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This Week In LiveOps #5: How to evolve from Hyper to Hybrid
Stealth Master has evolved from Hyper to Hybrid using deeper gameplay and well-executed liveops. How? They deliver clever retention tactics to keep players coming back again and again.
Hypercasual is dead, right? Isn’t that what everyone is saying?
We’ve heard it over and over again. Hyper is out and hybrid is in. We get it.
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But what does that mean for the studios that rely on the "old hypercasual success formula?"
Well, this week we’re taking a look at a game that’s evolving from a hyper to hybrid. And how they have apparently seen a lot of success from it.
The game in question? Stealth Master: Assassin Ninja by SayGames.
Let’s dig in.
SayGames, is a classic hypercasual studio with over 4bn total lifetime installs across its portfolio.And as of late last year, they are shifting their strategy to focus on ‘hybridcasual’ games.
What does moving to hybrid mean for them? It means their games will have:
A healthy mix of IAP / ad-based monetization
AND most importantly: LiveOps
Okay, let’s take a look at the data. According to AppMagic, sales went up (blue), even as downloads went down (red). So the UA strategy didn’t change.
In April 2022 monthly sales were recorded at $7,081, but as they added deeper gameplay and more LiveOps, sales skyrocketed to $42,143 in October 2022.
That’s a 495.156% improvement!
Did that cannibalize ad revenue? Probably. But post-IDFA, you should lean into IAP vs ad revenue anyways.
It’s hyper. At first.
Until level 7, you’re playing a hypercasual game. The gameplay is fun. The mechanics are simple. And everything is ad-based.
In fact, the ads are everywhere.
One of the stealthiest thing you have to do in the game is avoid clicking an ad.
Take a look at where Stealth Master placed the purple continue button below. It's sandwiched between two ads, making it tricky to avoid the ads. Only a seasoned ninja 🥷 can avoid it.
Sorry had to…
Not only is the UI littered with ads, but you are also required to watch an ad after each level or successful bout with the villains.
Stealth Master does however allow you to make a purchase to remove ads.
They offer two price points.
Both price points are steep. I think they’d have much more success with lower price points, but I understand they may be comparing these options to the opportunity-cost of ad revenue.
Being able to remove ads is always nice, but I would probably price the 7-day offer as a decoy, simply to improve sales on the higher-priced Forever option to increase LTV.
I would make one option seem too expensive, so the other option looks like a great value.
Option 1: Remove ads for 7-days @ $7.99 (wow that's not a good deal 🤨)
Option 2: Remove ads forever. Only $9.99! (that's a no brainer 😍)
Something like this:
But even though ads generate revenue and they get a handful of people paying to remove ads, SayGames has realized that this simply isn’t enough for long-term success.
So they are changing things up.
LiveOps enters the scene
After level 7, you get a healthy dose of well-executed liveops. Including:
PVP (coming soon)
The graphics are excellent with candy-like animations that pull you in.
The Battle Pass provides some excellent deep play and a more meaningful gaming experience. Something to play for. The price point is a bit rich, and they are lacking useful descriptions of the loot you can receive.
But the battle pass is executed well with a countdown timer and a free route that gives me reasons to keep returning.
Best retention mechanic
Hands down the best retention mechanic they are using is the Unlock feature and the Coming Soon slots.
For example, Events and Missions are not unlocked until certain levels or “contracts”.
Missions unlocks at Level 9 and a new event unlocks at Level 12. This mystery and intrigue will keep plays progressing to see what they have unlocked - for free.
Tell players that the game is still actively worked on
My favorite part of the game is the “coming soon” elements in the UI.
Stealth Master is bringing a PVP element to the game. Cool right?
Even better is the animation you get when you click on PVP. Sure there’s some disappointment that the PVP isn’t available.
But now I have a reason to come back and play (retention) and I’m relieved the game is actively being worked on.
It’s an excellent strategy.
Stealth Master hasn’t completely let go of the hyper model. In fact, they offer ads for people who want to enjoy some fun play and move on. But after level 7 they offer deeper and more meaningful gameplay for players who want to play a more hybrid casual game.
They are catering to both. Yes, there’s a risk that the hybrid casual player won’t stick around until level 7. But so far, monthly revenue seems to be showing promising signs for the game.
Nice job SayGames.
🗣️ Read all about it!
This is an excellent, and I mean excellent, article by Stanislav Stankovic.
He recaps the importance of limited-time events for player retention, the need to offer a range of rewards with different point requirements, and the need to focus on one layer at a time while keeping the grand vision of the layered cake in mind.
💬 Some quotes for you to think over:
"Limited-time events are the bread and butter of live service. Coming up with the new limited-time events is what your live team should be doing most of the time."
"The main purpose of limited-time events is not monetization. The main purpose of these events is player retention."
"Offering more than one reward with different point requirements gives a chance to more players to win at least something, and not leave the event empty-handed."
"From the monetization perspective, these type of features tends to work best as indirect monetizing."
"You should aim at having at least one live event per month if not one per week in your live service."
While there has been discussion about hyper-casual games dying, the evidence is not conclusive. This article takes a look at the evidence.
💬 Some quotes for you to think over:
“Hyper-casual games definitely have their problems. But to say they are dying would be an overstatement.”
“The hyper-casual market is not sustainable in its current form.”
“To compensate for increased CPIs, hyper-casual games need to have better retention rates and lifetime values.”
📣 A word from UserWise
Personalization is critical to your game’s revenue.
Because people respond to personalization. It’s really that simple.
Here’s some food for thought:
We see over 4,000 ads a day.
And since we are overwhelmed by ads, our brains protect us by tuning out unnecessary information.
Researchers discovered something called the Cocktail Party Effect.
They found that we can tune out all the background noise at a party, UNTIL the moment they hear their name.
Once they hear their name, the information has value to them, and the brain tunes in.
We place a higher value on the things that relate to our identity in comparison to those that feel disconnected.
So if you’re not powering your game with a personalization platform such as UserWise, you’re missing out.
Here’s an overview on what UserWise can do:
SayGames, Ltd has 4,311,852,997 lifetime downloads across their portfolio as of April 27, 2023