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Are hypercasual and midcore racing to become hybridcasual?

Game economist Phillip Black analyses the state of the genres
Are hypercasual and midcore racing to become hybridcasual?
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Game economist Phillip Black has taken to Linkedin to discuss hypercasual’s marketing model - and how hybridcasual incorporates hypercasual appeal with midcore monetisation.

According to Black’s research, hypercasual games accounted for 29% of all app store downloads in 2022, and achieved monthly downloads in excess of one billion at a cost per install (CPI) of below $1. Black estimates that players may be five to ten times more likely to click on hypercasual advertisements than midcore ads.

“Hypercasual’s IP playbook hammers on reducing cognitive complexity; gameplay and art are straightforward to digest,” writes Black. “Navigating a mediaeval fantasy game teeming with knights, dragons, and wizards requires more cognitive resources than understanding blank-faced stick figures that run. Hypercasual titles like Mob Control or Aquapark immediately drop players into a simple, satisfying, active input gameplay. 4x’s gameplay might take 30 days to emerge, while squadRPG players are saddled with three days of reward collection before the actual game begins.”

Troubled waters

Despite the historic success of hypercasual gaming, Black notes that recent changes to Apple’s IDFA regulations have “murdered ad revenue”, which has disproportionately impacted the hypercasual genre. This has resulted in a shift to a hybridcasual model, although this then puts the nascent genre in direct competition with another - midcore.

“It’s a compelling and distinct thesis: acquire players at minimal CPIs using the hypercasual playbook, then retain and monetize them with proven meta models from Clash Royale, Coin Master, and others. The only challenge is that midcore is burning the other end of the candle.”

Midcore games are those which offer a more in-depth experience, with a larger focus on core gameplay, taking advantage of the rise in mobile power to offer a gaming experience which appeals to consumers who may have historically overlooked the potential of the platform.

Black notes that as CPIs have risen, midcore gaming has turned away from gameplay in ads, instead utilising somewhat misleading advertisements hoping to court a wider range of gamers.

“I never thought I’d be matching-3 in a squadRPG like AFK Arena or drawing circles to save a dog in an auto battler like Mighty Party. 4x titles are terrified of showcasing actual gameplay ads instead focusing on nebulous concepts like 'power level' delivered by no-name influencers.

"Hypercausal, conversely, demands ads show gameplay; there’s nothing to hide when the core is readily understandable within seconds.”

Black notes that, thanks to IDFA changes and rising CPIs, both midcore games and hypercasual titles are aiming for the hybridcasual space, which would allow for greater success in terms of both user acquisition and player retention.

In April, a report by Sensor Tower and Homa argued that accessibility is a crucial factor for success in the hybridcasual genre.