[App Fridays] Chinese social gaming app HAGO storms the internet, crosses 100M downloads within a year
Until not too long ago, HAGO (acronym for ‘Have A Good One’) was an under-discovered Chinese social gaming app. Released last November, it lets users discover friends, play games, host ‘voice parties’, and earn real rewards (mobile recharges, shopping vouchers, and even smartphones and bikes).
Just the kind of stuff millennials tend to obsess over.
HAGO’s popularity hit the roof in 2019. In July, it became the world’s sixth most downloaded app, according to Sensor Tower data, trailing only TikTok and the Facebook-owned apps.
In India, HAGO witnessed dramatic growth. SimilarWeb estimates the app recorded over 12 million downloads in three months, with average user sessions lasting an unprecedented 57 minutes.
India is already HAGO’s second largest market (next to Indonesia), accounting for 14 percent of its total users. The app is available in English and Hindi currently. Globally, HAGO has crossed 100 million downloads on Google Play Store, and is rated 4.4 out of 5.
Lately, the app has generated a lot of chatter on the Indian internet, with users sharing HAGO referral codes, jokes, memes, and videos. Along with TikTok, it is the most curiosity-inducing app right now, especially among millennials.
There are 80+ games that you can play on HAGO in a single or multi-player format. Popular games include Knife Hit, Brain Quiz, Juice Slash, Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Crazy Taxi, Sheep Fight, Rummy, and others.
In what has emerged as HAGO’s most attractive feature, users can communicate through voice or text with fellow players at an in-game chatroom. This is reminiscent of the Yahoo chat rooms of yore, only a little more colourful and interactive.
Whenever you play a game, HAGO matches you with a stranger, with whom you can continue playing the game. If you enjoyed playing with someone, you can even send them a friend request.
The app’s tour de force is seamless game discovery and persistent nudging that makes its users engage with it longer. These nudges can be in the form of game invites, suggestions, screen notifications, private messages, and chat invitations.
Let’s look at HAGO more closely.
The app asks for device storage permissions to begin with. Enable location access if you want to discover local players.
You can log in with your email, mobile number, or Facebook id. You claim 500 coins with every log in. These coins can be converted into cash and/or real gifts.
In a new update, HAGO allows users to win 100 coins per day. This increases their chances at lucky draws too. Refer to the 'Shop & Coins' section for more.
You can check the ‘My Wallet’ section on the sidebar to know the value of coins, and even purchase them.
The home page displays all games in an endless scroll. They are grouped in categories: Must-Play, Games With Coins, Hot Games, World-Record Games.
Click on a game to start playing. The screen displays your game score, daily rank, number of players you beat, number of players online, daily goals, rewards, and more.
The settings icon on the top right of every game screen gives you a snapshot of the game score and also allows you to quit or restart a game. You can track your daily leaderboard and even show off your 'winning streak' to friends.
You can also auto-import contacts from Facebook or your phone list.
The ‘WeMeet’ feature on the homepage leads you to a Tinder-like assortment of potential playmates. Hit the ‘heart’ icon to like a player. Hit the ‘cross’ icon to swipe left and move on.
The ‘Play With Friends’ feature lets you discover local multiplayers and your own social media contacts too.
Hit the messages icon on the top right to start a chat with friends or strangers, and invite them to multiplayer games.
You can even choose from multiple chat rooms listed under the ‘Channel’ section on the homepage. In a channel, you can hear music, voice chat with others, share emojis, jokes, or even text messages too. This serves a real-time online community.
Finally, in Settings, you can change the language, manage notifications, and enable game downloads for offline access.
Mostly engaging, sometimes overwhelming
HAGO is unlike any app we’ve seen. It is a casual gaming, messaging, social discovery and community platform - all blended into one. That perhaps explains its staggering engagement rates. There is just a lot to do on HAGO.
The app is a delight for mobile gamers, who are treated to a wide array of simple and complex titles for free. In the process, they also get to make new friends, engage in colloquial banter, and earn real cash benefits.
If you’re a sociable person, who seeks constant company, HAGO is your new Facebook-cum-Tinder-cum-WhatsApp-Group. Sensor Tower puts it aptly as “a super hot app that can be your getaway for all social and casual needs”.
HAGO’s voice chat feature goes a long way in improving access and pulling users from India’s Tier II and III towns.
But, while there is a lot on offer, the app can sometimes overwhelm you with its colours, sounds, notifications, goals, rewards, and the constant nudges.
If you lose track of a game, it is difficult to get your way back. You have to either quit or restart. A Netflix-like ‘resume’ feature could be a great addition here. The app could also do with a few more language options that would increase local consumption.
Nonetheless, HAGO is a beautifully and intelligently designed product. And, its compelling incentive structure will keep drawing millennials to the app.
It’s not even been a year, but HAGO is already ‘having a good one’!
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)