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How to turn a hypercasual game concept into an IAP-driven Hybridcasual

The latest article in Homa's Hybridcasual Insight series explores how to evolve a hypercasual game into a hybridcasual using Zombie Defense as a case study
How to turn a hypercasual game concept into an IAP-driven Hybridcasual

Homa came to Yorfstudio with a broad concept of Zombie Defense, a Hypercasual shooter game. The theme was inspired by Call of Duty: World at War - Zombies. Yorf liked the idea & started to work on tech and level design to develop the first polished prototype.

It was decided in collaboration with the studio to orient the game towards a Hybrid Strategy from day one. This would lead to an in-app-purchases driven economy and less reliance on ad monetisation.

As both parties already worked on a previous Zombie-themed title it was obvious that the cost per install (CPI) would be an issue. The main challenge behind the idea was that if it stayed a shooter, the audience would be highly masculine & the marketability would be more complicated.

Adopting a stable in-app purchase (IAP) oriented economy was necessary to resolve the challenges. Moreover, it would help user acquisition (UA) in bringing more qualitative players rather than classic hypercasual users, unlocking a solid potential for the lifetime value uplift - which was later confirmed by the $2 lifetime value (LTV) on day seven (D7).

The following case study will unveil the evolution of Zombie Defense from a hypercasual game into a hybridcasual IAP-driven title.

Methodology

1. Striving for clarity & robust level design to enhance the marketability potential

Creating a Hybridcasual game requires more long-term thinking, meaning more extended development time and a long-run growth strategy. For example, the first polished prototype for Zombie Defense took longer than usual - five weeks. However, the game had a natural depth (multiple ways to win) from its ideation, which helped in guiding the process. For instance, the studio managed to do substantial work on video clarity and level design to help soft launch the game and decrease the CPI from $1 to $0.30.

2. AB testing different economies to improve ad LTV

Once the CPIs and primary content loop were in place, the teams started working on economy testing and adding new content. Homa tested over 10 economies varying from classic difficulty increasing to more complex/adaptive ones. The winning economy led to a 10 percent ad LTV improvement.

3. Bringing depth to the game: RPG direction, infinite monetisation loops

During the collaboration, it was decided to bring more content to the game by giving the title a soft RPG direction. The team focused on the player meta, including weapons/character/loot improvements, and added an infinite game mode and a colosseum bonus level. These changes brought gameplay diversity to players and catered to the mass audience: achievers, collectors, and explorers.

4. Unlocking IAP opportunities: second economy, adaptive packs & pop-up notifications

Afterwards, Homa started testing IAPs in synergy with the game loop and introduced the second currency, reused the working IAP strategies like shops and discounts, and visually polished content like asset packs and characters. As a result, the IAP increased to 35 percent of the revenue, which attracted more profound users (whales) and helped to scale the game from a UA perspective.

5. Considering LTV as the main growth driver

Regarding the growth strategy for hybridcasual, it's no longer the CPI that drives the games; it's the LTV. In Zombie Defense, the CPI was higher than usual HC shooters, yet other metrics, like playtime session length, whale potential, and retention rate D30/D60/D90, were good. Thanks to IAPs, Homa unlocked a full scale & brought strong LTV (CPP campaigns).

6. Continuously optimizing content after the launch

Currently, the game is in the post-launch phase, where the main task is to offer the best user experience and improve the global LTV by adjusting the economy and difficulty. Thanks to the data team, Homa could identify three layers of players: the basic ones who don't want to fail until later in the game, whales, who want to play more challenging levels, and the casual players who are in the middle of them. These audiences could be addressed differently. For example, a softer ad-based economy can be pushed to the basic players, while heavier levels and an IAP-based economy can be to the whales. It is an ongoing process for the Homa team - continuing to cluster users to optimise the content and offer the best player experience.

Conclusion

The transition from a hypercasual game to a hybridcasual involves changing the gameplay and design to make it more complex and engaging for players. This could include adding more in-depth mechanics, a deeper story or narrative, and more challenging levels. In addition to the game design, you should always remember that the global LTV counts for hybridcasual success. Therefore, you should also look at metrics like playtime length, whale potential, and retention on days 30 and after.

Furthermore, cluster the audience and adapt the economy or levels to each segmentation - that is how you can scale your title and find new opportunities for the IAP. Zombie Defense showcases how the hypercasual concept can become a successful hybridcasual game, regardless of the marketability challenges since the ideation.

Despite the high CPI, the team decided to continue working on other metrics and brought the IAP to 35 percent of the revenue, the RRD1 hit more than 40 percent, D30 scored two percent, and the playtime reached 1500 seconds (25 minutes). Plus, the teams keep working on the title post-launch to deliver the best content for each audience cluster. Learn more about the hybridcasual game categorisation in the following article, and read the previous pieces to understand the essentials when creating your hybrid games.

You can also download Zombie Defense available on iOS and Android.