Market Insight Case Study: Hypercasual Anime Games
Tuğçe Kurulday – Jun 24, 2022
Since its explosion in popularity during the 1990s, anime has influenced everything from live-action film to advertising, social media, other forms of animation and beyond. The world of video games is no exception, and more recently anime has inspired a hugely successful subgenre of hypercasual games.
The overlap between anime and video games is almost as old as the anime explosion itself. So, the success of anime-inspired hypercasual games doesn’t come as a surprise. If you’re a hypercasual developer looking for a hit, it’s worth exploring the anime trend in more detail and finding out if it’s something you can capitalise on.
But before we get into it, it’s probably worth giving one of the most significant pop-culture phenomena of the past fifty years a little introduction first…
An intro to anime
The term ‘anime’ comes from the Japanese word ‘animēshon’, which is in turn based on the English word ‘animation’. While anime refers to virtually all forms of Japanese animation dating back to the early 1900s, it also refers to a particular look and feel. Those of us who grew up watching popular anime shows such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragon Ball Z or Digimon know exactly what this entails: bright, bold colours, characters with large, oval-shaped eyes, complex narratives often involving superpowers or the supernatural, and – of course – iconic facial expressions.
Anime became hugely popular around the world throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, with some theatrical releases such as Spirited Away (2003) receiving critical acclaim and recognition from Hollywood. Today, the anime market continues to grow, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic further boosting its popularity*.
*Based on a survey conducted by The Association of Japanese Animations and www.grandviewresearch.com
Anime and video games
A trend that began in the 1990s was to release anime-inspired video games. Video games based on TV hits such as Dragon Ball and Naruto are stalwart fan favourites. Now there are thousands of popular anime titles for consoles, PCs and mobiles encompassing almost every kind of video game genre.
Why anime video games so popular?
When it comes to explaining the popularity of anime video games, there are several factors at play:
- Global fanbase: anime is popular throughout the world.
- Distinctive art style: anime’s liberal use of colour, simplified character designs, sharp features and unique symbology give it a uniquely engaging style.
- Compelling narratives: anime stories tend to be exciting, detailed and action-focused, making them ideal for video games. Games based on anime TV or films can readily capitalise on an existing emotional resonance with the audience.
- Multiple subgenres: anime spans almost every kind of genre from crime to sci-fi, romance, action and beyond. This provides many avenues for game developers to explore. Anime is also popular with multiple age ranges, there are titles aimed at young children through to adult-oriented content.
Where anime meets hypercasual
Eventually, the sheer popularity of anime-themed video games flowed into the hypercasual market. This led to a slew of hit games, including:
- Ninja hands (Yso Corp) — 10m+ downloads
- Monster Catch (Homa Games) — 5m+ downloads
- Titan Rush (TapNation) — 1m+ downloads
- Manga Run: Rasengan (TapNation) — 1m+ downloads
- Z Warrior Runner (TapNation) — 1m+ downloads
Why does anime fit so well with hypercasual games?
Some of the reasons for anime’s popularity within the hypercasual game genre are similar to anime’s popularity within video games as a whole, but there are some key differences.
Many anime narratives involve a character starting from a position of weakness before building up to extreme strength. This story arc lends itself well to the goals and mechanics of hypercasual games. On top of that, anime’s already rich landscape of content can be easily adapted to liven up simpler gaming formats. Additionally, anime enjoys a huge global fanbase and is instantly recognisable due to its look and feel.
Considering all this, we expect to see more and more anime-inspired hypercasual games enter the market in the future.
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