Hybrid casual UA playbook! Channel mix, campaign structure, creative strategy

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Another month, another newsletter filled with Tips & Tricks! Let’s dive into the Hybrid casual UA Playbook.

Over the past few years, hybrid-casual games have become increasingly popular on mobile, with 5 billion downloads in 2022, a 3% increase from the previous year.

Hybrid casual games combine simple gameplay with additional levels and features to provide depth and variety for players of all skill levels. Hybrid casual games are a fusion of hypercasual and mid-core games.

Hypercasual games are a type of game that feature simplistic graphics, easy-to-use controls, and short gameplay sessions. These games have simple rules and storylines, making them easy to play.

Midcore games have more complex graphics, mechanics, and systems. Players must invest more cognitive effort and time to enjoy longer gameplay sessions.

Hybrid casual games combine the best features of hypercasual and mid-core games. They provide a simple and easy-to-play experience like hypercasual games and offer more in-depth and varied gameplay like mid-core games. These games appeal to both casual and core players, resulting in a satisfying and rewarding gaming experience for everyone.

Hybrid-casual games have a revenue profile from 15% to 40%, driven by IAPs. This gives them the unique ability to drive traffic on blended UA campaigns and optimize the CPI funnel. Still, the majority of revenue of a Hybrid-casual game is driven by Ad-revenue. The onboarding of the game resembles a hyper-casual smooth funnel, which lowers the CPI, but later on, the game unfolds multiple progression vectors to achieve spend depth similar to casual/ mid-core game mechanics.

UA Channel Mix

As mentioned in some of my talks and podcasts, hybrid casual, 50:50 IAP vs. Ads is the UA manager’s wet dream because you can leverage both IAP and IAA-based campaign optimizations available on multiple channels. It is also quite important to leverage TikTok and Facebook.

TikTok for multiple reasons, such as TTCC (TikTok Creative Challenge) and lower CPIs. Facebook because you can use a little hack to send ad revenue in the purchase event alongside “regular” purchases to get close to “hybrid ROAS campaigns.” Be careful; it won’t work unless you have 50/50 revenue split and you send the ad revenue in increments. Not every cent all the time!

UA Campaign Structure

Which UA channels are best for Hybrid Casual games, and what should the campaign structure look like? Well, everything depends on your budget. With a smaller scale, you can start with Facebook. You don’t need an MMP. Facebook SDK is sufficient. Facebook provides the best targeting options with a lot of data you can still get from this network.
You can start with Installs + Purchase optimization on iOS, targeting worldwide to lower CPI as much as possible to have at least 88 app installs per campaign per day to minimize null conversions. On Android, you can start with the Value option right from the beginning, split into two campaigns, US and ROW.

With this basic setup, you can scale up best-performing campaigns if you hit your goals or add TikTok as a next channel because having only one channel in the mix is dangerous (MMP needed! TikTok Ads Manager without MMP will only be able to measure sending traffic to your app store, not conversion data).

But keep in mind both of these channels are creative-heavy. You need to experiment, iterate, and vary to find your creative Top performer.

Below is a screenshot of a campaign structure with optimization ideas for a limited budget for each Ad network and OS.

With a higher budget, our scissors open up, and we can add another channel into your mix. Don’t forget to implement Firebase to unlock all Google Ads’ potential. With Firebase, you can run tROAS, and Hybrid ROAS campaigns, which are currently one of the top-performing campaigns.

Lastly, we can add Unity & Applovin. MMP is definitely needed.

Applovin & MAX — A winning combination for games that are monetized through ads and IAPs. Be sure to use AdROAS campaigns with an appropriate D0 AdROAS target.

But as you know, the hottest UA shit right now is …. the BLENDED ROAS! Which combines Ad revenue and In-app purchase revenue! This is possible only if you have MAX mediation. What types of games now have 50:50 split Ads vs IAPs? Exactly, hybrid casual!

With Unity, you need to “invest” at the beginning of the journey. Unity needs to collect data from end users in targeted geographic locations. So, your first option is an install-only campaign. To run ROAS campaigns in a specific geo, you are required to have a minimum of 10 paying users in that geo over the 30-day cohorts. Keep in mind this could cost you something between $3-10k per GEO to unlock the ROAS option.

UA Creative Strategy

Let’s talk about creative strategy.

Below is a quick overview of how many creatives you need to test each month to prevent creative fatigue + quick winning creative tips for you.

Spy on competitors

First of all, always check the competitors. Use the FB Ads library, TikTok Ad library, and Google Ads transparency center; on top of that, use Adscan.ai to spy on your competitors and see which creative is spending the most in Europe (the most spending creative is most likely their best performing creative at that moment). Take the inspiration and tailor the creative to your gameplay.

UGC Creatives

Producing UGC can be a time-consuming and painful process. You need to test and try different UGC ideas, creators, and concepts to find your winner. It’s best to partner with a company that assists in creating authentic UGC videos with real people. There are many ways to start something simple and cost-effective. Using AI or Animoji and Google Translator voiceover, put this on your top-performing creative and wait for the results.

Quick Tip: if you are using TTCC creatives on TikTok and these creatives work well for you, let’s adapt them for other channels. You can always take your best TTCC creative from TikTok and, with a few changes, use it for other channels. Just use an AI-generated person instead of a TTCC creator from TikTok and add an AI-generated voiceover to change the voice. Voilà, your new creative for the rest of the Ad networks is ready. This approach works well with Facebook, and it is worth trying with other channels as well. Check the examples below.

AI-Driven creatives

Experiment with AI tools. Midjourney works best for me; you can generate dozens of new static concepts in half an hour. Efficiency is great; if you are struggling with inspiration, use the Midjourney library. Just type your keyword, and Midjourney fills you with a thousand inspirations. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, open the image you like and copy the prompts that were used.

A Great Hook

Hook, hook, hook… A great Hook! Jokes aside. As you know, in this fast-paced world, the first capture is the most important. Don’t be afraid to check some viral shorts on the internet and use the first 3 seconds from the video at the beginning of your creative. Make sure the first 3-second video aligns with the rest of your creative flow. Check the Whiteout Survival approach, one of the best “mister of the hook” in the game.

Playable Creatives?

Don’t forget about Playables, which is still very needed, especially on Adnetworks like Applovin and Unity, etc,… when you want to scale your performance further.

Fake Ads

Running and growing a game is not an easy job. To address this effectively, all departments must be involved. The scope is not limited to marketing alone. You need to work very closely with the game team, data analytics, and, ideally, live ops as well. Read about how to 10x your game revenue with fake ads here!

Your game’s LTV always dictates scale/budget. The CPI vs LTV equation is really important. UA + Creatives + ASO can help you by 10–20% here and there. If your LTV cannot be increased, then you must reduce your CPI to be less than your LTV, WHATEVER IT TAKES! If you start with Fake ads, keep in mind the quality of users will go down immediately along with your CPIs. You can help increase retention with store customization to align with your Fake Ads, and then you can continue to adapt elements of our Fake Ads inside your game.

Stormshot: Isle of Adventure is a great example of how the game is designed to lower the CPI from the start, with the help of creative, which is implemented into the game itself from the beginning, so when you take a first look at the game, you might not realize right away that it falls under the 4X Strategy genre.

Iterate, iterate, iterate…

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound and turn into remarkable results… ”

As you can see, we replaced an ordinary enemy  in the first three seconds with a boss opponent, turned our hero from predator to prey, and sped up the action. The results were mind-blowing. With minor changes, you can double down CPI and almost double up ROAS D7. Don’t be afraid to shift the whole creative flow; don’t be satisfied with adding different backgrounds. Many studios just change the background and think we have a new “iteration,” but it’s just a variation. Replace, speed up, add, and change the camera position, and you will see better outcomes. 

 

Hypercasual

Let’s shift our attention to another topic. Adapting hypercasual game concepts to your game.

So, what is the creative strategy for hybrid casual?

So, to sum it up. This all above is a big bullshit! Have you paid attention? You have a hybrid casual game that combines the best of both worlds! LOW CPI from hypercasual and spend depth from mid-core games. You don’t need fake ads or UGC. I will leave you with what My Perfect Hotel is doing to get the picture:

Anything that I missed?

Oh wow! You made it here! You must be very engaged. I like that type of players… Ehm, people!

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