tweak or try again

Knowing when it’s time to move on from your game

In mobile game development, it’s crucial for game developers to act quickly. Particularly in hyper-casual, you need to be quick to ideate, quick to develop and quick to test. Otherwise you run the risk of spending time on an idea that’s not marketable or having your idea published by a competitor.

For many game developers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of investing time into an unmarketable concept. Coda data reveals that only around 3% of prototypes pass the first initial market test. This is not only indicative of the amount of competition but also may suggest that you are gratuitously investing time in fixing a game when it may be time to move on.  

In this article, we’ll explore what successful hyper-casual game developers have in common, how long they spend prototyping, how many different game ideas they go through for each game they publish, and the key metrics they take into account. 

Acting quick will increase your chance for success

Estimated to generate up to $2.5 billion of revenue annually, hyper-casual is a notoriously lucrative genre of mobile gaming.  However, it requires developers to be incredibly fast to keep up with demand in the market and the competition. As a rule of thumb, the faster you are to test your game idea, the better chance you have at publishing. 

Why is testing your game idea early on so important?

Publishing is all about developing a game that will draw users, and in turn, generate revenue. And, the most effective way to figure out whether your game idea is marketable is to directly test it in the market. The first test is not about the quality or the intricacies of your game; it’s about gauging interest and understanding whether it has the potential to become profitable. Your goal here is to create a very basic gameplay video to make sure you are not wasting time on an unpromising idea.

On average, seasoned developers spend no more than 5 days on their first gameplay video. For larger studios, this may be even quicker in 2-3 days. 

We offer a free, self-serve testing tool in order to make it as easy as possible for developers to test new game ideas and keep testing iterations of their games. 

An aspect to consider that many developers overlook is that hyper-casual game concepts are not marketable forever. There are multiple factors at play here, including trending game mechanics, popular cultural themes, and saturation in the market.  The most popular game concept can become yesterday's news in as little as three to four weeks. So, even if your first marketability test performs really well, you still need to be quick to build and launch. 

When is it time to move on to a new concept?

When deciding whether to improve upon a game or move on to a new concept, your initial test results are your best reference point. There are various benchmarks that publishers look at when determining the potential success of a game 

IPM or Installs per Mille can be an immediate giveaway for whether or not continue working on a game. Coda’s Chief Gaming Officer, Cemal Gunusen, provided more insight, explaining that “if an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.”

If an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.

Your CPI is another key performance indicator that can tell you whether or not you should invest more time in a game. Your CPI is largely determined by how desirable your game looks from a single gameplay video. On average, game developers should not spend more than 5 days on a gameplay video, with a timeframe of 2-3 days being ideal. If your CPI is close to the publishing benchmark, we recommend trying another iteration of your gameplay video, perhaps in different colourways or themes, to see if you can lower it further. If it is very high above the publishing benchmark, then we recommend moving onto another concept. 

These metrics act to gauge the overall marketability of your game, and should be used as cues as to whether or not to invest more time in a concept. By missing this small window of opportunity to either iterate or move on at the start of the prototyping stage, you not only lose time and resources but you drastically reduce your chances of publishing since competition is so high.

What to do if it’s time to move on

We’ve discussed ways that testing early can help avoid wasting time on an “unmarketable” game idea. However, more often than not (97% of the time), your test results will direct you to move on to a new concept.  In this case, there’s no secret. Your task is to prototype and test again, as quickly as possible. 

Successful developers will create and test around 10-15 games for every one game that they get published. 

While our key piece of advice to developers is to stay focused and not get discouraged, we are working to reduce this ratio through technology and tools that optimize the ideation and testing stage of game development. 

With a comprehensive view of market data, Coda’s AI-powered technology is able to detect signals of demand in the market and make predictions on hit game ideas. We share the latest marketable game concepts with Coda Partners every week in order to boost their chances of publishing. See how you can start receiving access to these concepts.

Last but not least,  there may be ways to  ‘recycle’ or repurpose your game into a trending concept that has greater marketability. If the core of your game is a popular game mechanic, you can look to change the theme or game design so that it resonates more with current trends. Take a look at our HyperCompact Games guide for more detail on these types of hybrid concepts.

It can be hard to let go of a game concept, particularly if it’s a concept you love and have spent countless hours creating. However, if you’re looking to publish hyper-casual games successfully, it’s imperative that you are fast in your development and only invest time in concepts that have a good chance of being published. At Coda we’ve designed our platform and tools to help streamline this process, so that you can test and iterate quickly, while working confidently on games that are more likely to be successful. Learn more about our capabilities and our platform by signing up for free.

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