Amplify Connects Hanoi: Dissecting the global success of casual gaming

by Michelle Ao on Jul 3, 2018

On June 21, AppLovin China held a workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam as part of our Amplify Connects Series to talk about the global success of casual gaming and  what makes the genre unique. The event served as a follow-up to the Amplify Connects workshops we held in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China a few months ago.

This Amplify Connects was co-hosted with Onesoft, one of the largest mobile game publishers in Vietnam. Hung Le, Marketing Manager at Onesoft, spoke during the panel. We also invited Christian Calderon, CRO of Ketchapp, to speak. Ketchapp is one of the most successful hyper-casual game studios and is responsible for popular games like Dunk Line, 2048, and Ballz.

Amplify Connects Hanoi

We kicked off the morning with Yiqing Jiang, Manager of Growth Partnerships at AppLovin, who gave an introduction about AppLovin. As a comprehensive platform, AppLovin has been helping app developers grow their businesses from the beginning, providing monetization and user acquisition campaigns, creative services, and app discovery.

Le then introduced Onesoft to the audience. Founded in 2010, Onesoft has become one of the largest mobile game publishers in Vietnam with successful titles like Shadow Battle and Shoot the Rooster. With introductions out of the way, Calderon and Le began the panel, which was moderated by Kuo Zhong, Business Development Analyst at AppLovin.

Amplify Connects Hanoi stage

One of the first questions the panel tackled was “What differentiates hyper-casual games from other genres, and what’s made these games so successful?” According to Le, hyper-casual games are successful because there’s little to no learning curve and you can start playing immediately.

Calderon thinks hyper-casual games break down the cultural barriers with their universal appeal. Mid-core games like Clash of Clans are harder to get into because they require players to dedicate time to learn the game mechanics. Numbers and simple shapes are often used in hyper-casual games for this reason.

On user experience and retention

Developers always need to find the balance between ads and a good user experience. How does monetization impact user retention and how much does it matter? According to Calderon, retention is a form of engagement which is measured by D1, D3, 1 month, and so forth. By measuring retention, you get a glimpse of the LTV potential. This data also shows the threshold of how many ads you can show without annoying users. The higher the retention, the more ads you should show. The lower the retention, the fewer ads you should show.

Amplify Connects Hanoi demo

A game session during the break at this event. Game is from Onesoft.

User acquisition strategies for casual games

UA strategies have changed a lot over the past several years, according to Calderon. Incentivized traffic used to be all the rage, but now there’s a focus on partnerships with influencers, YouTube, Snapchat, and others. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of LTV. One way Ketchapp has adapted to changing UA strategies is to employ cross-promotion.

For Onesoft, Le shared that in order to acquire users for casual games, they do different things at different stages:

  1. Beta phase: Get 10k organic installs to test and optimize.
  2. Public launch: Buy as many users as possible from AppLovin, Facebook, and Google. This helps increase LTV.
  3. Post launch: Focus on retention optimization and ROI optimization.

What is the best ad format for UA?

According to Le, video is the best format for UA, as it offers a higher click-through rate than other ad formats. Since the life cycle for casual games is short, developers need to produce many games to keep the revenue growing, which is why cross-promotion is so important.

For Calderon, the answer depends on type of game. For casual games, playable ads are better, especially if the ad plays similarly to the real game. Video also works well, but it takes time to watch, and depending on how long players watch, performance can differ wildly.

How do you choose an ad network to work with?

“We look at both sides—supply and demand. Both need to be strong. Synergy between the two sides is also important. The bottom line is to grow the business and meet the client’s goals,” says Calderon.

“What makes a good ad network is strong technology at its foundation. Do they have an API to talk to the data? AppLovin does,” Calderon continues.

Amplify Connects Hanoi group photo

One of the most important factors in creating a successful casual game, according to both Calderon and Le, is that developers should try and fail. Failure is part of learning what works and what doesn’t, and developers should embrace it.

We hope that through Amplify Connects Hanoi, our guests gained insights and knowledge that will help them sharpen their casual and hyper-casual game strategies and grow in the global market.

Michelle Ao is Marketing Director for AppLovin China.