they are introduced to a cast of characters, including the main character, Austin, his family, and other members of the community. Each character has its own backstory and unique personality, which are revealed through dialogue and interactions with the player.
What’s so smart about Homescapes is that the narrative drives the gameplay. Each level players complete unlocks a new chapter in the story and brings players closer to achieving the goal of fully renovating the mansion.
This meta layer allows players to interact with each other and share their experiences. Social features can include chat, leaderboards, challenges, and other competitive or cooperative elements.
What’s great about it is that it appeals to different player cohorts with different motivational driver profiles, which allows you to target a wider audience.
For example, in Clash of Clans, players can join clans and participate in wars against other clans.
In Word Villas, players can invite friends to play the game, as well as send and receive gifts from their friends. There’s also a chat feature where players can communicate in real-time.
Another cool example is social features in Monopoly GO. In this hybrid board game, players can visit and vandalize each other’s game boards. This adds an element of competition and encourages players to keep building and expanding their own boards in order to defend against attacks from other players.
Implement Progression Systems
Progression systems are mechanisms in a game that give players a sense of progress and accomplishment as they advance through the game. They go hand in hand with meta layers and the meta game should rely on progression systems.
These systems can include leveling up, unlocking new content, gaining access to new characters or abilities, earning rewards, etc. For example, unlocking new characters in Clash Royale or earning coins to purchase new furniture in Design Home.
To implement a progression system in a hybrid-casual game, first determine the specific aspects of the meta game players will be able to progress in.
Then, you need to create a system that rewards players for progressing through the game.
Make sure the rewards are meaningful and give players a sense of accomplishment. For example, a player who unlocks a new character should feel like they have accomplished something significant.
Also, these goals shouldn’t feel too difficult or too easy to achieve. The sweet spot is making players feel like they are making progress without feeling overwhelmed or bored.
Balance Different Game Mechanics
Because hybrid-casual games combine many different mechanics from different genres, it can be difficult to achieve a balance between them.
This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of creating hybrid-casual games.
If the game is too simple, players will lose interest quickly. Make it too complex and they’ll find it too difficult and give up.
Here’s how you tackle this issue.
Understand the Importance of Pacing and the Difficulty Curve
Start your hybrid-casual game with easy challenges so that players get a sense of accomplishment early on in the game. Then, gradually increase the difficulty – it will keep players engaged and challenged without getting too complex.
Also consider pacing, especially when introducing new mechanics and meta-layers. Introduce them too early and you run the risk of overwhelming players. Introduce them too late and the game feels monotonous.
Progression systems can help because they pace the game and ensure that the players don’t progress too quickly or become stuck.
A good example of a game that balances pacing and the difficulty curve is Royal Match.
The game starts with simple matching mechanics anybody can pick up in seconds. Gradually, the game introduces new challenges and meta-layers like power-ups, boosters, varied board sizes, decorative meta, and social features to keep the game engaging.
Develop a Hybrid Monetization Strategy
Hyper casual games are known for relying on ads for monetization. More complex genres, on the other hand, tend to gravitate towards in-app purchases.
Because hybrid-casual games have elements of both, developers can expand their monetization strategy and use both ads and IAP to generate revenue. This is one of the main reasons why more and more game publishers are turning to this hybrid genre.
According to Think with Google, “Among hybrid-genre gamers, 33% watch rewarded ads to get more lives and 28% make in-app purchases to get access to exclusive items.”
Idle Mafia Example
The hybrid-casual game Idle Mafia utilizes had great success using a hybrid monetization approach.
The game’s economy is based on two types of currencies: cash and gold. Cash is the primary currency used to buy businesses, upgrades, and other items within the game. Gold, on the other hand, is the premium currency players can use to speed up progress, unlock premium items, or purchase exclusive bonuses.
It is designed to encourage players to progress through the game by rewarding them for completing various actions, such as collecting cash from businesses or completing missions.
It also encourages players to spend money by offering various in-game items and bonuses that can only be obtained through the use of gold.
However, players don’t need to spend money. While gold can be used to speed up progress and purchase premium items, players can also earn gold by completing certain actions within the game, such as watching ads or completing missions.
This is how ads and in-app purchases can not only work together but complement each other as well.
Create a Clear and Concise Game Tutorial
A good game tutorial helps players understand the game mechanics and how to play the game. It should be easy to follow and should explain everything that the player needs to know to get started.
Break it down into small, manageable chunks that players can complete easily. This will help them feel like they are making progress and achieving something in the game.
For example, Burger Please, the aforementioned idle arcade hybrid game, has an excellent tutorial that teaches players how to start managing a restaurant. The tutorial is broken down into very small simple steps. For example, pick up money, buy a table, take orders, serve customers, clean up, etc. This approach ensures that players learn the game mechanics gradually, without feeling overwhelmed or confused.
It’s also a good idea to start introducing some monetization mechanics early, especially those related to IAP since many casual players might not be as familiar with it.
Utilize Live Ops
Hybrid-casual games are all about maximizing engagement and achieving long-term retention. An interesting core/meta combo is a great start, but it’s not enough. Even the most innovative game can become stale after a while.
Keep updating your game with fresh content. Give players something to come back to.
According to research by SensorTower, mobile games that regularly release events experience a boost in two crucial game KPIs – player engagement and retention. High engagement and retention tend to translate to an increase in revenue.
Examples of Live Ops in Popular Games
The card game Marvel Snap saw excellent results with this approach according to SensorTower. As you can see in the graph above, the game had a significant surge in revenue for each event that was released.
We see this working for other games as well.
For example, a hybrid shooter game Johnny Trigger Sniper features limited-time events where players can earn exclusive rewards for completing certain challenges or objectives.
Pocket Champs is a competitive hybrid game that uses live events and limited-time tournaments where players can compete for in-game prizes and rewards. These events usually feature different themes and mechanics, which adds variety and keeps the game fresh.
Final Thoughts on Creating Hybrid-Casual Games
And there you have it!
You’ve navigated the terrain of creating hybrid-casual games, armed with expert advice and strategic insights. Remember, the key to crafting a successful hybrid-casual game lies in balancing the elements of simple gameplay, captivating narratives, and unique challenges that appeal to a wide array of players.
So, don’t wait any longer. Apply the tips and techniques from this guide, and start creating hybrid-casual games that will leave players entranced and eager for more!