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GameDev’s Guide for Pitching to Publishers with your Hyper-Casual Game

Editors note: This article was written by Sarah Impey, Marketing Manager at GameAnalytics. You can find the original article here.

Publishers see lots of pitches from hyper-casual game developers. They’re looking for very specific things and they can afford to be picky. So here’s our guide to exactly what publishers expect from you and how you can show them your game ticks all the boxes.

Pitching hyper-casual games is different to pitching any other kind of product

If you’ve been reading our blogs about developing hyper-casual games, you’ll know it’s all about speed and testing. You have to create a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible and then test, test, test to see if it’s likely to be marketable, scalable, and profitable.

Publishers are working on the same premise – it’s all about speed and testing. You need to show them what they want to see as quickly as possible and back it all up with your testing results. And it’s not just about the game. Publishers are also looking at you and deciding if you’re the kind of developer they want to work with.

Part one: your game

Hyper-casual is a very specific genre. You’ll need to show that your game has all the elements that have been proven to make these games successful:

  1. A clear and compelling core gameplay loop
  2. Smooth player controls and interactions that directly affect the outcome of the game
  3. A process of reward and feedback to keep your players engaged
  4. Clear goals that give a sense of progression to the core gameplay loop
  5. An accessible user interface and an attractive visual style
  6. Enough content to keep players coming back after seven days
  7. A reliable system for testing, tracking, and improving your game
  8. Any extra assets you have, like trailers, creatives, and ads

Still developing your game? Here’s are a few guides you can follow:

Part two: your testing results

It’s no good telling a publisher how great you think your game is, if you don’t have the stats to back it up.

Ultimately you need your testing results to show that your game has:

  1. High enough IPM (installs per mille)
  2. Low enough CPI (cost per install)
  3. Enough appeal to keep players engaged (retention rates)

Our GameDev Toolbox has all the products and services you need to measure these stats and get them where they need to be.

What stats should you be hitting?

We’ve listed out some rough benchmarks below for what KPIs you should be getting. Pretty much all of these stats are from our Benchmarks+ platform. Which now has a free tier, meaning you can now see key KPIs across all metrics and genres for 2019. Sign up for free here.

So here are some good baseline figures – including the minimum you’ll need to be viable (to be in the top 25% of games) and what’ll really catch a publisher’s eye (top 2%).

CTR

To be viable: 4%

To be in the elite: 10%

CPI

To be viable: around $0.50

To be in the elite: around $0.20

Retention

To be viable: roughly 35% day one retention, 8% day seven, and 5% day 14.

To be in the elite: roughly 50% day one retention, 17% day seven, and 10% day 14.

Keep in mind, the CTR can be often higher on some ad networks. And if Android is also included, then CPIs can also be lower. It’ll also depend on the publisher you’re speaking to. So make sure to use these as a very rough guide.

These aren’t the only metrics that publishers will use to assess your game. But they’re the key ones. As long as you make it clear and readable, you can include any metrics you think show your game’s potential.

Part three: your pitch

You have a lot of information to get across. So you’ll need to be thorough, but concise. And nothing will impress them more if you come prepared and ready. Here are the topics you’ll need to cover:

Introducing your team

Keep it very succinct. Just say who each member is, what they do, and what their credentials are. There’s no need to go into great detail.

Your game’s ‘elevator pitch’

Keep this to one or two sentences. Explain the concept in its most simple form. And be sure to get across what makes it different – this is what’ll make you stand out the most!

The key details about your game

This is all the information we covered in part one. Cover each subject with just a sentence or two.

Your metrics

This is everything we covered in part two. There’s no need to write around these figures. Just give them the data in a clear, easy to read way.

Your plan for next steps

It’s good to have suggestions for what you’ll do next if the publisher agrees to work with you. Let them know how much development time you’ll need, how much it’ll cost and what you expect to achieve.

You can also propose a monetization model. How does your game make money? How could you develop and improve this model over time? What are you testing, and why?

Part four: how to avoid common mistakes

Present yourself as a long-term partner, not a one-time seller

If a publisher decides to give your game the green light, you don’t just sign some forms and then sit back while the money rolls in. Getting published is just the start.

You’ll need to show them you’ll be continually testing, iterating, and improving your game. You need to show you’ll work with them in the long term to make your game a success.

Show don't tell

When you’re presenting something subjective, like your art style or core gameplay loop, let your work speak for itself. If you tell a publisher you have a ‘brilliant art style’ or ‘amazing gameplay’, it adds nothing and sounds a bit pushy. Just show them what they need to see and let them make their own judgements.

When you’re presenting something objective, like your retention rates or cost per install, let the metrics do the talking. Saying ‘we have brilliant day one retention rates’ is of no value – that’s just your opinion. Saying ‘we have 40% day one retention rates’ is what makes an impression.

And if your metrics aren’t quite high enough? That’s sometimes OK, because that is what they’re there for. But you need to share with them what your plans are if you want them to take you seriously.

Show potential, not a polished product

You want a publisher to see you as someone who knows game development and the hyper-casual market inside out. So you should be pitching a minimum viable product with potential and good metrics. That shows you’re developing quickly and testing constantly.

A lot of developers pitch fully polished games that they’ve already poured huge amounts of time and money into. This just shows they’re not developing in the fast, efficient, hyper-casual way.

We have all the tools you’ll need to make the perfect pitch

Sign up for Coda Platform and GameAnalytics (it’s free) and you’ll already be halfway there. If you’ve got a good game concept, both GA and Coda's tools will help you test, track, and improve its performance. And when you’re ready to pitch it to a publisher, you’ll have all the metrics you need.

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2020 in Metrics: Understanding Casual and Hypercasual Gaming Markets

Editors note: This article was originally published by Ioana Hreninciuc, CEO of Game Analytics. You can check out the original here.

A lot has changed over 2020 - especially the gaming market. But what are these changes? And what do you need to know? Using data from Benchmarks+, we cover just that.

2020’s been a year like no other. Casual and hypercasual gaming has fared better than most industries – overall playtime has been consistently up by around 15% on previous years. But when all of our usual social norms have been upended by global lockdowns, how do we make sense of the player metrics we rely on?

I recently hosted a webinar on this topic. Using Benchmarks+ from GameAnalytics, I pulled some of the most telling player data from the first eight months of 2020. I dived into the key metrics like retention, session lengths, and playtime. And I did a deep dive specifically on hypercasual – comparing the different app stores and regions.

Here’s a summary of the trends I found that will be most useful for developers to understand.

The differences between iOS and Android

It’s important not to assume metrics should be the same across both platforms. They rarely will be. There are fundamental differences that show up in the data.

Android has lower retention rates across all casual and hyper-casual games

Day-seven retention is generally the ‘golden metric’ of player engagement. It’s a highly important stat to consider when you’re testing your game. But it differs across platforms.

The top iOS games get around 25% day-seven retention. But on Android, the top games get roughly 21%. Android’s figure also seems more affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a 1.5% to 2% drop. iOS had a smaller drop, and recovered more quickly.

There are lots of reasons why the two platforms differ so much. There are far more Android devices than there are iOS devices. And Android devices have higher error rates. This is most pronounced in China, where there are multiple Android app stores.

Android has lower retention rates across all casual and hyper-casual games

The top hypercasual games on iOS have about 21% day-seven retention. For Android, it’s just 14%. So the top iOS games get 50% more players returning after seven days.

iOS Day 7 Retention

Android Day 7 Retention

That’s a big difference. So when you compare your metrics across the two platforms, you can’t judge them the same way. Looking at LTV (the average ‘lifetime value’ of a player), rather than retention, will give you a clearer picture of your game’s performance.

Surprisingly, Android players show higher playtime

That’s right – Android players play fewer days, but log more playtime overall. ASL (average session length) on iOS is pretty stable, and only decreases late in the holiday season. Android’s ASL started the year about 20% higher. Its seasonal drops are generally bigger, but it’s still solidly ahead of iOS in 2020. Android players also post more individual play sessions.

It’s hard to know why this happens. Maybe Android players play more ‘snackable’ games, or maybe the higher error rate means they just have to restart more.

With all these contradictory trends, LTV analysis is essential

Looking at a single engagement stat isn’t enough. If you focus only on retention, playtime, or session count, these differences between platforms will always skew your results.

That’s why it’s better to focus on LTV. Observing your ad revenue and IAP revenue in the same place will help you optimize for monetization, rather than engagement.

The differences between regions

As if the differences between platforms weren’t enough to factor in, we also see variability between different international markets.

North America has a more variable ASL than Europe

Hypercasual games are still very popular in North America and Europe. But the ways people play are very different.

ASL in North America has gone up and down a lot in 2020. And there’s a clear pattern that tracks with the Covid-19 lockdowns. In Europe, it’s more stable – smaller dips and smaller spikes, with much less correlation with lockdowns. The ALS for top games in North America is between 10 and 30 minutes, whereas it’s slightly higher in Europe – between 15 and 35 minutes.

While Europe generally has lower eCPM (cost per 1,000 ad impressions), it has lower CPI (cost per install) and higher session lengths.

The Asian market is behind for now, but it’s growing fast

The ASL in Asian countries has been about 30% lower than in North America and Europe in 2020. The top games get roughly 10 to 25 minutes.

There’s a clear Covid pattern too. China, for example, locked down earlier than most countries and opened up earlier too – we see this reflected in the average ASL.

We’re expecting the Chinese market to keep growing. The Chinese tech giant TenCent recently took a minority stake in prolific hypercasual developer Voodoo (the makers of Aqua Park). And publishers are getting better at localizing games for the complicated Chinese market.

What we’ve learned in 2020 and what we predict

Here are the three main takeaway from the trends we’ve looked at:

1. The usual trends for player behavior don’t apply in 2020

The Covid-19 lockdowns have their different timings have caused sharper spikes and dips in playtime and retention, compared to previous years. And long-standing trends like lower playtimes on weekdays have been largely absent so far in 2020. So be wary about comparing this year’s metrics to that of previous years.

2. When metrics vary, focus on LTV

Testing on Android and iOS will give you very different results – often in unexpected and contradictory ways. So focusing on retention will make it difficult to properly assess how your prototypes are performing. To see through the fog of platform differences, focus on LTV.

3. Asia is the next growth market

We expect a new hyper-casual growth wave in Asia to arrive soon – particularly in China. More publishers are heading into this market. And with platforms like WeChat and the already enormous gaming market, all the infrastructure is already in place for an explosion of hypercasual games.

With the right tools, you can track these trends and spot the opportunities

The complexity of the trends we’ve discussed can be an obstacle or an opportunity. It just depends on how well you can measure and analyze the data.

Get these insights on the go

All the metrics we used for our webinar came from Benchmarks+. And you can already get a 20% discount on the full service with the discount code ‘insights2020’.

You can now track your ad revenue on GameAnalytics

We’ve partnered up with MoPub to bring you ad revenue data, so you can track that all-important LTV. Get started on our new Ads Dashboard for free.

And boost your optimization with A/B testing

You can A/B test ads, assets, and features in your game and use our remote configs to set them live. Get unlimited access until 2021.

Pick the right partner services with our GameDev Toolbox

On GameDev Toolbox, you can find some of the best tools and services in the gaming industry – fully integrated and tested with GameAnalytics. If you want to take advantage of the upcoming boom in the Chinese market, our partners like Adjust and TopOn can give you all the tools you need.