Hyper casual mobile games are a global phenomenon that has experienced unprecedented growth in the past few years. These snackable games have won over the hearts and minds of people all over the world, from various age groups, cultures, and interests, all thanks to their simple mechanics, minimalistic design, and short sessions. Hyper casual games can be consumed on-the-go and users can start playing them almost immediately.
Despite the name, there’s nothing casual about the size of the genre. In 2018 alone, hyper casual games have experienced a 3.5-times growth in the share of gaming app installs and have brought in approximately 101 million new gamers into the market. To illustrate how massive its monetary success has been, let me just say the hyper casual market now amounts to around $2-2.5 billion in annual revenue.
However, as the hype begins to cool down and the hyper casual market matures, it’s time to look at some other worthwhile participants on the mobile stage – idle games.
What are idle games?
Also called self-playing, clicker, or incremental, idle is a relaxing type of game in which a player does a simple action (usually just tapping a button) and is rewarded with a unit of in-game currency. The currency is then spent on items or abilities that help the player earn it faster, with less effort, or without performing any actions at all.
Characterized by minimal player activity, sometimes even periods of inactivity, idle games focus on making decisions affecting the growth of a certain value, be it revenue, skills, prestige, or advancing in life, career, or other types of success. The games can be without an ending and virtually played forever, while some of them have an end that can be reached after certain progress has been made in the game.
One of the earliest examples of an idle game genre is the PC clicker Progress Quest from 2002. This game was intended as a parody of the monotony of leveling up by having the game simply play itself but has achieved unimaginable success. It was followed by Cow Clicker in 2010, a game in which you click on a cow once every six hours.
Other publishers noticed its success and decided to add more features to make this genre more interesting and addictive. This practice has spilled over into the mobile sphere, resulting in hundreds of fun and popular idle games we have today, such as AdVenture Capitalist, Almost a Hero, Idle Miner Tycoon, and Clickpocalypse.
These games combine various mechanics, including:
- simple progression
- social network, and
The strong appeal of idle games
Although they started out as a snarky response to other genres, the success of idle games has been impressive, and for many reasons.
First of all, they’re undemanding distractions that can be seamlessly incorporated into our everyday lives, allowing us to pass the time when waiting for a bus, a dinner date, or our food order to be ready. Secondly, they support diverse themes appealing to various audiences. These may include sci-fi, fantasy, erotica, and more, offering something for everyone.
Furthermore, it feels rewarding to come back to an idle game after you haven’t opened it for some time. Unlike some games that punish you for forgetting about them for a while and then coming back, like crops perishing, cities getting sacked, resources stolen, etc., idle games welcome you back with a reward – a bunch of stockpiled currency. The longer you’ve left it alone, the more cash is added and the more expensive upgrades can be purchased. This might even make you feel like leaving the game for such a long period has been a smart decision.
Another force drawing players toward this genre is the indisputable sense of achievement and the pursuit of progress. Idle games make the user feel powerful and weak at the same time – the costly upgrades and items quickly become obtainable, only to become insignificant and replaced by better ones.
The mechanics of idle games can naturally ease the player from micro into macro gameplay. This means a game will start out with a simple and addictive mechanic like tapping to earn money. While this gameplay is fun, it quickly gets tiresome. However, a (good) idle game has a solution. After a few sessions, this mechanic transgresses into something else – management of all the resources you acquired and upgrades you purchased. The game is no longer simpleminded tapping but now requires smart planning and decision-making with long-term effects in mind.
Players’ experience aside, idle games offer plenty of opportunities for monetization as well. In addition to the usual banners and interstitials thrown in here and there, you can add lots of rewarded videos and IAPs. For example, if the player doesn’t want to wait for the currency to accumulate, they can view a video or purchase it with real cash. The players can also purchase items, boosters, and bonuses which he or she can’t afford with the in-game currency yet.
The future of idle
Although they remain in the shadow of hyper casual’s success, idle games experienced modest but steady growth in downloads and IAP revenues during 2018. This growth is mainly due to the emergence of a new publisher on the market – Merger Games and its game “Merge Plane” which recorded a staggering 50-55 million downloads in the second half of 2018. Some older titles also recorded significant growth, such as Idle Heroes with 13 million installs and $131 million in net revenue during 2018.
Hyper casual will probably remain the number one genre in the industry for a while but idle still has a lot to offer to players, publishers and advertisers alike. It will continue its success in the future, as it finds new ways to remain competitive. These strategies involve reaching out to various demographics, evolving with better designs and innovative themes, imagining and combining new mechanics, or even blending with other genres.
Given their monetization and advertising effectiveness and potential, we’ll definitely hear more about this genre in the years to come. So if you’re a publisher whose mind is set on trying your luck in idle games, let us know and we’ll be glad to help you monetize your product with our expert advice and unbiased analytics provider.