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“Hypercasual” games attract serious investment

Illustration by Kate Walker

“Hypercasual” games attract serious investment


The Future. “Hypercasual” games — typically mobile ones that have “ultrasimple gameplay, repetitive and low-stakes challenges, and oftentimes rudimentary graphics” — have blown up over the past couple of years. But as the market matures and gets saturated with knockoffs (and knockoffs of the knockoffs), it’s getting more complicated for games to stand out from the crowd… which may muddy what makes them so addictive in the first place.

Swipe your head clean
Sometimes, we all just need some mindless entertainment, which has surged the popularity of hypercasual games like Fill the Fridge (stocking a fridge), Acrylic Nails (painting nails), and Deliver It 3D (delivering packages).

  • According to WSJ, downloads hit 15.6 billion last year, up from 12.6 billion in 2020 and 7.51 billion in 2019.
  • And investment is way up. Hypercasual game studio Rollic sold an 80% stake to Words With Friends-developer Zynga for $180 million, while other developers such as Homa Games and Ace Games have scored big funding rounds.

The games became popular because users can learn the games in seconds and typically without reading instructions. They also “tap into” the popularity of ASMR by giving players simple tasks like popping bubble wrap, painting nails, or putting laundry away — an almost digital, gamified meditation.

But that purity of gameplay is not great at retaining players (who quickly move on to other hypercasual games). It’s a problem the industry is very aware of. So, to fight the churn, the games are adding things like “leaderboards, multiplayer formats, and in-app purchases” to keep players hooked… a move that may make these games a bit more complicated than what they initially set out to be.

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