What are hybrid casual games and how is their monetization different from hyper casual games? Voodoo Publishing Director Thibault de Vésinne-Larüe has spoken about the company’s approach and the metrics it considers when launching new titles.
De Vésinne-Larüe was a special guest on the third episode of Games and Names, a games industry podcast launched by AppMagic in partnership with WN Media Group. Along with co-moderators, Stan Minasov, Vice President of Product at AppMagic, and Kirill Vaganov, Business Development Manager, he provided many insights into the hybrid-casual segment of the mobile gaming market.
Below you will find the most important insights from the interview. For an overview, listen to the second episode in full:
Table of Contents
What are hybrid casual games?
According to de Vésinne-Larüe, hybrid casual titles are defined by:
- Deep core gameplay (deeper than hyper-casual projects can offer);
- At least 15% D7 preservation through the core game alone;
- Combination of different monetization loops.
Hybird titles can contain elements from a variety of niches and genres, from merge and match-3 to action and FPS. “It can be any type of core game that can give you high retention with hybrid monetization,” said de Vésinne-Larüe.
Hyper-casual offers are typically monetized through ads and rewards videos, but the hybrid model includes the addition of other methods like in-app purchases (IAPs) to improve lifetime value (LTV). The goal should be to “monetize everyone” from the start, but also find ways to keep the core player base for as long as possible.
“The whole idea is to make games that are resilient through live operations, level design, and deeper meta gameplay so that you can actually scale the game over the years,” explained de Vésinne-Larüe.
Examples of successful hybrid casual games in the voodoo portfolio are mob controlwhich has a hyper-casual core but includes meta elements (multipliers, multiplayer, etc.), and Collect them all!that offers classic puzzle gameplay but with minigames and meta decoration options.
According to Voodoo, the hybrid “mega hits” in his portfolio generate between $20 million and $100 million in annual sales.
The rise of the hybrid casual segment
De Vésinne-Larüe noted that while the hybrid casual category is growing in popularity among the media and professional community, it is far from the absolute leader. Occasional giants like King and Supercell continue to dominate the industry in terms of revenue.
However, mobile publishers started to push into the hybrid niche a few years ago as it was actually getting harder and harder to launch a successful hyper-casual game. As a reason, de Vésinne-Larüe cited Apple’s IDFA changes, which had a huge impact on user acquisition and increased CPI (especially in the hyper-casual segment) while LTV just didn’t catch up.
Voodoo began this transition back in 2020, when the company looked at the metrics and realized the situation was only going to get worse. So, according to de Vésinne-Larüe, the rise of the hybrid-casual model was driven by three things:
- For Voodoo and other hyper-casual publishers, it was an opportunity to find profitable new ways to launch products in the face of the decline of the segment they originally served.
- Casual publishers, also suffering from higher CPIs, began considering how to monetize their titles beyond just IAPs.
- The emergence of games like Project Makeover that used hyper-casual gameplay as clickbait ads to get low CPIs, and then added them as mini-games to eventually engage players in the deeper core gameplay.
Collect them all!
How does Voodoo develop hybrid casual games?
As de Vésinne-Larüe explains, voodoo games typically go through three main phases:
- The publishing department works with core studios (both internal and external) to create prototypes.
- Once the company has a promising game with hybrid monetization potential, it soft-launches it and begins scaling.
- If a game has good metrics after soft launch, it’s assigned to a live team that “lives” with it and continues to scale it (live teams are made up of people with experience running casual games).
“Our greatest strength is that we make a lot of prototypes,” said de Vésinne-Larüe. “It’s just a change in the type of games we’re going to make, but in the end it’s the same process. We are a little stricter than in the past. We’re providing more guidelines because we have more beliefs about where to go and because we need to help studios strategize. You also have a lot of autonomy to find ideas and concepts and to test new things.”
“But we still have the same process of idea checking, quick testing, quick killing, iterating, and quick software launching. In the end, we’re just adding the luxury that we have, because it’s made up of great leaders from the casual world who can actually work with games and take them to the next level.”
What metrics does Voodoo consider when launching hybrid casual games?
The company takes two approaches to producing hybrid titles:
- You take your existing and already promising hyper-casual games and “hybridize” them by adding new monetization loops and gameplay elements – e.g. B. Mob Control;
- Create entirely new games by looking at casual/midcore games on the market that can be simplified and made more accessible to a wider audience and adapting their gameplay to the hybrid model – e.g Block Jam 3D.
Block Jam 3D
In terms of metrics that Voodoo believes are good, de Vésinne-Larüe said the game should have at least 45% D1 retention, 15% D7 retention (20% for puzzle titles), and 10% D30 retention. It also looks at daily play time to check user engagement and see how often they return to the game. The company also takes CPI into account for both new titles and existing projects that it hybridizes.
De Vésinne-Larüe also noted that the monetization methods Voodoo uses for its hybrid games are based on their core gameplay. The company is always looking at the top-grossing titles in each genre to figure out what strategies work best for top titles and how it can apply them to its own products.