Casual Games” refers to a type of video game that doesn’t require a major time investment to play, win, and enjoy. While separately, a “casual gamer” is someone who enjoys any video game without investing significant time into it, playing it spontaneously, irregularly, or infrequently.

Casual games have several distinguishing features. They are often web-based and are usually found on either mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, or personal computers. Casual games are also typically targeted at a wide, mass market audience, as opposed to a “hardcore game,” which is a game targeted at a more niche audience of hobbyist or enthusiast gamers. Thus, casual games usually do not have a high learning curve. To achieve this, most casual games have just a few controls–normally a single button or two that will predominantly control the majority of the game. 

Casual games generally have simpler rules, shorter sessions, and less learned skills than hardcore games, thus they also require a significantly less amount of time to play and win. They can normally be played in small periods of time. Unlike more “hardcore” games, which can provide 40+ hours of gameplay to reach the final stage of the game. Microsoft’s Solitaire is considered to be the first highly successful casual games on a PC, and since its release in 1990, has drawn approximately 400 million gamers.

Countless casual games have been developed and published, alongside hardcore games, across the history of video games. A concerted effort to capitalize on casual games grew in the 1990s and 2000s, as many developers and publishers branded themselves as casual game companies, publishing games especially for PCs, web browsers, and, after 2007, smartphones.

Casual games generally cost less than hardcore games, as part of their strategy to acquire as many players as possible. Any game monetization method can be used, from retail distribution to free-to-play to ad-supported.

The term “hyper-casual game” or “instant game” arose in 2017 to describe extremely easy-to-learn games that require no download, being played in an existing app like a web browser or messaging app, and that usually monetize by showing advertisements to the player.

 

Genres

 
Casual games are found across many different game genres. Early-2000s categorizations by Big Fish Games and Gamezebo, a casual game review site, named seven popular genres in casual games:

  1. Puzzle games: Bejeweled series, Collapse! series, Luxor series
  2. Hidden object games: Mystery Case Files series, Mortimer Beckett series, Hidden Expedition series
  3. Adventure games: Dream Chronicles series, Aveyond series, Nancy Drew series
  4. Strategy games (including time management): Diner Dash series, Delicious series, Cake Mania series
  5. Arcade & action games: Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle series, Feeding Frenzy series
  6. Word & trivia games: Bookworm, Bookworm Adventures series, Bonnie’s Bookstore
  7. Card & board games: Slingo Quest, Lottso! Deluxe, Luxor Mahjong

 

Acquiring Players for Casual Games

 
In the casual gaming industry, acquiring players will depend largely on platform distribution. For mobile games, distribution is typically in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, with other app stores like Amazon available as well. For PC, a publisher may distribute on Steam or other publishing networks found on the Web. As a result, marketing is tailored to driving potential buyers to the stores or sites where games can be purchased.

For mobile casual games, marketers typically focus on acquiring players through Facebook advertising and Google App Campaigns, as they’re highly effective channels for acquiring app installs.

For many advertisers, Facebook offers the highest volume and quality source of advertising traffic through Mobile App Install Campaigns. Fully capitalizing on the potential of the Facebook platform requires heavy creative testing and, more importantly, continually adapting to changes in Facebook’s advertising strategies and algorithms. Over the past few years, Facebook has ramped up the frequency of advertising product changes, and top mobile app advertisers have followed suit by ramping up the frequency of strategy changes. Looking back historically, the strategy we deploy today is very different than the strategy we deployed six months ago. Interestingly, this statement would hold true for any backward-looking period of time over the past five years. Put simply, our strategy is always changing to keep up with Facebook’s best practices for Mobile App Install Campaigns.

Alongside Facebook’s ad solutions are Google App Campaigns, which let advertisers create ads where people can download an app directly from an ad. App Campaign ads – and all the settings available for Google App Campaigns – are designed expressly to generate app installs, such as for casual games.

You can use other campaign types, like display ads and even text ads, to advertise apps. But, the conversion rates for those campaigns are terrible comparable to App Campaigns. You’re just way more likely to get people to install an app if they only have to make a couple of clicks.

 

Takeaways for Casual Game Marketers

 
For casual games, Facebook Mobile App Install Campaigns and Google App Campaigns are the best tools to acquire valuable players. If you aren’t squeezing every drop of opportunity out of Facebook and Google ads, it’s time to up your game.

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