As the challenges in the hypercasual market continue to evolve, Christoph Sachsenhausen, the managing director of Sunday, explains how the company is leveraging its success to stay ahead of the game.
Lately, we have all been hearing a lot about the future of hypercasual games. It's a topic that generates a lot of buzz, and there are too many differing opinions on the matter. One thing that's clear is that the old recipe for hypercasual games no longer works as it used to do just a couple of years ago.
In the past, the hypercasual success formula was simple: come up with a level based on a fun core loop, record it, and get a low cost-per-install (CPI) for it. Then, make a hundred variations of the same level - you’ve got a hit game. However, the market is now too saturated, privacy regulations have changed the advertising market, and consumer behaviour has shifted after lockdowns, so this loophole to quick success is now closed.
That said, mass-marketable ad-monetised games are still going strong. So, what is happening to hypercasual? Some publishers claim that hypercasual is dead, yet they continue to release new hypercasual titles. This marketing confusion highlights the fact that the underlying problem that everyone is facing is the same: the old recipe doesn't work anymore. The question is, what's the next one?
The Market Asks for Better Games
Every company coming from hypercasual is currently struggling with the same challenge: how to create engaging games that retain players for a longer period while maintaining their mass-market appeal. Initially, hypercasual games were only meant to be played for a few days. Now, companies are striving to build a higher lifetime value and keep players engaged for 30 days or more, providing more opportunities to show ads and even incorporate other monetisation options.
Each company is trying to achieve this goal in its own unique way, but finding a clear universal solution to this challenge has been difficult. However, what is certain is that every publisher and developer is under pressure to create better, deeper, more enjoyable games. While some companies claim to have found the answer, we are yet to see the impact as explosive as in the early days of hypercasual.
Nevertheless, the pressure to create better games is beneficial for players and the game development ecosystem at large. That’s a huge leap forward from the hypercasual’s previous business model, which was far from sustainable. It was simply a glitch in the matrix, and now that glitch has closed. This has put everyone back to the baseline and forced big gaming companies with hundreds of employees and years of experience to return to the drawing board.
Every company coming from hypercasual is currently struggling with the same challenge...Christoph Sachsenhausen
Now, It’s Anyone’s Game
Interestingly, there are no longer any advantages in this new hypercasual landscape. Previously, larger companies had a volume advantage that allowed them to outperform smaller competitors, but now they also need to adapt to the market changes quickly. Being a large company could even be a disadvantage now - it's more difficult to redirect a large battleship than a small boat.
So, in the situation that we're in, where the playing field is levelled and everyone has an equal chance of success, some may perceive it as a crisis. However, Sunday sees it as an opportunity. It's important to note that many of the most successful companies we see in the market today were able to find their business model during times of crisis. And we have been focused on building quality games since day one anyway. This foundation allows us to leverage the potential that comes with the current situation.
At Sunday, we have really strong in-house capabilities, and we choose the best studios to work with. We are very selective with the people we hire, always asking ourselves if the average skill level of the company will go up with every person we bring on board. This allows us to keep getting better at making ad-monetised, mass-marketable games that are very accessible. Whether you call them hypercasual, hybrid-casual, or something else, we are ready to evolve these games to the next level and are doing a lot of experiments to refine our secret sauce. We believe that mastering our own unique way is the key to success, rather than jumping on what others claim to be the next big thing.
Find Your Unfair Advantage
On this leveled playing field, our unfair advantage is our vision of becoming the first end-to-end publisher. What does it mean? Well, typically in the mobile market, you're part of an ecosystem where you work with different companies for different services, like tracking or monetisation. Also, publishers often run exclusively powered by external studios without any internal development resources. But we, through our unique setup through the applike group, chose to have full control over the entire value chain from start to finish, including development, publishing, 1st party monetisation, tracking, game analytics, and user acquisition.
And why is that important? Well, when you don't own the whole value chain, you end up paying for it, either with money or data. So, we want to create a high-efficiency system where we keep everything in-house and avoid leaks where money or data goes out to other companies.
This, coupled with a new paradigm of creating increasingly engaging, mass-marketable ad-monetised games, all running through our in-house system at the Applike group, gives us a competitive business advantage. We're able to keep all the revenue in-house and not lose value through leaks to other companies. Of course, we still do revenue share with development studios, but it's still part of our ecosystem that we have full control of.
Our game plan for the nearest future is clear. Combined together, our end-to-end publishing model, non-stop analysis, and experimentation, along with the paradigm of ad-monetised, mass-marketable games will drive our success over the next five years. It's a perfect combination that we're excited to explore and continue to evolve. With this long-term view on the market, we are ready to make a move and make our mark.