Hypercasual games are easy-to-learn mobile games you can play in a minute or less. They may not sound like much, but they have taken the mobile game market by storm, growing 72% in downloads in March alone. And they have helped CrazyLabs top more than 3 billion downloads in its history.
In the past couple of years, Indian developers have had some hits with mobile games, and the Indian market itself is a big prize, with more than 400 million smartphone users. The investment shows that India, which has long had potential in games, is growing its share of the global game ecosystem. While the investment dollars aren’t huge, the vote of confidence for Indian game developers is important, especially coming in the middle of a pandemic. It’s also interesting to see an Israeli company move into India.
Sagi Schliesser, the CEO of Tel Aviv-based CrazyLabs, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company (originally called TabTale) has shifted its focus from educational games to hypercasual games. And some of its best titles — such as Soap Cutting, which has had 50 million downloads — are coming from India.
“In December, we launched Soap Cutting with the talented group in Mumbai,” Schliesser said. “It was a really great launch that put us on the top of the charts. We connected with them, and they wanted to grow a significant base in hypercasual in India. So we talked about how we could cooperate.”
So far, as many as 17% of the hypercasual games CrazyLabs has published have come from India.
A local accelerator
That growth is what prompted Schliesser to make the investment, with the backing of locals. With CrazyHub, CrazyLabs is partnering with Mumbai-based Firescore Interactive to support hypercasual game studios and projects. The $500,000 is part of an incentive program, and CrazyLabs is offering a revenue share plan for games developed within the program time period. Registration to join the first CrazyHub has already begun.
The inaugural CrazyHub is located in Mumbai and will offer hands-on guidance for local developers and studios, advisory meetings, and mentorship sessions. Teams are eligible to join the hub, even if they are still confined to working from home due to the COVID-19 lockdown in India, Schliesser said.
Firescore Interactive’s team and office space are going to expand to accommodate the new gaming hub — once things are back to normal — and it will manage the entire local setup. Well-known game studio Optimum Games has already confirmed its participation in the program, and more studios will be announced soon.
CrazyLabs and Firescore Interactive’s partnership began when the teams worked together to create the holiday hit game Soap Cutting, Schliesser said. Such games monetize through ads, but the market is highly competitive and players move on to new hypercasual games in a short time.
Why hypercasual is a good opportunity
While the lifespan of hypercasual games is shorter than for other games, Schliesser believes they can be operated profitably for 18 to 36 months after launch.
“It’s a good asset, where you launch it, get it to shine, generate more interest, and rely on the revenue for 18 months,” he said.
That’s why it’s important to make hypercasual games fast. The Firebase Interactive team made Soap Cutting in a short time, and this emphasis on speedy production is part of what teams will learn at the hub, Schliesser said. The hub will focus on teams that build in Unity, submit a portfolio of games, and have a talent for making 3D games. Those selected will participate in the hub for six months.
Schliesser said a precondition for entering a market is studying it to find the right operational model.
“It’s not one size fits all, and we will not necessarily duplicate the same model as is in other markets,” Schliesser said. “For example, in China and in Israel we will soon announce a different model.”
CrazyLabs has the first right of refusal on games coming out of the program, and it splits the proceeds between developer and publisher, Schliesser said, with a roughly 50-50 split.
“If you look at the charts now, India is underserved when it comes to local developers,” Schliesser said. “We think that more developers can develop the right skills to be successful in hypercasual games. Our partner can help with the training, and we can help with the budget. I believe we can find teams with a great entrepreneurial spirit.”
CrazyLabs has 250 employees, but the company works with an additional hundred or so contractors. It has been profitable since 2012 and has raised a total of $13 million, with its last round in 2013. Schliesser expects his company to surpass $100 million in revenue in 2020.