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How To Create Mobile Game Mechanics and Meta Successfully

Our VP of mobile games stands confidently, arms crossed, facing the camera against an orange and white background.

Let's talk about what makes a mobile game stand out, its mechanics and meta. As a player and industry observer, I've seen the undeniable impact of engaging core loop mechanics and a robust meta-layer. These elements not only keep players hooked but also drive monetisation and long-term success for developers. Join me as I share with you the importance of good mechanics and a compelling meta in achieving lasting success for your mobile game.

What are the Importance of Good Mobile Game Mechanics and a Robust Meta?

First, I will begin with the critical components that make a game appealing to players and publishers alike. Let's objectively examine what publishers are currently seeking.

1. The Power of Good Mobile Game Mechanics and Engaging Meta. 
Games must have enjoyable and engaging core loop mechanics alongside a compelling meta, providing users with progression and reasons to return repeatedly. Established gaming giants focusing on Casual, Mid-Core, and Hardcore strategy games, continued refining these elements during the Hyper Casual storm. This dedication allowed them to remain evergreen in 2023 and will remain so in 2024.


2. Rise of Hybrid Casual Games. 
Enter the era of Hybrid Casual, the new poster child of gaming, representing what most publishers desire right now. This category sees the evolution of fun core loop mechanics into a more comprehensive experience. Developers now strive to create content compelling enough for players to return for at least 30 days, integrating a strong meta from the game's inception.


3. The Role of Meta in Success. 
Building games with integrated meta-features from the beginning has become crucial. Meta not only enhances player engagement but also increases monetisation opportunities, boosts In-App Purchase (IAP) amounts, and ultimately raises LTV while counteracting escalating Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). Achieving success in Hybrid Games requires studios to show vision and adaptability. If developers want to succeed now, they must take their knowledge of core mechanics from the Hyper Casual era and incorporate the meta layer to optimise monetisation performance.

A smiling woman with black hair wears pink headphones, looking at her phone while playing a game. Neon lights illuminate the background.


The Coveted and Ever-Elusive Blue Ocean

Hybrid Casual games have become the current favourites among publishers. This genre boasts Hyper Casual style marketability, robust LTVs, extended user lifecycles, increased IAP contributions (SOV), and overall higher revenues per title. However, it's essential to acknowledge that the Hybrid Casual market is quickly becoming oversaturated and intensely competitive. 

At Kwalee, I am actively encouraging our teams to have conversations with numerous exceptional studios, regardless of the game genres they're working on. It's crucial to evaluate all opportunities and not limit ourselves to formulas just because they have a current perceived higher chance of success. Falling into this narrow mindset can lead developers and publishers alike to a situation akin to the challenges faced during the evolution from Hyper Casual to the current games industry.


It's worth noting that the most dominant games in the industry have not always emerged from these high-growth areas. Studios like King, Dream Games, Scopely, Moon Active, and Zynga (excluding Rollic) have thrived by focusing on more intricate games, including puzzle games, which are complex in comparison to Hyper and Hybrid. Additionally, consider giants like Activision, InnerSloth, Niantic, or Roblox, each with their unique focus, boasting some of the highest-grossing games globally, ever.

A compelling example of strategic evolution is Madbox, a company that excelled in Hyper Casual games. Maxime DEMEURE and Jean-Nicolas Vernin, the founders, anticipated the industry's evolution and reinvested their earnings from successful Hyper Casual games into building an evergreen casual game. Their dedication resulted in "Pocket Champs," arguably one of the most significant recent successes, particularly outside of established industry leaders. This to me shows huge payback on their investment into a long-term strategic vision.

Let’s sum up the key points I want to share about game meta and core mechanics:

- The industry values robust core mechanics and engaging meta. Hybrid Casual games necessitate innovative gameplay and integrated meta-features. Success demands adaptation and creativity, leading to fewer but more detailed gaming experiences than a few years ago.


- Hybrid Casual games are rising in popularity due to marketability and revenue. Industry leaders stress diverse game genres, encouraging developers to explore new avenues. Strategic evolution underscores the importance of long-term vision and creativity. Stay open-minded and innovative for industry breakthroughs, don't be afraid to think outside the box and aim for that blue ocean.


My advice to everyone in the industry is to concentrate only some efforts in one direction. Think long-term and explore innovative ways to redefine industry norms. While developing Hybrid Casual games is valuable, being open-minded and embracing innovation can lead to unexpected successes. By venturing beyond established trends, you might discover that ever-elusive blue ocean and achieve even bigger industry-level success, just like "Pocket Champs." Stay creative, stay innovative, and keep pushing the boundaries of what our industry can achieve. 


As always, there's much more to explore into on this expansive topic, but I trust these insights have been valuable to anyone considering partnering with a publisher like Kwalee. We're committed to championing developers and their creations, eager to explore new possibilities together. Let's bring your game to life and make waves in the gaming world.


John Wright, Vice President of Mobile Publishing at Kwalee and a veteran of over 15 years in the mobile industry. Previously with ironSource and Luna Labs, Wright focuses on global mobile game publishing and developer support at Kwalee.

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