The arcade idle genre grew by 2050% in just over a year. Yes, you read it correctly, we’re talking thousands of percentages.

This is quite a big leap.

Even for the ever-changing hyper-casual games market.

If you didn’t have the chance to research this trend, don’t worry — we’ve done the hard work for you.

In this article, we’ll answer all the questions you might have about this emerging subgenre. If you have some more, please ask us in the comments!

Defining the Arcade Idle (Sub)Genre

You know what arcade games are. The same goes for idle games.

But, not so sure what the term “arcade idle” stands for?

Let’s start by clearing that out.

The arcade idle subgenre combines some characteristics of idle and adventure arcade genres. Here, the developers’ main goal is to create games with hyper-casual simplicity, but with better engagement metrics.

From the idle genre, these games borrowed the progression system.

This widely tried-and-tested mechanic can be traced back to the first browser-based idle games, which were released around ten years ago (Cookie Clicker is a popular example).

In idle games, players can progress with little or no input. The in-game resources increase on a regular basis, and players can boost the process and make it faster.

However, unlike arcade games, the idle genre isn’t exactly known for its simplicity.

Because of this, arcade idle developers try to eliminate all potentially complex features. In these games, everything from the game’s controls to mechanics and design should be simple and attractive to a wide audience.

Impressive Numbers

The first arcade idle games were published in late 2020 by Homa Games, and they turned out to be quite successful.

It didn’t take long for others to notice this.

Soon after, more and more studios started developing such games, a lot of which made their way to the top charts.

Sensor Tower and Homa Games have recently published research on the arcade idle genre. Here are some of their most interesting findings:

  • In 2021, arcade idle games have gotten 47.3 million downloads across both app stores. From Q4 2020 to Q1 2022, the number of downloads has risen by 2050%
  • Over the last year, 163 new arcade idle titles appeared in the app stores, 8 of which have gotten over 1 million downloads
  • India, Russia, Vietnam, China and Brazil are the top five countries by arcade idle download growth in Q2 2022. In China, the world’s biggest gaming market, the genre skyrocketed, growing by 14500%
  • The top 20 arcade idle games show impressive day 1 retention — ranging from 48% to 52%

Enticing Metrics

Data source: Homa Games

It’s not only the top arcade idle games that have high engagement metrics. The typical metrics in the arcade genre are also pretty exciting. According to Homa Games, the games from this genre have an average:

  • CPI of 40 cents
  • Day 0 playtime of 25 minutes
  • Day 1 retention rate of 35%

As you can see, the average CPI in this subgenre is higher than the maximum one for hyper-casual games (35 cents). However, all the other metrics suggest that the investment is worth it.

You don’t need to be a genius to come to this conclusion.

Players play these games for a longer amount of time. The more they play, the more monetization chances this gives you. All this makes up for a higher LTV and overall game revenue.

But how do these simple games get to such numbers?

Continue reading to find out.

Arcade Idle Games: Feature Overview

Wondering how to recognize an arcade idle game?

Look for a game with simple movable characters, and features like resource stacking, expansion, and upgrading.

Mechanics

Players don’t need a lengthy tutorial to figure out how to play arcade idle games.

This should be clear in a matter of seconds.

This is the main factor taken from the arcade genre, which originates from the coin-op machines in arcade places. You put the coin in, learn how to play in 5 seconds, and you’re right in the middle of the action.

To achieve this effect, games need to be based on simple, enjoyable mechanics.

In most cases, the games from this genre rely on joystick controls and the stacking mechanic. The more players play, the more they get to explore, expand, or access.

All these attributes work together to engage players, boost their satisfaction, and keep them in for a while.

Themes

When someone says idle games, your mind instantly goes to mining and digging? In the past, most idle games were based on these themes.

Today, they are more diverse.

Most arcade idle developers decide on popular and straightforward themes, some of which work better than others.

Here are the top five themes from this subgenre ranked by downloads (Sensor Tower and Homa Games):

  • Farming (18.9 million)
  • Sandbox (15.2 million )
  • Battle creatures (6.9 million)
  • Cooking (3.3 million)
  • Mining/Digging (2.4 million)

The farming theme is not just an arcade idle trend. It’s also becoming a major trend in console and PC indie gaming. The vast majority of indie games announced in the most recent Nintendo Direct are focused on farming.

Looks

Arcade idle games aren’t known for their top-notch graphics.

They are all about simplicity.

To get this effect, the developers put a simple character (jelly man or stick man) in a simplistic environment.

Another way you can recognize these games is by the camera angle they are using — a slightly tilted top view. Thanks to this angle, the players get a wide view of the map and the in-game environment.

Goals & Progression

When players start playing an arcade idle game, they should immediately feel the need to play it for hours.

The player’s goal in this kind of game is to collect resources and manage them to expand their belongings. They can always see exactly how much it takes them to achieve their next small goal (e.g. how much wheat to harvest or how many burgers to serve).

But what keeps them interested for hours?

Adding depth to the game.

To do this, developers introduce long-term goals for players to strive for. For example, to uncover hidden areas of the map, or increase the characters’ power.

Naturally, the goals of the game will depend on the progression system it has. The top arcade idle games are usually based on one of these:

  • Map exploration system
  • Character upgrade system
  • Level-based system
  • Growth system

Monetization

Arcade idle monetization is strongly linked to player progression.

These games usually don’t feature a hard currency, so the monetization system doesn’t revolve around it.

In arcade idle, it’s all about speeding things up.

While playing, players want to explore, upgrade or access something. As a monetization strategy, developers offer them ways to do this faster. For this purpose, they typically include:

  1. Rewarded video ads
  2. In-app purchases
  3. Banner ads

For example, if the gameplay is too slow, a rewarded video ad can bring a temporary bonus (e.g. movement speed). This can work as a sample for an IAP offer that brings the same thing — but permanent.

The majority of top arcade idle titles feature banner ads, which don’t interfere with gameplay and bring some extra revenue to the table.

Interstitial ads also appear in some of these games, but since they don’t have natural transitions, it’s harder to place them. For example, Voodoo does this by announcing a “halftime” or a “lunch break”.

Finally, to monetize as many players as possible, some arcade idle games also include subscription options.

As you can see, just like these games are hybrid, so are their monetization strategies. The developers aim to profit from their hyper-casual appeal, but also from their high engagement and retention rates.

Examples of Arcade Idle Games

Arcade idle games come in many shapes and sizes.

Here are examples of two different games with their main features — and screenshots!

Craft Island by Homa Games

This was one of the first arcade idle games to appear on the market.

In Craft Island, players need to build their islands with wood. By chopping down trees, players get resources to build things like houses, bridges, or tool rooms. Another thing they can do is sell the chopped wood and uncover new areas of the island. The goal is to constantly produce resources and discover new worlds.

Downloads: 10M+

Core mechanic: Stacking

Progression: Growth system

Monetization: Rewarded video ads + banner ads + IAPs + subscription

Moon Pioneer by Voodoo

In Moon Pioneer, the players explore distant planets and make use of their natural resources. For example, by collecting oil, they can build new structures and produce energy. Once they are done with one land (e.g. the Moon) they quickly proceed to the next one (e.g. Mars). In this game, stepping on new lands works as leveling up.

Downloads: 10M+

Core mechanic: Stacking

Progression: Level-based system

Monetization: Interstitial ads + banner ads+IAPs + subscription

What does the Future Hold for This Subgenre?

This subgenre is still relatively new.

Yet, it has already evolved and expanded quite a bit.

And as it continues to grow, we can expect it to change even further.

For example, right now, the majority of arcade idle titles are based on the stacking mechanic. It’s possible that, in the future, developers will innovate by mixing idle features with some other popular mechanics (e.g. merging or matching).

Another thing we can expect from this subgenre is — more downloads.

Right now, there is no arcade idle title with +100 million downloads.

This is because the subgenre is still limited to a not-so-wide audience. However, as it continues to boom, and the developers innovate within it, more downloads will naturally follow.

In a Nutshell…

It’s a fact — arcade idle games are one of the hottest trends in the hyper-casual market.

Thanks to their combination of simplicity and depth, they are fun, yet manage to keep players for a long time.

If you’re thinking about hopping on the bandwagon, now is the time. Need help with getting your game published? Reach out to us and get all the guidance and support you need!

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