Glossary
Mobile App Terminology simply explained

What Are Casual Games?

Casual games are games targeted at the masses of mobile gamers with simple and fun gameplay mechanics that are easy to understand and master. Much like hypercasual games, these mobile games don’t typically require a high level of time investment or concentration, meaning casual gamers might return to the app at irregular and spontaneous occasions.

Bold sounds, colors, and animations in this gaming vertical are a large selling point among casual gamers. This is to attract the mass market: We’re talking about the 17.4+ million users currently downloading casual games onto their mobile devices today.
Key Takeaways
  • The number of global casual game downloads is projected to hit 19.9 billion by 2026
  • Africa has emerged as one of the global GEOs with users spending the most time in casual games
  • To appeal to as much of the mass market as possible, casual games typically cost less than hardcore games

Who Are Casual Gamers?

Casual gamers favor this mobile gaming vertical, as it allows them to experience mobile gaming in a way that doesn’t require much concentration. They are able to escape everyday boredom or stress. A casual gamer is someone who might play while on their commute, on their lunch break, or simply watching TV.

We’ve already mentioned casual games not requiring high time investment. But that doesn’t mean users aren’t spending lots of time in them. If we deep-dive into recent demographics data, we can see that Africa is home to the players with the highest casual app daily usage at 26 minutes. That’s not an insignificant session time if you look at other mobile gaming categories such as hypercasual games – the category with which casual games share many characteristics. While Europe and Asia-Pacific all managed to stay above the 20-minute market for daily casual app usage, North America and Latin America fell behind the pack at less than 20 minutes of session duration per day. 

And who are these gamers you ask? Women are noticeably more engaged than men in casual games, with data revealing they spend on average 22 minutes a day in casual gameplay. That’s roughly three minutes longer than the average male casual gamer. While age is just a number, it’s a pretty important one for user segmentation and campaigns. The over-50s and over-40s are winning the numbers game for most time spent in casual mobile games per day at over 22.5 minutes.

abstract image of map where casual gamers spent most time in the app

What Types of Casual Games Are There?

Casual games comprise a wide range of games for every user – they are destined for the mass market, after all. So, by nature, they must be real crowd-pleasers. The casual game genre is made up of the following verticals.

  • Arcade
  • Action
  • Card and board games
  • Word and trivia
  • Hidden object
  • Adventure
  • Education
  • Match-3
  • Puzzle

Let’s talk about the titles we know and love. From Candy Crush (puzzle) and Subway Surfers (Arcade) to Temple Run (Arcade), publishers such as King, Imangi, Socialpoint, and Jam City are key players in the casual business. They know how to capture their audience and with their games’ impressively addictive level-to-level progression.

Cross-Category Collision: Meta Elements in Casual Games

While it’s pretty easy to mention these casual subgenres in isolation, casual games are starting to introduce meta gameplay elements to their core gameplay. What does this mean? As the casual gaming genre matures, elements from other mobile gaming verticals – such as midcore games – are finding their way into popular casual titles (and vice versa). 

While casual games still put the core game (for example, a match-3 game) at the forefront of gameplay, some titles are now introducing meta elements – such as characters, collectibles, or narrative elements – into the game to bring a greater sense of level-to-level progression and excitement to players. To keep them on their toes.

How Do You Monetize Casual Gamers?

Word on the street is that the total revenue generated from casual games is set to grow at a CAGR of just under seven percent between now and 2026. Revenue could hit a pretty powerful 23.5 billion US dollars by then. Most revenue from this gaming genre is generated in the US, followed by China, Japan, Germany, and the UK. And with the average revenue per download for casual games projected to grow by roughly 15 percent between now and 2026, casual app developers will be really looking at how their games can really capitalize on this growth. Especially, in an environment where app store apathy and competition is growing along with cost per install.

Casual games are relatively low-cost games to produce, and they are typically free-to-play. This means they rely heavily on diverse and efficient monetization mechanisms, such as in-app purchases and in-app advertising. With the market saturation, it’s all about how each casual game studio can leverage all their revenue streams to come out on top among the competition.

In-App Purchases

Let’s start with in-app purchase revenue for casual games, which is expected to hit just over 11.77 billion US dollars by 2026. These games typically focus on monetizing core gameplay by driving users to purchase boosters or extra lives to continue playing or reduce the difficulty of the level. Often, players are made to feel impatient with their progress in the game, driving them to purchase extras, which will, in turn, accelerate progression in the game.

In-App Advertising

In-app advertising revenue is set to grow by almost 37 percent by 2026. This reveals the true scope of its monetization power. In fact, it’s catching up with in-app purchases in terms of the share of revenue generated for casual games. 

The problem that many these games face is regarding engagement and retention in their apps. These gamers play to destress but tend to abandon a game or become alienated if ads were too frequent or irritating. So, it goes without saying that ad placement and the context of how ads appear during gameplay are absolutely critical for user engagement. It’s all about striking the right balance. 

If a casual gamer shies away from spending hard cash on their favorite titles with IAPs, rewarded ad formats are a hugely popular way to keep players in the game for longer. Especially, because they are usually user-initiated and don’t lead to alienation. Users need to complete an action – sometimes advertised through an offerwall – such as watch a video or answer a survey. Some rewarded formats even draw users in to earning in-app currency (such as extra lives or boosts) by playing other popular and relevant mobile games

Conclusion

From card and board games and match-3 to word and trivia games, there’s a whole host of hit casual games that draw global users in to play up to 30 minutes every day.

For casual game developers, the trick is also how to monetize these users and increase their engagement with the game. Whether that’s by incorporating more and more exciting features from other gaming genres – such as live ops and competitive elements. Or trialing more engagement-driving ad formats to boost engagement KPIs and keep players in the game for longer.


FAQs

What Are Casual Games?

Casual games are mobile games that are easy to master, easy to start playing, and relaxing to play. Their core gameplay mechanics are simple but colorful and attractive to appeal to the mass market. Examples of casual games include puzzle games, trivia games, match-3 games, and board games.

Who Is a Casual Gamer?

Casual gamers play mobile games to relax and escape mundane reality with colorful and fun titles they can play easily on their commute or while watching TV. This is because casual games require little concentration.

If you deep-dive into the casual gamer demographic, the most engaged players – that is, the players with the longest daily session times on average – are women. And especially women in their 40s and 50s.

How Do Casual Games Monetize?

Casual games, like most other gaming categories, diversify their monetization streams through in-app purchases and in-app advertising.

What Is the Difference between Casual and Hypercasual Games?

Compared with hypercasual games, casual games boast more complex gameplay mechanics – many of them now feature meta elements, such as collectibles or characters. But in general, both categories require little concentration and rely on their addictive core gameplay mechanics to keep users coming back and playing more.


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