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What to do after a hypercasual game release: check out game support check-list

Ducky producer Nick Shapovalov ticks them off

What to do after a hypercasual game release: check out game support check-list

Nick Shapovalov is a producer at Ducky, a fast-growing hypercasual publishing studio with 97 million installs since 2020.

Nick has 9 years of experience in game development. He started as a game designer, ran the Fast Forward studio, and for the last six months has been working in hypercasual industry as a producer.

In hypercasual, developers and publishers work closely and combine their expertise to achieve multimillion installs and increasing game's exposure.

Once prototypes are tested, metrics are great, and a game with 10 minutes of gameplay is launched, there are a lot of things to be aware of ahead of time.

Let me take you through this step-by-step guide and explain what happens to the game after release, what developers should be prepared for, and how to maintain the project and prevent stagnation.

Step 1: Concentrate on one platform first

Sometimes developers want to run Android and iOS versions at once, but this idea should be carefully evaluated, as it brings more workload on developers and refocuses the team. Only when we reach ROI goals of the economy on one platform and understand that releasing on second platform will bring profits, it’s time to start working on it.

It is very common for hypercasual to publish the game on Android first. This is due to the fact that the game has a lot of tests waiting for it right after release, and Android offers various roll-out options, which helps the testing efforts.

As my experience shows, if the game is successful on Android – it will show the same or even better results on iOS.

Don't be freaked out by the differences in traffic quality, and trust your publisher if you get a reasoned explanation of what the best course of action is right now.

After release, the publisher starts buying traffic to test a number of media sources that were not available earlier. The key metrics here are:

  • CPI (cost per install), that indicates a price for acquiring a new user.
  • LTV (lifetime value), that shows how much money the player brings.

There are targets for each metric for each media source and country, that depend on the publisher and the performance in the market. We as a publisher try to receive 30 cents CPI, over a 35% retention rate, and LTV exceeding the cost of attracting a player.

Be prepared that it is common practice to test first an ad on Facebook, as there is a high-quality audience. However, Facebook isn’t the main platform for scaling.

After Facebook tests, the publisher would start using Google, Snapchat, TikTok, Unity and other platforms to boost the project. At this stage it is necessary to analyze on what day the player brings more money than it cost to attract him.

Don't worry — a good publisher will run all the tests and keep the development team informed of the results. Publishers also making industry-based assumptions about how the audience will behave on day 30.

We consider 135% ROI on day 30 as a green light to start the scale.

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  • Step 2. Be mentally prepared when it's time to scale up

    Scaling means efforts to increase geography and the number of players. This includes launching on new platforms, advertising in other countries, and larger marketing budgets.

    Speed is more important than polishing. Do iterations regularly to test different theories (at least one per week). Add QA department and don’t release projects without their consent.

    If at the previous stages it was possible to say that hypercasual is an art, now it is already a business. And at this stage, it's time to work only with calculations and hypotheses.

    The main thing you have to be prepared for with increased traffic is inconsistent metrics. For example, retention or LTV might significantly decrease. The reason for this plummet is a broad traffic and worse optimization of the network. This is not a reason to panic, but a warning to act quickly.

    At this stage, two areas of work are involved — product and marketing. Developers and publishers are constantly monitoring metrics, search for ways to improve the product and make marketing decisions.

    This phase will go smoothly if the development team has set up processes, can make decisions and implement changes quickly. The publisher's job is to suggest the right direction for maximum focus and help the team with actionable data.

    Scaling up worldwide, we focus and buy traffic in Tier1 countries: Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. After that, it’s time to test the game in China market and others Tiers.

  • Step 3: Things to be ready before turning monetization on

    The main elements of monetization of hypercasual games are:

    • Interstitials – ad units covering full page,
    • Rewarded videos – users receive a reward in exchange for watching an ad,
    • Banners – ads at the bottom of the app.

    Besides, we need to test is in-apps – purchases in-game.

    Parallel to this, in the monetization phase comes many marketing tasks, such as optimization for high-quality traffic. It means working with various advertising networks and acquiring users with certain criteria. For example those, who definitely will spend certain amount of time in game, or buy in-app items.

    The process is the publisher's marketing team responsibility, but as a developer, you should know what they're doing. Working with ad networks, they are:

    • Buying users for CPI;
    • Buying users with AD optimization
    • Buying users who are more likely to make purchases in-app.

    When this task is completed, and publisher and developers see that the audience is solvent, it's time to check the metrics:

    • How much money do we spend to buy a user
    • How much money do we receive from a user
    • Check the fact ROI and the predict ROI on 30d+

    There is no sense buying only cheap traffic. Positive ROI is the main indicator. The goal is to attract those players, will be paid off as soon as possible and guarantee margin, no matter how much they will cost.

  • Step 4: Game support check-list

    With all the above (tests, scale and monetization) it is clear that the process of developing a hypercasual game is a constant work optimization process, that consists of product development and marketing tasks.

    The main goal of product improvement is to work with LTV, while the marketing purpose is to care about CPI and reach payback. The publisher, based on tests and his expertise, recommends exactly what to do and performs some tasks.

    Here's a list of areas and recommendations that publishers and developers spend time and effort on after the game's release:

    • Optimization of buying channels: searching for better creatives, analyzing what kind of creatives competitors use and test theirs ideas in our cases;
    • Searching for marketing networks with good performance;
    • ASO optimization: selection of the correct metadata and assets (icon, screenshots) in order to be higher in the search on platforms;
    • Establishing regular updates - setting up the process of working with the unit economy of the project.
    • Entering new markets worldwide and translating the game to new languages.

  • If the game doesn’t perform, drop it

    We as a publisher are highly interested in finding successful projects. So that, if metrics show that game won’t be a hit – we honestly tell that to the developers and convince them to drop it.

    Both parties are saddened by the loss of time and money, but if the performance falls short, it’s much better to concentrate the efforts on a new project, that will more likely to be successful. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.