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The Squid Game Effect: How Popular Media is Influencing Hypercasual Game Development

Sarayah Wright
Sarayah Wright
3 min read
Posted on November 17, 2021
The Squid Game Effect: How Popular Media is Influencing Hypercasual Game Development

Netflix has seen huge success from the Korean drama "Squid Game." Premiering worldwide in late September, Netflix reports an estimate of 142 million global viewers tuned into the dystopian show within its first month. Upon initial release, the binge-worthy offering quickly reached the number one position on Netflix’s Top 10 list in more than 90 countries. In the U.S. alone, "Squid Game" became one of only six shows to surpass 3 billion minutes of streaming across video-on-demand platforms—and this number, pulled from Nielson report data, does not include streams from computer and mobile devices nor gaming consoles.  

While it took 10 years for funding to reach the Hwang Dong-hyuk directed project, the show has become cemented in the global digital/media landscape in a matter of weeks if not days. What’s most interesting about viral moments is how something like "Squid Game" can take on new meanings, tones and genres even, as it transverses through and across mediums and inspires new forms of content altogether. As it stands, there are 250 Squid Game-related apps featured on the Google Play store. While this is an almost predictable outcome for a show formatted around games, play and competition, the onslaught of Squid Game-themed hypercasual games and experiences leads us to wonder what this means for the future of hypercasual gaming development.  

Hypercasual gaming development studios thrive on frequency, churning out dozens of new titles a year to capture eyeballs (and ad dollars). Turning to pop culture for inspiration naturally makes sense, as it gives developers another avenue to turn to for inspiration. 

The hypercasual business model is predicated on reach. By tapping into an existing trend, a developer can include visual hints and allusions that might appeal to someone looking for a new game to play. The idea behind these inclusions is that if you like "Squid Game" (which everyone does) then you’ll like this game. 

The tactic worked: Games that incorporate visual elements/themes from "Squid Game" continue to perform well even though the show has been out for about two months by this point. 

Expect to see more of this in the future. Hypercasual gaming studios need to make more and more titles in an effort to score their next big hit and will look to movies, TV shows, pop culture events, etc to help inspire new games. And with Netflix recently announcing the release of five new game titles available for play on the app on Android mobile devices, we are sure to see more of this blend of game and popular media in the future.  

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