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How to make a winning gameplay video for your prototype

Creating an effective gameplay video is imperative in order to get an accurate reading of the marketability of your game concept. Before publishing a hyper-casual game, a prototype concept needs to achieve certain benchmark metrics set by the mobile games publisher. Some of these metrics are found directly from a market test, where a gameplay video helps to determine the potential success of your game.

As a developer, you’ll have 15-30 seconds to impress your audience through this gameplay video to convince them that your game is worth downloading. For many, this may seem like a simple task of throwing together a few different scenes of your game together. However, it’s a process that’s easier said than done. While your game concept may have potential, it’s ultimately how you present it that can result in your game being published.

At Coda we have spent countless hours reviewing thousands of gameplay videos for various games. Along the way, we’ve discovered a number of best practices that have been proven to create more effective and engaging gameplay videos.

1. Include a Fail Scene

The best way to show a user how to play your game in a short period of time is to include a fail scene. A fail scene quite literally involves a video clip that shows the player failing a level. Including a fail scene in the first 5-10 seconds will set an example for the user of what not to do and will have them wanting to continue watching to see a subsequent win. It will also add a sense of difficulty to the game and have them questioning whether or not they could play the game themselves.

2. Use Eye-Catching Levels & Artwork

In your gameplay video, it’s important to catch the user’s attention. Most market tests are conducted on social media via the Facebook Ad network, so they are likely to appear in someone’s feed, rather than a viewer being forced to watch them as an interstitial. For this reason, best practice is to showcase levels that have eye-catching artwork or backgrounds and colours that are visually appealing.

3. Include a Callout message or Mission

You may have seen many market test gameplay videos that include a callout banner of some sort: “Save the Girl!”, “Harder than you think”, “I couldn’t reach level 10” and so on. While it may seem like a strange marketing technique, including a statement or callout engages with users and prompts them to view the video and understand the context behind the callout. Furthermore, specific messaging that challenges the user (“No one can reach level 94”) is also another technique that may encourage users to install the game and try for themselves.

4. Keep it simple!

While we want to grab the attention of users and have them install the game, it’s important to ensure that the overall gameplay is kept simple and uncluttered. This means editing out or cropping the gameplay recording so that the screen is not distracting with unnecessary UI elements or buttons.

Examples of effective market test videos

So now that we’ve given you the best practices to create an effective market test video, let’s see these techniques and tricks in action. Below is an example of an effective market test video that incorporates different elements we spoke of previously.

In this first video, we see a number of elements included that make it a great gameplay video. Immediately we are presented with an eye-catching level filled with colourful artwork and graphics. The overall gameplay is simple without any distracting UI elements seen and a strong callout message listed above. In the first 15 seconds, we see the user fail the level and in doing so now understand how to win the level.

In this second video, we see the effective use of a level that has a bright and eye catching design without being distracted by too many UI game elements. The video in its entirety is a fail scene accompanied by bitmoji visuals to create a sense of emotion for the audience. It also features an effective call-out message that prompts users to question whether they could get further than the user in the gameplay video.

Creating an effective gameplay video for your market test is essential to effective decision making in the publishing process. By using these best practices and techniques listed, you can be confident knowing that your audience is getting the best look into your game before they’ve even played it. Discover how the Coda Platform can help you to create and launch a successful hyper-casual game by creating an account today.

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4 Habits of Successful Hyper-casual Developers

When it comes to developing a hit hyper-casual game, your chances for success are not entirely based on luck. Any successful hyper-casual developer can tell you that it’s a lot of hard work, trial and error and identifying best practices that help optimise and streamline their development process.

At Coda, we’ve had the pleasure of working closely with many talented developers, even having had the chance to interview those that have created hit games. From observation and conversations, we’ve come to realise that many often share the same habits and best practices that help them to increase their chances of success. 

Keep reading as we identify four key habits successful hyper-casual developers share and how you can employ them in your day-to-day development process.

1. They identify trends in the market

One of the key habits of successful hyper-casual developers is the ability to identify trends in the hyper-casual market. You may find you would have little success creating a ‘simulation’ game, if the current trend of games being installed are ‘tap timing’ or ‘swerve’ games. This is why it is critical to identify trends in the ideation phase, as it will help influence the eventual game concepts you will create prototypes for.

 “Try to avoid being too innovative in the space and rather identify the gaps already present in the market and work to fill them.”

In our recent interview, Mubeen Iqbal from Arcadian Lab, the Pakistani based studio behind hit game Police Quest, elaborated further on the importance of identifying trends. “I would say that as a first recommendation you should look to identify trending mechanics and what’s popular in the market. Try to avoid being too innovative in the space and rather identify the gaps already present in the market and work to fill them.”

To identify these trends, there are a number of resources and tools that developers can use to help in their research. Many of these resources include third party platforms such as App Annie or Coda Platform, that reveal valuable insights into current hypercasual trends and top-charting games. 

2. They test their prototypes often

Without real user data, it can be difficult as a developer to make critical decisions about your most recent prototype. Whether it’s deciding whether to change your game level roadmap, or whether to scrap the game concept entirely, user data derived from market tests are fundamental to your decision-making process. 

Many successful hyper-casual developers navigate the early ideation phase through the use of rapid market testing. According to Coda’s observations, successful hyper-casual developers will test ~15 games for every 1 game they publish. This involves creating a gameplay video for your initial game concept, launching a market test and reviewing the results generally all within a week timeframe. 

The main point of rapid market testing is that it allows you to get an initial snapshot of your game’s metrics so that you can avoid wasting time on an unlikely-to-publish concept. While some developers prefer to conduct market tests independently, there are also many publishers that will market test your game for free. Coda in fact has a Self-serve Market Testing tool which allows you to launch a marketing test directly from the Coda Platform, streamlining the testing process and giving you transparency in your results. 

3. They start working with publishers early on

For many developers, working with publishers is often seen as one of the final stages of game development after your prototype has successfully passed a market test. However what some might not know is that working with a publisher early on in the ideation phase can give you a huge advantage and increase your chances of successfully publishing a game. 

The nature of publishing means that mobile game publishers receive up-to-date market intelligence and insight that can often be used to help identify trending game ideas and concepts. Nowadays, developers are no longer solely relied upon to come up with game ideas, as publishers become more involved in the ideation phase.

Depending upon the publisher, you may find that publishers are actively sharing game concepts through partner programs (at Coda we actually have this type of program, learn more here) or looking to work on a pay-per-prototype basis. In any relationship with a publisher there are advantages, as it creates an opportunity for mutual exchange of concept ideas, advice and insights from the publishing team. 

4. They create effective gameplay videos

Early on we mentioned the importance of rapid market testing. In order to get an accurate reading of your game’s performance, however, you need to ensure that you are creating an effective gameplay video that will attract an accurate reading of the marketability of your game.

Depending on the publisher you work with, you’ll generally need to provide a short 15-30 second video of your game. To create an effective gameplay video, we suggest including: 

  • A fail scene in the first 5-10 seconds: It will help demonstrate to the audience what not to do in the game and will have them watching to see how they win instead
  • Use eye-catching levels and artwork: best practice is to showcase levels that have eye-catching artwork or backgrounds and colours that are visually appealing.
  • Keep it simple: Ensure that the overall gameplay is kept simple and uncluttered by editing out or cropping out unnecessary UI elements or buttons.
  • Where applicable include a Callout message or Mission: including a statement or callout engages the audience and prompts them to view the video and understand the context behind the callout. 

While a little luck in hyper-casual development is always welcomed, it’s employing effective habits and executing tried and proven techniques that will help increase your chances of success. Identifying market trends, working with publishers, testing often and creating effective gameplay videos are some of these proven habits that will help optimise your development process.


October: Hyper-casual Market Insights Report

This month at Coda, we’re excited to kickstart a new series designed to inform and keep developers’ fingers on the pulse of hyper-casual trends and insights. In every monthly report, we’ll aim to provide you with an overview of the current trending game mechanics, top charting games and industry trends worth noting.

This information is collected from a combination of sources - including our in-house market intelligence platform (you can create your free account here) and insights from our expert gaming team at Coda who have a constant ear to the ground of all things hyper-casual.

Top Trending Mechanics

This month ‘Tap Timing’ has been dominating the charts as the top trending game mechanic with the most installs. Despite a 13% decrease month over month, the mechanic has been popular in top charting games including Restaurant Life, Spiral Roll and Little Alchemy 2. Within some trending ‘Tap Timing’ games, secondary mechanics such as ‘Saving’ and ‘Shooting’ have also been identified. 

Top Performing Games

This month’s top hyper-casual game was Acrylic Nails by Crazy Labs - a 3D simulation game that lets you become the nail technician with your own nail salon. From the colour down to the shape and design of the nails, you get to decide the final result for each new client. As you finish each level, you earn money that you can later spend to renovate your salon.

One of the reasons why we believe this game is so popular is down to the great execution of satisfying mechanics included in the game. From grinding away dirty nails, nail filing, shaping and painting designs - it includes all the parts of nail care that many people find satisfying and therapeutic.

October Industry Insights

In mobile gaming this month, we saw the unexpected rise of the hugely popular multiplayer game, Among Us. So popular is the game that even politicians are getting involved, with U.S Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) breaking records with her first Twitch stream of Among Us becoming one of the top three most viewed English language streams in the platform's history. With an estimated 3.92 million downloads in October alone, the mobile & desktop game has become a cult favourite reaching #1 in 33 countries. 

While Among Us doesn't fall into the genre of hyper-casual games, it does open up the conversation as to whether its success will bring new innovation to hyper-casual games in the months to follow.

One of the core attractions of Among Us is the multiplayer feature and the ability to connect and chat in real-time with friends locally or with strangers online. While the majority of hyper-casual games are single-player, we speculate that IO could become a top trending mechanic with a rise in the amount of hyper-casual IO games published.

Only time will tell if we see this new trend emerging, but you can stay up to date with the latest trends in hyper-casual with our Market Intelligence dashboard.  Join the Coda Platform to gain access to the dashboard and other developer tools that help you test and build better games, more efficiently.

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Studio Success: How Arcadian Lab achieved global success with Police Quest

This week Coda had the chance to sit down with Mubeen Iqbal, Product Manager at Arcadian Lab, the Pakistani based studio behind Coda’s latest hit game Police Quest. The recent success of the game is particularly exciting, as it is the second hit concept to originate from the Coda Partner Program.

What is a Coda Concept?

With a comprehensive view of all hyper-casual games in the market, Coda’s technology automatically tags games on the app stores and then consolidates and analyzes all market data to detect signals of demand in the market. We use these signals to make predictions and identify concepts that are likely to achieve a CPI below $0.20. 

What is the Coda Partner Program?

The Coda Partner Program offers select studios access to game concepts that have a high likelihood of becoming a chart topping hit. Coda concepts are made available directly on the Coda platform, so that partner studios can start prototyping right away. Our Games team also provides best practices and feedback to give developers the best chance of making their game a hit. 

Read on to discover more on how Mubeen and his team were able to publish their first hit game with Coda and have it reach #3 in the US iOS charts in less than a week. 

Q: Tell us about Arcadian Lab and your experience in hyper-casual games?

We are a mobile games studio based in Lahore, Pakistan with a team of 20 people who work on various aspects of game development. We started in 2018 and were originally working on simulation games but we realised this wasn’t a strong strategy for our studio. The success of this genre is based heavily on ASO and when Google’s algorithm changed, a lot of studios shut down. This was a warning call for us and at that point we asked ourselves, “Okay, what is out there in the market that is working right now?”. Initially we had no idea what hyper-casual even was, but then we started exploring and heading in this direction. 

Above: The Arcadian Lab team working on iterations of Police Quest.

Q: What did your game development process look like when you first started?

Initially when we started developing games we didn't know that you could work directly with publishers [like Coda] for creating games. We would look for inspiration in top charts and see what was trending in the market. Since we are mostly gamers, we like to play games, it helps us a lot in the sense that game development is a creative process where ideas must constantly keep spawning in your mind; our intuition helped us a lot in the idea generation process.

It was quite an eye-opener for us when we realised that publishers are there to help you develop your own games. That is when we got connected with publishers and started developing games in a more systematic and data-driven manner.

Q: As one of the early adopters of the program, what made you want to join?

The high quality of the Coda Platform in comparison to other publishers was something that stood out to us. Coda’s program releases new concepts to developers who don't have access to market intelligence or market insight. These developers might not understand what's going on in the hyper-casual landscape and Coda makes it easy for them to focus on concepts that actually work.

Once we started working directly with Coda, the way they worked with us so closely on the game was a major thing for us. It really made us feel that we have a very close connection with Coda and vice versa.

Coda’s program releases new concepts to developers who don't have access to market intelligence or market insight. These developers might not understand what's going on in the hyper-casual landscape and Coda makes it easy for them to focus on concepts that actually work.

Q. Can you walk us through the concept of Police Quest?

So in Police Quest, players get the chance to live the life of a police officer by performing every day [police] tasks. We packaged these tasks into a hyper-casual format and tried to include stereotypical concepts, for example policemen and donuts!

Q. Can you share the process behind Police Quest’s launch and how you worked with the Coda team?

This was our second project with Coda. The first prototype we submitted didn’t perform well and wasn't a good start for us. After this first prototype, we sat down with Coda and discussed going in another direction. We agreed upon creating a prototype for a police concept and came back after a week with a prototype that featured six different mini-games.

After creating the first prototype with six games, we uploaded it to the store and started to see some really nice KPIs. The Coda team helped us a lot when it came to the design and UI of the game, and their experience was apparent in the detailed feedback they gave. 

After that it all boiled down to retention, which hinged largely on the number of mechanics or mini-games we included. So in the second iteration, we added another six mini-games and then again in the third and fourth iterations. In every iteration we added about six mini-games until we got to a total of 23.

Q. What do you think made Police Quest so successful?

I think it has a lot to do with the user satisfaction that comes from each of the mini-games. When developing these ‘task-based’ games we were really focusing on the satisfaction a user would feel, since people normally enjoy the satisfaction element in games.

Above: Police Quest in production.

Q. What’s next for Arcadian Lab?

Currently we are a team of 20, but we are looking to expand and build out our team. While we’ve had great success in hyper-casual, we are also curious to explore other genres of games in the mid-core genre and perhaps others that would have a longer life cycle. 

Q. What would you recommend to developers who are just getting started with hyper-casual games?

I would say that as a first recommendation you should look to identify trending mechanics and what’s popular in the market. Try to avoid being too innovative in the space and rather identify the gaps already present in the market and work to fill them. 

The most important point is that if you’re a developer, you should aim to have a publisher working with you. Nowadays, publishers are very accessible and you can reach out to most of them online; they can help you with quite a lot of things.

Most importantly, there is nothing like working with a great team. I can’t emphasize enough on the importance of working alongside a great team. Had we not been working alongside a team that comprises of highly talented and smart people we would have never been able to accomplish the success we have today.

We’ll leave you with Mubeen’s recommendations. As you can see from his experience, one of the key factors of success is to create concepts based on trending mechanics. Coda Concepts are proven to have a better chance at success, and we are starting to see performance improving with each new game that our partners submit. 

So, if you’d like to make your development process more efficient and receive hit game ideas every week, have a look at the Coda Partner Program.

Join the Coda Partner Program


Staff Picks: Sarah from Marketing’s Top 5 Mobile Games

Meet Sarah

Sarah is one of our content managers at Coda and is in charge of helping to bring informative and interesting resources to developers. As a marketer and gamer, she took a moment to share with us her Top 5 Favourite Mobile Games. Take a read below and discover a new game worth playing!

Helix Jump


This game was published in 2018 by Voodoo and remains one of my favourite mobile games. When first playing it immediately reminded me of one of those maze pens that I used to have as a kid, where you would twist the pen around to guide the ball through the maze. Helix Jump is like this but vertical and tests your timing skills as the ball is consistently jumping. 100% would recommend playing if you haven’t yet!

Temple Run

Imangi Studios

There’s something about ‘Swerve’ mechanic games that I’ll never get tired of and Temple Run is one of them. Hailing from the Candy Crush era, Temple Run was a favourite in my teens and continues to be now. I instantly feel like Indiana Jones every time I play this and get obsessed with trying to get further than my previous score. Not to mention that weird cave monkeys chasing you also add to the entertainment.

Mr Gun


Mr Gun is one of those addicting games that are incredibly simple in design. At first glance, you would think that you might lose interest with the repetitive aim-and-fire mechanic. However, the studio's clever inclusion of different mafia bosses at the end of every level and the chance to unlock new more powerful weapons are what keeps you advancing through every level. A great example of a simple game mechanic done right!

Among Us

Innersloth LLC

It seems like everyone these days is talking about Among Us... and with good reason! If you haven't played this game yet, I'd highly recommend installing it right now. In a spaceship floating through space, you join the rest of your crew members (live players) in attempting to prepare the ship for departure with a set of mini tasks. But beware as there is an imposter on board whose objective is to sabotage and murder everyone involved!

This live multiplayer game requires teamwork, especially in emergency meetings as you try to identify who is the imposter. I'm either left laughing or shaking my head as I deliberate in the chat room on who the imposter could be. It's a fresh new pace for mobile games so if you haven't already, do yourself a favour and try this game.

Tiny Wings

Andreas Illiger

My brother introduced me to this game years ago when it first came out and I remember spending hours trying to beat my own high score. If you liked Dune from Voodoo, then you'll love Tiny Wings. 

As a bird, you wake up and fly by holding down the screen and creating a liftoff from each rolling hill. As you fly, the night is quickly approaching and it's game over if it reaches you. The best aspect of this game is the satisfaction of timing a takeoff perfectly and getting powerups with each perfect consecutive jump. A classic game that's simple and entertaining!

So there you have it, five new mobile games for you to try out that are guaranteed to help you pass the time and keep you entertained. If you’re working on a game that you think will be a new favourite in the market, submit your game idea on our platform here!

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Three ways to optimise your in-game user experience

When developing a hyper-casual game, many developers are often in a race against time to get it finished. The competitive nature of the industry means that successful hypercasual developers will often create 15 games for every 1 game published and will take up to 5 days to create a gameplay video for a market test. Such a high turnover of concepts often leaves in-game experience optimisations as an afterthought for many developers. 

While they may be perceived as the finishing touches to a game, aspects such as pace, haptics, game physics and animations are all fundamental to creating a great player experience. These small but mighty details are effectively what can deter or attract users to stay longer in your game, ultimately influencing your retention rates and overall revenue per user. 

Keep reading as we explore the best practices developers should utilise to improve not only their user game experience but their chances of successfully publishing their next game. 

Keep your game lightweight & easy to follow

A good player in-game experience starts off with a good foundation. When it comes to hyper-casual, we recommend that your game is easy to follow, which means creating an onboarding that is simple, easy for the user to succeed and relies on animations rather than text instructions.

The size of your game can also make a difference to the in-game experience, both in terms of game performance and overall retention. Generally speaking, a heavier game will require more resources from a device to run it and ultimately will take longer to install, potentially making users question their need for your game before installing it. For example for Android games, it’s reported that every 6 MB increase to an APK’s size will see a decrease in the install conversion rate by 1%

Haptic feedback and setting the pace

Skipping the inclusion of haptics in your hyper-casual game is a missed opportunity to create depth for the user game experience. Haptic feedback includes things such as vibrations or sounds that reflect what is occurring inside the game. While it may seem like a small detail, including haptic feedback is a small addition that will help to make the overall gameplay experience feel more ‘alive’ and realistic for users. 

Alongside this, it is equally as important to eliminate any gameplay lag and ensure that the overall pace of your game is optimum. Reflecting upon in-game analytical tools will help identify drop off points of users, and highlight where the game pace may need to be tweaked. Using these metrics can also help to eliminate areas of game lagging, alongside testing your game on multiple devices and on different networks to pinpoint any bugs.

Create a seamless user-game experience

There’s nothing worse than starting a new game, only to find the animations are laggy or the physics are completely off. While it may seem obvious, it’s important to ensure that the overall ‘feeling’ of your game is as seamless as possible. What we mean by this is by ensuring that the overall physics of your game is accurate, so that the user feels in control of their actions in the game. 

Furthermore, it’s equally as important to ensure that the in-game animations, from player movements to new levels loading, are as smooth as possible and do not deter from the overall gaming experience. 


In a rush to create your concept and prepare a gameplay video for testing, it’s important not to forget about the finishing touches. Functionality and design aspects such as haptic feedback, smooth animations and game physics can make a huge impact upon a user’s first impression of your game. We recommend keeping these best practices in mind for your next game project and we’re sure you’ll see the benefits in your gaming metrics to follow. 


Coda’s Latest Release Police Quest Hits Top Charts

Ever wanted to experience what it would be like to be a police officer? Now you can take the law into your own hands with Coda’s latest title, Police Quest. This 3D hyper-casual game is packed with a tonne of mini-games inside, challenging you to a new style of game with every level!

Starting as a police officer, it is the player’s objective to pass through each level and test their skills in law enforcement. As they progress each level, they increase their standing from Police Officer to Sherrif, Sheriff to Agent and so on. Setting a different pace to your average hypercasual game, Police Quest is packed with mini games changing in every level. From target practice, highway patrol, cleaning trooper cars, sorting doughnuts a more, you’ll be tested on your tap timing, aim and memory abilities!

What makes this achievement so special is that Police Quest was actually a concept that hailed from the Coda Partner Program. Arcadian Lab identified the concept for Police Quest on the concept store and after testing the initial prototype, saw great results. From there they collaborated with Coda’s gaming experts to produce the hit title now climbing charts. 

Thanks to a great collaboration with Arcadian Lab, Police Quest has already seen great success. At the time of publishing, the title has risen through the charts in less than one week to #3 in the US iOS Games! 

Try it out for free today on the App Store!

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How Clever Turtle’s Brick Builder Reached the Top Charts with Coda’s Partner Program


Michele Matriciani from Clever Turtle was, like mainly hyper-casual developers, feeling stalled in the ideation phase of his game developments. Looking to invest his time in concepts that had proven marketability, he joined Coda’s Partner Program and chose to work on the concept idea for Brick Builder, a concept that was identified by the Coda team as a high potential game concept. After creating a prototype, Michele worked hand-in-hand with the Coda’s gaming experts and their Market Intelligence dashboard to boost his retention and user session times significantly. 

These improvements led to Brick Builder becoming his first hyper-casual hit and the first Coda concept out of the Partner Program to reach Top 10 charts, in over eight countries globally. Keep reading to learn how he did it.

Top 10 in 8 Countries

The Initial Prototype

Michele’s main goal was to create an entertaining game concept that would be successful in its first marketability test. When it came to concept generation though, Michele explained that “Initially, I didn’t really research. I would just start building any idea that came to mind.” This method was failing to produce the results he was after, which led him to join the Coda Partner Program.

Proven Game Concepts from the Partner Program

After becoming a Partner Studio of the program, Michele gained access to a list of concepts every week that had proven marketability. As Michele recounts, “It gives you a better chance to get good test results on your game because it shares ideas based on current trends. So, I can just go and look at the latest good game concepts that Coda has shared and start from there.” After seeing a concept submitted with a brick building theme, Michele got to work with the help of Coda’s Market Intelligence dashboard to create the first prototype of Brick Builder.

Clever Turtle's Brick Builder in progress

Key Development & Design Changes

The initial market test for Brick Builder was promising, however there was certainly room for metrics to improve. The initial prototype featured one simple game mechanic, allowing users to collect bricks and complete a level once reaching the finish line. This basic model gave a RRD1 of 36% with a user session time of around 630 seconds. Michele then moved to collaborate directly with the gaming experts at Coda to create numerous design and game mechanic optimisations. 

Increasing Retention & User Session Times

To increase the overall time that users spent playing the game, a meta-game was introduced at the end of each level which saw users tapping & holding to build a castle or tower with the bricks collected in the completed level. This introduction of a meta-game was also accompanied by the addition of new bonus levels that featured vibrant new artworks and a slightly different objective to excite users and create more variety in the gameplay. 

In a bid to improve the overall retention, Michele worked with the Coda team to improve the artistic assets and depth of the game. “We spent some time on game design, adding a shop with new skins and additional prizes, and optimizing the game. Coda provided new 3-D models and graphics to make the game more engaging. I was in contact with the team every day throughout the process.”

Results that led to Top Chart Success

Thanks to the incorporation of new levels, meta-game and design assets to the game, Brick Builder’s in-game metrics saw a large increase. Retention rates increased by 24% with the game achieving a new RRD1 of 45%. User session times also saw a significant increase by 23%, with the average user session time increasing from 630 seconds to 800 seconds. 

These optimisations and improvements prior to launch were integral to Brick Builder’s eventual success. In the first week after launching, the hit concept reached the Top 10 Game Charts in eight different countries including USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, UK, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Ready to make your next concept a hit?
Join the Coda Partner Program


Masterclass #3: How to increase your retention

In hyper-casual publishing, the user retention rate is one of the key metrics used to assess the potential of an upcoming prototype. It refers to the percentage of returning users who have played your game over a period of time since installing it. The better retention you have, the higher ARPU you will have and the more revenue you will generate over the lifetime of your game.

While you may have an entertaining concept that attracts users on the first day, you will still need to find ways to excite and inspire users to return even on Day 7. For most publishers, the benchmark retention rates are somewhere between 35%-40%+ for RRD1 and between 10-15%+ for RRD7. Achieving these metrics is often easier said than done with many developers having to tweak multiple components of their games to find the right balance. 

In the final instalment on our Masterclass series, we partnered up with Coda’s gaming experts to reveal insights into user retention in hyper-casual gaming. With their help, we’ve come up with the best practices and techniques that developers can use to help improve your retention from Day 1 to Day 7. 

High RRD1 depends on first-impressions

When it comes to RRD1 in hyper-casual gaming, first impressions are everything. In the first few minutes of a user downloading your game, they need to experience the best of what your game has to offer that will ultimately drive them to return in the days to follow. To give your user the best gaming experience, it’s essential to find the right balance of effective onboarding, level of difficulty and ad frequency in your game. 

Clear & Effective Onboarding

Hyper-casual games typically have simple game mechanics that make it possible for anyone to pick up and play regardless of their gaming skill. It’s therefore vital that the onboarding of your game is as clear and as obvious as possible. You ultimately want your user to understand what the objective of the game is within the first 10 seconds and to understand the player controls. To avoid localisation issues later in publishing, we also recommend opting for symbols or animations rather than wording during the onboarding process. 

Impossible to fail

In the first few minutes of gameplay, it’s crucial for users to feel as though they are skilled at the game and can continue to win the more they play. To achieve this, we recommend that you make it almost impossible to fail in the first few levels. 

We’re not saying that you need to make your game extremely easy or without challenge, rather that you want to guide your user through a natural progression of difficulty. In most onboarding, the first level involves little to no obstacles so that it’s impossible for the user to lose. The levels that follow may introduce new roadblocks or obstacles that slowly onboard users at the same time. 

Fine-tune your game to achieve high RRD7

Increasing your retention rate on Day 7 can be a little bit more complicated in comparison to retention rates on Day 1. By this stage, a user has had your game on their device for at least seven days, so what is it about your game that should draw them back? Certain practices and techniques are subjective based upon the mechanics or functions of your game. In saying this, however, there are some optimisations that developers can look to utilise to improve upon to increase their RRD7:

Optimise Ad Rule Sets

Ad rule sets will define the number of ads, placement and frequency of the ads that are shown in your game. While these rules are generally set by a publisher’s monetization team, it’s important to understand their impact upon the overall user experience. For example, too many ads can have a detrimental effect on users, obviously prompting them to exit the game.

Focus on improving overall game performance

While it may not seem to have an obvious impact, spending time on improving the overall quality of your game’s performance can have positive effects on your user retention. Coda’s gaming experts encourage developers to focus on improving the overall ‘feeling’ of the game, such as the controls, making sure the pace of the game is optimum, haptics, eliminating gameplay lag and ensuring that physics and animations are applied seamlessly.

Create variety in your game to delight users

Creating variety in your game is crucial to retaining users in the days following an initial download. This variation can be applied to many aspects of your game, from creating variations in the difficulties and progress of levels or even adding a new supporting mechanic or metagame if your gameplay is too repetitive. 

Since every game concept and mechanic is different, there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution that will automatically increase the retention of every game. Rather, there are a number of techniques and tweaks that you can utilise as a developer to help magnify the exciting aspects of your game. 

When looking to increase your retention, put yourself in your users’ shoes and try to imagine how a new feature, varying levels, fewer ads or better game performance will impact the likelihood of them returning. Test your results through market testing (we have a great tool for that here), measure the results of your changes and tweak again until you hit the retention sweet spot. 


Masterclass #2: How to Increase your ARPU

Developing a hyper-casual game involves not only creating a great concept but ensuring that your game is profitable during and after the initial launch. For the most part, the publisher will design & optimise the monetization strategy, but there are aspects that developers can shape to ensure that their game can achieve maximum profitability.

In the second installment of our Masterclass series, we’ll explore the different aspects of game design that developers can utilise to help increase their average revenue per user (ARPU). Furthermore, we’ll explore ad set rules and how publishers can work with you to improve your game’s profitability in the long run.

ARPU is a reflection of your monetization strategy

The average revenue per user or ARPU is the average amount of monthly revenue that you earn from each user in your game. It’s calculated by dividing total revenue by the number of customers you have in a given period of time. Another common metric that publishers will look at is the average revenue per daily active user or ARPDAU, that follows the same equation yet for a daily time period and using the daily number of users. 

Both of these metrics are important and used on a broad level to understand how your monetization strategy is performing within the game. This monetization strategy is largely formed around revenues that you receive from each user from ads, In-App purchases (IAP) and/or subscriptions.

Generating revenue with good game design

The best way to create strong revenue for your game is by ensuring that the overall foundation of your game design is monetization friendly. For developers, this means visualising how their game will be monetized and designing their game to utilise those different revenue sources.

To optimise the game design for ad revenue, it’s important for game developers to consider the types of ads that will exist in their game and plan accordingly. For example, if you plan to use rewarded videos, you should identify key opportunities in your level gameplay (double points, a retry of a level etc) where you can present a rewarded video and design accordingly. Furthermore, it’s crucial to ensure that your game mechanic (swiping, tapping etc) doesn’t interfere with ads. Make sure users won’t accidentally touch or swipe an ad while playing the game.

Developers should think long-term about what the most effect ad placements will be

While In-app purchases (IAP) do not make up a huge portion of game revenue in hypercasual, it’s still important to consider what types of in-game features you’d like to monetize so that you have a well-polished game economy. Depending on the scenario, adding a metagame to your concept could pose additional opportunity to create IAP or new ad placements. This extends to games looking to feature a subscription model, in which case you will need to consider which features will be given to users on a regular basis should they opt to subscribe with a monthly fee. 

Different types of revenue sources ultimately contribute to your overall ARPU and while every concept is different, it’s essential to create a well-designed game ready for monetization. 

Finding the optimal ad rule sets

Once you have a strong game design that is responsive and monetization friendly, it’s time to look at the ad rule sets that form your game’s monetization strategy. These ad rule sets will determine the ad frequency, length of ads and ad placements that will appear in your game.

Theoretically, the more ads you show in a game session to a user, the higher the ARPU will be. However, too many ads are likely to deter users and ultimately lower overall retention. Like anything, it’s key to find the right balance for your game.

If launching your game with a publisher, ad set rules are generally defined and optimised by a monetization team. That’s not to say that you will be in the dark, as monetization teams will often work hand in hand with the developer and the games team to discuss how to optimise revenues.

Both pre and post-launch market testing will help in measuring the overall impact of your ad rule sets. Both the monetization and games team will refer to the test results to ensure that there is a balance between user engagement and ads and user drop off, so as not to negatively impact the overall game experience for users.

While the overall monetization strategy is led by the monetization teams of publishers, it’s up to developers to create a strong game foundation that will help to support and boost monetisation efforts. By creating thoughtful in-game economies, determining the most effective ad placements and identifying in-app purchase opportunities through functions or metagames, they can move forward confidently knowing they are setting their game up for success.