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Hyper-casual games have permanently changed the app marketing playbook and automation is the driving force behind their rise. The Drum finds out the answers to a marketer's most vital question about these games - what works, and what doesn't?

While the gaming industry has continued to reach new and unprecedented heights, which has seen the industry taken on billion-dollar proportions, many local and mid-sized game developers are facing challenges centered around high-user acquisition costs, lack of game advice and mentorship, and lack of funding to fuel the growth of their mobile gaming apps.

This means they risk losing out on capitalising on the rise of hyper-casual games (HCG) which has seen increased interest throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as people are simply playing on non-gaming-specific devices they already owned — primarily things like smartphones and tablets.

The recently released Hyper-casual Gaming Report 2020 by app marketing analytics platform Adjust revealed that app installs more than doubled from December 2019 to March 2020 globally. Not only did people download more hyper-casual games, but data also showed sessions grew by 72% in March.

Gaming company Storms, a joint venture by Singapore-based telco Singtel, Thailand-based telco AIS, and South Korea’s SK Telecom, wants to address these challenges, David Yin, the chief executive officer of Storms says.

The Storms mobile app focuses on gaming news, games rewards, and community building. It also serves as a publisher, working with indie gaming studios in Southeast Asia and India, as compared to mid-core games from major publishers like Garena and Tencent. 

“With deep gaming expertise, coupled with strategic advantages from its telco investors, Storms is well placed in the gaming space both regionally and globally, to help game developers overcome the above mentioned challenges,” explains Yin, who previously worked at Google.

“Storms leverages upon its investors’ telco network and assets accumulating to 800 million gamers in the region, and also run strategic marketing initiatives centred around discounted user acquisition rates, joint publishing activities, and offer engagement solutions on hyperlocal games communities.”

Storms takes a diversified and data-driven approach to user acquisition by being channel-agnostic. It scales and invests in user acquisition across key channels such as Facebook, Google and Gaming Adnetworks. 

With a focus on data, Yin says Storms shifts budgets across the channels based on key performance indicators like Cost per Install (CPI) and Retention metrics to ensure profitability. Typically, a game with a CPI of less than US$0.25 would be profitable.

“While the conversion rate (click-to-install) for a hyper-casual ad will vary based on the ad format and the platform, a good conversion rate for Storms would be around 70%. The retention rate of a game is first and foremost impacted by its gameplay,” he adds.

“How ads might impact the retention rates would depend on its relevance in attracting the right users to the game. As a publisher we are of course betting on a high-quality game as the final goal, That is why Storms tests hundreds of ads focusing on finding gamers with higher lifetime value.”

Looking ahead after social distancing eases, Shawn Bonham, the president for Asia Pacific at Adjust notes that as HCG was a rapidly growing section of the mobile gaming ecosystem before the pandemic struck, and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to be so.

“Hyper casual is at the cutting edge of performance marketing, they are our most data-orientated clients, and everything is run on the finest margins. This single-minded dedication to data-led decision-making will mean there’s plenty of room for continued expansion," he explains.

"The reality is, many people in the mobile marketing ecosystem are either operating from a different set of motivations or are simply not educated enough on data-led decision-making. This means there is a lot of room for the hyper casuals to operate in - either by targeting innovative or underutilized channels that brand-focused marketers are not considering or by targeting users that other marketers don’t prioritize.”