Simulation games are no new thing in the industry. From a random goat terrorising a town to an oddly realistic truck simulator, these peculiarly satisfying and relaxing titles have been a favourite among the gaming industry for years.
Over the last year, we’ve seen an influx of simulation games in hyper-casual. Painting nails. Sculpting pots. Even designing phone cases. Simulation has slotted itself neatly into the library of hyper-casual sub-genres. And it’s evident that it’s here to stay.
But what’s with this sudden trend, and how do you find and come up with your own concepts for simulation games? That’s what we’re going to explore.
Please note, we’ve suggested a few of our own tools in this article. You’re more than welcome to explore these (they’re all on our website). But whether you use us or not, we still recommend having similar tools in place when doing your own research and developing your masterpiece.
Let’s get to it.
Emphasis on ‘satisfying’
Hyper-casual simulation games tend to take everyday tasks, and turn them into a fun, simple, and most importantly, satisfying experience. They’re not difficult at all, and sometimes they’re more like an interactive tutorial – ‘push this button to make something happen.’ The challenge is minimal. But the fun lies in the satisfaction.
You could technically turn anything into a simulation game. That’s the beauty of it. But when coming up with your own concepts, you’ll mainly want to either:
- Make it relatable. Something people can identify with or they’ve had a similar experience. You can go niche with this (a great way to beat the competition), but you want to make sure a large audience can relate to it. If it’s too obscure, you might not have a big enough pool of players to get your return on investment.
- Follow a trend. This is probably the most common route with simulation games. Don’t underestimate the power of TikTok or Instagram when it comes to new trends. A soap-cutting game a few years back probably would have seen little to no success. Now? It’s trending. Even the hashtag #ASMR has taken off, and the idea of watching satisfying videos is a fan favourite. You can easily find ideas on these platforms.
But keep them simple
That’s one of the biggest challenges with this genre. Turning a satisfying video or idea into a simple mechanic and game. But you’ll need to keep it intuitive and easy to play. The emphasis for this sub-genre really is satisfaction.
Take Acrylic Nails! as an example. You can pick different colours, gems, cutouts and molds. But the mechanic always comes down to swiping. And the levels are always around 30 seconds long. The motivation and satisfaction is behind painting perfect nails.
Current trends in the market
Like we said, you really can make a simulation game out of anything. Here’s a table of the top-trending games on the app store, and what theme they’ve picked:
A recent viral trend of injecting colour into jelly to create jelly art has hit social. These videos tick the box for both creative and satisfying, and have made for the perfect simulation game. Each level is quick and simple, not too complicated, and satisfying to complete.
A collection of essentially ASMR videos turned into a game. You can arguably turn each level into a simulation game of its own. But the reason why it works is because #ASMR is a popular fad at the moment.
Running your own nail salon. There are quite a few features to this game, but the core mechanic is simple (just swiping), and the levels are short and sweet. You can argue this is following a trend as well, as more nail art videos have entered the social space.
A combination of trading and popping levels. This simulation game has a couple of different approaches to satisfaction. The trading element is all about getting the best deal, so requires some level of thinking. They then balance this with the satisfying element of popping things. But the mechanics still remain simple and easy.
A combination of trend and relatable. Makeover videos have been around for years, but have recently skyrocketed on social media. This game takes the elements of a makeover, layers on different parts, but again keeps the mechanics simple and intuitive (just swipe the screen).
Similar to Makeover Studio 3D, but this game purely focuses on haircuts. Again it sticks to one mechanic, swiping. The rest of the game is layered with different haircut options, colouring, etc.
How to find fresh ideas for Simulation games
So how do you find the next chart-hitting hyper-casual simulation game? There’s a few routes you can take. Aside from brainstorming about relatable everyday tasks or activities (and guessing whether or not they could be good), we reckon you should do one of the following, if not all.
1. Research your competitors
It’s always a great start to take a look at what your competitors are doing. From ideation, ad creatives, to app store descriptions, you should have a look at what the best trending games are about and dissect them.
There are tools out there to help you with this. We have our own, called Market Intelligence. It’s free, and lets you filter down by sub-genres and top trending games.
2. Get on social media
This is where all of the new trends are. We recently wrote an article on this, which you can read here. But in short, you should be following hashtags like #ASMR, #TrendingTikToks and #OddlySatisfying to get an idea of the latest trends. And keep an eye on that trending tab on Twitter.
3. Research the best simulation games
As mentioned, simulation games have been around for ages. Head on over to Steam or the console shops, take a look at the larger simulation games, and experiment with pocket or bite-sized versions. It’s already been proven that people like the idea. You’ll just need to experiment as to whether it’ll work on mobile.
4. Cheat and have a gander at different concepts
This one specifically applies to Coda Games, if we’re honest. We have a concept store, which is a shop full of tested concepts. You can browse through and pick and choose one or use it for inspiration when brainstorming your own ideas.
Find out if they work
It’s one thing brainstorming a bunch of ideas, but next is to find out if they’ll work. Typically, you’ll want to work on a prototype as quickly as possible and get it out before the trend disappears (or gets scooped up by a competitor). We’d recommend building prototypes and testing them. But you can take it a step further.
We have a tool called Marketability testing, which lets you test gameplay videos rather than prototypes. So all you need to do is build quick videos of all of your different simulation ideas, send them out to test, gather the results, and then start prototyping.
This may sound like an extra step, but it can save you time in the long run. You may be working away on one idea, when actually another idea in your scrapbook may be the winner. And as these trends are so quick and fleeting, it would be a shame if a competitor picked it up, just because it was lower in your queue of ideas.
KPIs to target
If you do decide to test out the gameplay videos, then we recommend hitting a CTR of at least 5+, before you take the game through to the prototype stage.
What are you waiting for?
Hopefully this has been a good guide in helping you get started. If you have any questions, or want to learn more, get in touch with us here. We’d love to have a chat. Also we do share a lot of content regularly, so if you don’t want to miss our next update, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter (head here and scroll down to get there).