On paper, idle games sound a bit ridiculous. Why would anyone want to play a game that involves almost no play at all? But the numbers are different - idle games have a very high retention rate and users keep coming back, even if they've been playing for a few weeks.
For developers, idle games have the potential to be really profitable. They have a simple design and mechanics, which means they are fairly quick and inexpensive to create. In fact, if you know what you're doing, it only takes a few months to develop one of these games. There is also a lot of room for monetization - players of idle games expect advertising, and games that reward or incentivize tend to do well.
If you get your idle games right, the return on investment can be very high. How can you tap into the potential of idle games to drive quality traffic at scale? First, let's learn more about idle games.
Why are idle games popular?
Idle games are a smart business venture for app developers and a great alternative to ultra-casual games for users. Here are four reasons why idle games are popular.Ease of use
: Idle games are easy to understand and have addictive and fun gameplay elements right from the start. These games usually start with a simple goal and then introduce ways to manage in-game currency, unlockable elements, and upgrades.Idle games incentivize users to return:
Essentially, these games give users a reason to return after each session. Users simply return to the app to gain in-game currency, providing them with something to look forward to for their next session.Long-term goals for users and developers:
Unlike other addictive mobile games, idle games have natural pauses during gameplay where users must wait for their strategy to take effect. This makes it easier for users to develop more sustainable usage habits and stay longer while playing idle games.
Click "Learn More" to drive your apps & games business with ASO World app promotion service now.
Idle games are cost-effective
: these handheld games are relatively fast to develop and lucrative. However, idle clickers still need to be marketed to the right audience and have engaging gameplay that can compete with the best idle games.
Idle game markets overview: Trends and opportunities
Idle games have a large number of daily active users, as shown in the chart below.
The top 25% of ultra-casual games do have a huge cap on almost every other game genre out there, but if we look at the bars in the middle and bottom we can see that idle games are ahead of all other genres. Moreover, the average active user shows about 5.3 sessions per day compared to 4.6 for ultra-casual games.
And to top it all off, Idle leads in session length too!
Idle games are well suited to be the standard for hybrid casual games. Their gameplay is very simple, usually just tapping over and over again, then tapping to upgrade from time to time. Their graphics are also low-fidelity and easy to access, and may have been part of the huge success of Cookie Clicker - the game that made the genre rapidly popular in 2013. Idlers also tend to have increasingly deeper gameplay on top of simple initial gameplay (plus the addictive quality of "click again") to keep players playing ......
How to win your idle game business on app marketing?
How to get a good start for your idle game growth?
A lot of work needs to be done to conduct a thorough analysis of the market before launching the product. Continue to maintain the product after launch. Many factors change over time, such as local competitors, market trends and app store algorithms, just to name a few. If you fall behind, you will miss out on valuable downloads. Analyzing your competitors will give you tips, new ideas and areas for product growth.
To learn more about competitor research, you can check "Competitor Research: How To Improve Aso Skills & Marketing Strategy From Your Competitor" of our previous articles.
App stores promotion is currently one of the main app promotion channels, but also the channel with the largest number of user downloads. Mainly including major cell phone stores, third-party application stores, etc. for large-scale coverage, the larger the platform released, the better the effect of promotion.
To learn more about keyword optimization, you can check "How to Conduct Competitive ASO Keyword Optimization Analysis" of our previous articles.
The connection between paid user acquisition and organic user acquisition is vital to maximizing mobile growth. It doesn't matter if you're working for a mobile game or an app; there is one common thread that flows through most successful apps and mobile games, those who grow faster than all others: They connect between paid and organic installs, and they use it to create compounding growth.
To learn more about paid downloads, you can check "How to Acquire App Market Users for Your App by ASO & Ads?" of our previous articles.
How to rank your idle game effectively and win your organic traffic for your game on app store?
Organic installs are not related to specific ads placed in specific channels. Organic installs can come from word of mouth, seeing our game on your friend's phone, or searching for Idle Tycoon games in the iOS app and Google Play store. They're hard to track, and you can't be sure if the new install boom is coming from your game appearing on a TV show or from the stream that's playing it.
Organic installs are important for growth, but we can't directly influence them, so what can we do? One thing is to make our games as easy as possible to find in the store. Searching for apps directly is how most people find apps.
Search is one of the biggest discovery channels for a mobile app or game, and there are many factors that influence an app's ranking in the app store - two of the biggest factors are the app's title and keywords. Other factors such as description and visual assets also play a role in ASO.
Did you know that both Google Play and the Apple App Store use the keywords in your game's title as one of the ranking factors? That's why you should choose your name carefully. Your app title is one of the most important criteria when it comes to ranking.
To learn more about app name optimization, you can check "ASO Creation Strategy: How to Create a Perfect Name?
" of our previous articles.
How to keep players engaged and coming back to your idle game？
It always feels good to come back
Many mobile games have gameplay mechanics that feel punishing when returning to the game after a few days away.
In FarmVille: Crop Blight. If you don't return to the game in time, your crops are worthless. In Clash of Clans: Stolen resources. The longer you are away from the game, the more likely it is that most of your valuable resources will be stolen. Your ranking on the leaderboard may be lowered. Your clan is upset that you didn't donate enough troops. All of these mechanics are powerful in driving reasons to return, but they also provide reasons for players to quit.
Idle games do not encounter this problem. Every time a player returns to a game, they leave a lot of cash behind. It always feels like a reward for them to leave the game. If a player leaves for a day, week or month, it only increases the amount of currency in their inventory. In most economies, this would be troublesome. Not in an idle game. Because the growth curve is exponential, it is absolutely fine to have the game generate unlimited low income.
Handheld games should strive to create that feeling. Getting back into the game should never be a punishment.
Sessions keep players away from
Since idle play drives players to invest in automatic revenue generators (e.g. grandmothers in Cookie Clicker) rather than manual revenue generators (manually clicking on cookies), players will inevitably reach a point in the game where they just have to wait. Players can buy small upgrades fairly quickly, but they know to make the next big leap more wisely buy more expensive upgrades. As a result, they leave the game feeling smart about their decision.
This is the exact point at which players themselves opt out of the game. Of course, the game has driven players to leave. Handheld games must work for this. Create a situation where the player feels smart about leaving the game. Idle games can even do this without timers, without social dating or any other additional systems, as discussed in Player Commitment.
It makes it easy for players to move from the core game to the meta-game
The initial experience for new players is very simple. In Clicker Heroes: Players just frantically click on enemy monsters. In Make it rain: A player bounces piles of money into the air. The first experience is addictive and immediately fun. How it gets better is obvious - tap or swipe faster. The player quickly masters the mechanic and it feels natural. However, the interest in this mechanic quickly fades. After the first few sessions, players soon tire of collecting manually.
This is when the game provides the bait and switch. You come for the simple click, but what you get is a game about managing resources and upgrades. Players move from clicking to managing the upgrades they want to buy next. This clever switch means that players who would otherwise be exhausted by simple mechanics are now thinking about the long-term decisions in the game. Which upgrades are most valuable? How can I optimize my growth?
Best practices for idle game monetization
1. Use bonus videos
Bonus videos allow users to get an in-game boost after watching a 30-second ad, which can be an important revenue stream for developers of idle games. For users, bonus videos are a time-saving tool: they give up 30 seconds of their time, but save more time to pursue their gameplay goals - soft money accumulation.
It is this direct impact on the core variables of idle play that allows reward videos to generate extremely high usage - the average user opens 9.7 reward video ads in a single session. Not only does this increase ad revenue, but in most cases there is a positive correlation between the amount paid by the user in the IAP (ARPPU) and the usage of reward videos. In other words, users who watch more bonus video ads (with higher usage) before their first purchase are likely to spend more money on IAPs. This is an important factor why the average revenue per active daily user ( ARPDAU ) for idle games is 9 times higher than for ultra-casual games.
2. Don't forget about promo wall ads
Offer walls are one of the fastest growing ad units in the mobile gaming ecosystem and are perfect for idle games. Time management is a core element of idle games - it's about climbing the production curve quickly and efficiently - and offerwall leverages this motivation as it appeals to users who prefer to spend time rather than money to progress in the game.
Due to the strong demand from advertisers to cost-effectively acquire high-quality users through a cost-per-event (CPE) bidding model that allows them to pay developers only after users complete an event of the advertiser's choosing, offerwall represents a substantial source of incremental revenue for developers. According to IronSource, the average eCPM for offerwalls in the US in 2020 is as high as $530.
3. A/B testing frequency and caps
While idle games have a lot of bonus video traffic driving and high usage, some users may not choose to engage. For these users, consider placing system-launched ads, such as inserts or banners. This can help you profit from all users, not just those who are engaged enough to opt-in to ads or spend money. A key part of a system-initiated ad strategy is frequency and cap - the time between each ad and the total number of ads displayed per session, respectively.
4. IAP: Pay or wait
In idle games, speed of progress is what users are willing to pay for, so focus your offering on in-game currency that users can cash in to accelerate progress - whether it's cookies or gold bars.
The key to a successful IAP strategy is to avoid IAP cannibalization from advertising - to ensure that the content users receive via IAP is valuable enough to warrant them spending money rather than watching a bonus video.
For example, a bonus video may offer a small boost or reward for a single resource, such as a "3x Cash Booster," but a high-value IAP can offer multiple valuable resources in a single package or bundle. Some users may be put off by the high upfront price, so to avoid this and maximize revenue, consider offering packages as part of a regular weekly "membership".