Hyper-casual games - "Go all in for Fun"
A “casual” game refers to a game that can be easily enjoyed during spare moments. It has a very short play time with intuitive and easy-to-understand rules, so it's a good genre to enjoy between work breaks or while commuting.
There is a genre that elevates the characteristics of this casual game to the extreme. It's a “hyper-casual” game. The game proceeds without any explanation in the background in which simple characters without eyes, nose, or mouth, like the popular 'Jola Man' in the past, are expressed in lines and colors. It is so intuitive and simple that the peripheral fun, addictiveness, and low barriers that come from its simplicity attract people to it.
The hyper-casual genre is very hot in the global market. Recently, on China's WeChat platform, the number of monthly users who enjoy hyper-casual games exceeded 400 million, and a new category for hyper-casual games was created in the Chinese App Store.
According to the ‘2021 APAC Mobile App Trend Report’, the number of installs of hyper-casual game apps in 2020 increased by 66% compared to the same period of the previous year, and it continues to grow steadily, growing by 49% in the first half of 2021.
In Korea, hardcore games such as RPG games are ranked at the top of popularity and sales, so it is not conspicuous.
The development period is short in proportion to the simplicity and lightness of the game, so if the idea is good, even small and medium-sized game developers or single developers can have a sufficient chance of success in the hyper-casual game market.
However, low barriers to entry do not mean it is easy to succeed. In order for mobile game apps to grow, an integrated business strategy that includes non-game factors such as marketing and monetization strategies is a must. For developers who have to focus on game development, it can be difficult to pay attention to this aspect.
So, we need a partner who can help developers focus on developing their own games. Lion Studio is a casual/hyper-casual game app publisher that provides game developers with the expertise they need to grow their business by optimizing all aspects inside and outside the game.
On the 15th of February, I had an interview with Park Chan-seon, manager of Lion Studio, who worked with High Score Games, a domestic hyper-casual game development company, in Gwanghwamun.
Park Chan-seon, Lion Studio Business Development Manager
What kind of company is Ryan Studios?
Lion Studios is a game publisher established in 2018 and the second largest worldwide after a publisher called Voodoo. It has a long history and is a company with a very rich portfolio of games that are being released and monetized competitively. It is playing a role in helping game companies to focus on game development while we focus on planning and executing marketing and monetization of those games.
Hyper-casual games are a little unfamiliar, but what are the differences from casual games?
Casual games refer to games that anyone can easily enjoy in a short time with simple rules, as we have already discussed. In Korea, mainly puzzles and match 3 have been popular. You can think of a hyper-casual game as an even simpler version of a casual game. It can be seen as a “killing-time” game that you can enjoy whenever you have a spare moment and it doesn't matter if you quit at any time.
In Korea, core games such as RPGs are strong, so hyper-casual games are not as well known, but if you look at the App Store or Play Store, you can see that there are a lot of hyper-casual games in the rankings.
In the case of casual games, the target age ranges from teenagers to early 40s, whereas hyper-casual games are mostly enjoyed by teenagers and 20s, a slightly lower age group. Hyper-casual is intuitive and simple, so it doesn't necessarily have a long lifespan with its audience, but the development period is also short, so many games are released in a shorter cycle compared to other genres.
How are hyper-casual games and casual games actually responding to domestic users? What are the views of the domestic game industry and developers?
Hyper-casual games usually get their revenue from advertising. Korean users who are accustomed to the billing model or free games often complain about the way advertisements appear frequently. However, the market is increasingly getting used to this model, and game developers are finding compromises in various ways, such as selling in-app options to eliminate ads, allowing more users to enjoy hyper-casual games.
Hyper-casual games have simple rules, graphics, and controls that do not require explanation, so there is no problem for people around the world to play without localization. It is a genre that is good for challenging the global market outside of the narrow Korean market. Korean developers are also recognizing the potential of the hyper-casual game market and are taking on many challenges.
Why was Korea weak in the hyper-casual game market?
Korean game developers were accustomed to making core games and had a more limited understanding of hyper-casual games with a development period of less than 3 months. If you look at the hyper-casual games that have been released, the characters have no faces and the background is flat. It may seem non-intuitive, but this may allow more focus on the ‘fun’ of the game rather than the game’s visual or design art.
Since the entire process from development to campaign progress and release is incredibly fast, there was an aspect that did not fit into the usual development cycle of domestic developers. It has always been a difficult part for us when we collaborated with domestic developers, but from 2019, as the number of developers developing hyper-casual games increased one by one, it was seen that they were adapting. This is because Korean developers are very flexible in their thinking. This is something that is hard to see in Japan or other East Asian markets, where I am responsible, and it is possible because Korean developers have high technology and ability to follow trends.
Success stories among domestic developers:
There are currently about 40 developers worldwide that have partnered with Lion Studio. As a domestic game company, there is High Score, and I think we are very fortunate to have collaborated with them.
Since Korean users prefer core games, developers had to plan accordingly. High Score is a company that has already made the first online basketball game called 'Freestyle' and has a wealth of know-how on how to make the game as fun as possible. Also, since we have an intimate understanding of hyper-casual games, High Score was able to focus on the fun of the game, and we were able to focus on marketing and campaigns. As a result, games such as 'Wall Crawler' and 'Webbi Boi 3D' were able to become hits.
In the case of hyper-casual, the key is how quickly users can find content they will like and create a game because the churn of game popularity changes more rapidly than with other genres. High Score is a studio that makes games with interesting mechanics in a short period of time by sensing market changes well. The goal of Lion Studio is to continuously discover these studios in Korea and grow together.
Do you have tips for a domestic hyper-casual game developer to enter the global market?
What I felt the most while collaborating with domestic developers is the tremendous concentration on details. Of course, details can matter. For example, rice cakes that look good on screen look good enough to eat. But, I want to say that hyper-casual games and casual games are genres that do not spend time on those details. Users who enjoy hyper-casual or casual games do not play because the game is pretty, but simply because it is fun. This is because domestic developers still have a low understanding of hyper-casual games and have Korea's unique tendency to strive for perfectionism. The way to success is when the developer puts all of their energy into creating a fun game and leaves the rest to partners such as publishers like us.
Can a single developer contact the publisher?
It’s possible. Recently, we are discussing contracts with a Korean developer, and he is a single developer and has a separate job. In my spare time, I am making games as a hobby, and after contacting us, we conducted a test together, and the results were good, so the contract is being discussed.
We don't take into account the size of the developer at all because we focus on the game. As long as the game is fun, you can do enough reviews, make a contract, and help with publishing. Even if you have an idea for the game, you can provide basic feedback, so feel free to knock on the door.
Lion Studios is a fairly large publisher in the hyper-casual market. As a result, there have been times when I received feedback that it was difficult for a single developer or a small studio to contact me. However, we are a company that only sees games and talks about games. If you would like to discuss a good idea or technique, there is a form on our website, so feel free to contact us.
What are the goals of Lion Studio?
My personal goal in 2022 is to release two or more games with a domestic developer. Like the aforementioned High Score, we are looking for a strategic partner that can grow along with us in the mid- to long-term. Ultimately, it is to support developers so that they can make games without worrying about development costs or marketing, etc. I want to release games in Korea that global users can enjoy.
Ryan Studios started out as a hyper-casual company, but recently, they are focusing on games that global users will like without being too attached to the genre. As a new trend was created from hyper-casual to games such as “Save The Girl” and “Real Time Shield”, Lion Studio is a company that releases interesting games with materials that users perceive as fresh regardless of genre. We are a company that focuses on the success of those games.
Source: Electronic Newspaper Internet, Seo Hee-won, 3/14/22
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