Voodoo is backing UK start-up The Next Hype to make hypercasual hits that feel like playable trends.
The three-man team are founder and studio director Aaron Morley, tech director Andrew Jarman and video producer Geddie I. Morley and Jarman met at Ubisoft-owned Hungry Shark studio Future Games of London, where they each held senior roles. Geddie I joined from BoomHits, having previously worked at BoomBit and AdColony.
The Next Hype boss Morley sees an opportunity in making buzzy, TikTok-inspired games, adding a dash of randomness and creativity into interactions inspired by satisfying GIFs or ASMR videos.
Most of all, Morley likes the idea of working fast and experimenting. While he describes his time at FGOL with great affection, he’s not exactly enthusiastic about big-studio culture.
“We had bottled lightning – everyone was working so well together and we were accomplishing massive things with such a small team,” he says of FGOL’s early years. “It taught me a lot about mobile and also how much more you can achieve with an effective team than with just a big team.”
He says of his more recent experiences at FGOL: “It’s often a little slow and bureaucratic. There’s a lot of space for people to hide, because it’s such a big organisation. You do find that a good chunk of your colleagues are not as driven or as focused or ambitious…and that’s fine, but for me personally, what I’ve always liked and chased is that small team where everyone’s really united in a single view and ambitious, and they’re into execution and testing and learning.”
And so hypercasual beckons. The Next Hype has complete control over its output, and a custom publishing agreement so that it can plug its games into Voodoo’s huge UA and marketing operation.
“It felt like a great way to learn and have a lot of support compared to going the traditional VC route where there’d be so much more financial risk,” says Morley. “And obviously the capital required for UA in the modern mobile market is pretty stifling. This gives us a better shot at success.”
Let’s be honest here: for many, hypercasual is pretty unfashionable, and positively frowned upon by some. But Morley considers firing out weird pop culture-infused games into a fast-moving, Wild West-like space preferable to the more static parts of the market.
“Embracing risk is nowhere,” he says. “In casual mobile games, look at top grossing charts…they’re locked, right? The way we see mobile now is you either have IP or you’re building a game which takes established successes and innovates in small, safe areas.”
“At the developer level, what we’re doing, it’s so fresh,” he continues. “I want us to be adventurous and to be honest with each other and if it feels like we’re making stuff that’s derivative or generic, we need to have that hard conversation. It’s about grabbing someone’s attention instantly, in one, two, four seconds.”
Morley aims to have The Next Hype’s first Voodoo-published game out before Christmas, and the team already has some prototypes out there in testing.
“The ambition is in the next six to nine months to find some successes and have some streams of revenue, build a hit hypercasual game – or a couple,” he adds. “In the longer run, a year from now or faster depending on how we go and how the data guides us, we want to build games that can have a more significant proportion of their revenue from in-app purchases. Bigger bets on more adventurous games.”