Video gaming has been around for decades, and during this time it has given birth to an incredible variety of genres. During the “golden age” of video games – the time when arcades were still around, and home consoles were rare – the games were simple but hard, built to frustrate their players and make them put as many coins into the slots as possible. Later, games became more complex, got stories, and constantly improving visuals. But players didn’t forget the simplicity of arcade games – and when a new genre emerged from it, they embraced it wholeheartedly: casual games.
Casual games are different from traditional arcade games: while they are just as simple, they are not that hard – at least not at first. At later levels, some of them can become frustratingly hard but at this point, the player is already hooked – just think of the many hours you spent trying to push through just one more level on Candy Crush. At the same time, the first precursors of hyper-casual games emerged when casino games found their way online. Today, there are thousands of them available at real-money outlets like CryptoThrills or in social outlets like Slotomania. Some of them are more on the casual side, like blackjack, while others – like slot machines – are more similar to hyper-casual games.
Flapping into the spotlight
Then something happened: a game has gone viral that single-handedly created an entire industry – and it was called Flappy Bird.
Released in the spring of 2013, Flappy Bird went mostly unnoticed for almost a year – a “sleeper hit”, as they are called – when it was noticed and suddenly downloaded by millions of players. The game is extremely simple: you have to navigate a flapping bird through procedurally generated levels. Simple as the game may be, it’s very hard to master – frustratingly so. While developer Dong Nguyen quickly withdrew the game from both major app marketplaces, the “damage” was already done: the world suddenly discovered a hidden love for hyper-casual games that refused to die down to this day.
What’s a hyper-casual game, you might ask? Well, it’s a very simple type of game with minimal user interface, no clear goals, and an incredibly steep learning curve. They are games that you start playing, set them aside for a few minutes, and return to without ever losing pace. They are endless runners, jumping games, titles you can fidget with.
And they have become incredibly popular. Over the last few years, hyper-casual games have constantly dominated the top downloaded lists of all major app marketplaces. New releases routinely get millions of downloads within days of their launch, and many of them stay in the top lists for quite some time.
Companies like Ketchapp (owned by Ubisoft) and Voodoo.io (owned in part by Tencent) are among the best-known hyper-casual game developers, each with hundreds of simple, easy, and insanely popular games under their belt. Today, hyper-casual games remain the most played across the industry – especially on mobile – with 3.5 billion downloads in the third quarter of 2021 alone.
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