Dealing with crowded game genres in the App Store: Match-3 Category

Match 3-Category: The most prominent and crowded game genre in the market

Mobile gaming has exploded during the last couple of years. According to the latest data, there are 2.69 billion mobile game players globally. In addition, mobile games dominate the App Store revenue share as of this year (61%). We can expect these numbers to grow even further in 2022. 

The video game industry is definitely one of the most saturated markets and is booming at an unfathomable rate. After years upon years of unprecedented growth, Apple’s App Store market grew so crowded that analysts have reported almost a 30 percent decrease in the volume of new game app submissions, app and game downloads declined for the first time in 2021, falling from 34.4 billion downloads in 2020 to 32.3 billion in 2021.

The less curated Google Play Store experienced no such drop, growing at a rate of 17 percent year-on-year — a possible side effect of Apple’s more aggressive abuse-deterrence policies toward app makers. Despite the decline in numbers both in game app submissions and downloads, it did not deter both stores from receiving hundreds of new games per day, if not thousands.

With the daily influx of games continuing to pour into these storefronts, developers of all sizes are forced to deal with the reality of the overcrowding in every stage of game development, particularly in publishing. From solo game developers creating 8-bit dreams in their garages to AAA juggernauts cranking away at massive shared worlds, there’s a lot of competition, especially in the popular game app subgenres, like Match-3. 

Match 3-Category: The most prominent and crowded game genre in the market

Among the most iconic mobile game genres to date, match-3 games are the most prominent subgenre in the U.S. iPhone game market, accounting for 21% of the market’s revenue

Starting back in the 80’s with well beloved titles such as Tetris, and in the 2000s, Candy Crush and Bejeweled, such games are still going strong in the player base to this day given the simplistic game mechanics. Players have to match three (or more) of the same tiles, which disappear and create a space for new tiles to appear in a random order. 

As players advance through levels, the tiles usually become more varied. Sometimes there are physical blocks or spaces between tiles. And your time limit or number of moves available steadily decreases, level by level. All these things create fresh challenges for the player to overcome.

Match-3 games are a great way to kill some spare time and they don’t require you to have any prior gaming knowledge. You can play such games while on the bus, waiting in line, or whenever you want to take your mind off something mundane.

Why Match-3 Games prove to be so popular

There aren’t many mobile game genres that have maintained their appeal since the App Stores started offering games; but Match-3 games have proven to be quite popular to any demographic, and here’s why we think that is the case:

They offer quick-fire gratification

You get a little challenge every few seconds when new tiles appear – and it’s satisfying to solve them and see the tiles then disappear, often with an animated flurry of colors. It creates a very fast cycle of challenge and reward. It’s also really quick and easy to jump into that cycle, because the core gameplay loop is so simple.

These easy block-matching games are relaxing, and over the past few years, a wide variety of types of match-3 games started popping up. You have match-3 games where you can decorate your own place, you have somewhere you get to play hidden object games in between, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

They’re accessible for all ages

Whether it’s a young child or an elderly, match-3 games are a way for them to get into gaming and spend their leisure time with ease and a good time-sink. The generalized premise and interface are so simple that it takes mere seconds to explain how to play – if you even need to explain at all. And because it’s just that easy to get into, and can be played in mere seconds or minutes, you never need to devote huge amounts of time to it.

They sit in a nice little niche between idle and challenging

Match-3 games aren’t especially difficult – you just match the tiles together. But there is a challenge there. They demand a bit more thought than idle or hyper-casual games. But it’s a very habitual kind of challenge. It’s easy to get into a flow without having to stop and think about it too much.

Game developers like making Match-3 Games

Match-3 games are simple to develop and offer high return on in-app purchases, with players using in-game items to help them progress through harder levels. Players typically expect ads, which sit neatly in between levels or attempts. Also, there’s a higher chance of a game to become an ‘evergreen hit’ like Candy Crush, because the genre’s appeal is so timeless.

But given how many choices for Match-3 games there are nowadays, it’s difficult to find the best match-three games to fit all your wants. Here’s some food for thought on how to deal with the overcrowded competitive market of match-3 games. 

Tips on dealing with the oversaturated Match-3 Genre

Although they’re based on a simple concept, making a good match-3 game stand out isn’t easy. There are lots of them out there, so the competition is fierce. To reach the top, you need to nail every aspect of the genre.

Tips on dealing with the oversaturated Match-3 Genre

Although they’re based on a simple concept, making a good match-3 game stand out isn’t easy. There are lots of them out there, so the competition is fierce. To reach the top, you need to nail every aspect of the genre.

1. Make sure your Match-3 game is easy to understand

Good match-3 games have a clear hook and objective on each and every level. Innovation is good, but in your drive to create something unique, you mustn’t sacrifice the simplicity that makes the genre work in the first place.

2. Keep a simple yet consistent captivating visual style

A good match-3 game needs to be immersive. No matter what visual style you go for, it needs to stay simple and consistent. In Candy Crush, for example, literally everything is candy based – down to the menus and the icons. Your shapes and colors need to be easily recognizable so the style stays consistent, but also for gameplay assets to be easily distinguishable. In the early days of gaming, there was little more satisfying than sliding a single Tetris block into a perfectly-shaped gap and watching four lines clear at once. Over the years, the visuals have grown more colorful and animated, but the concept is the same. 

3. Get the right pacing to keep players coming back

You need to ramp up the challenge in a slow, consistent way – a sudden jump in difficulty could make you lose players. If you introduce new mechanics at a certain level, they need to be easy to get into, and you need to give the player unchallenging opportunities to use them when they first appear. Matching-3 should feel rewarding. Clearing a level should feel like a little celebration – especially on the harder levels. 

4. Give it an overarching theme

While you don’t have to go for an over-the-top storyline, your game should still have a narrative or an engaging theme for the players to distinguish your game from the other games they’ll discover in the market. Even a game as simple as Candy Crush frames its levels around the troubles of the Candy Kingdom’s residents. Having an engaging theme will also make you stand out from the average match-3 game. 

5. Cultivate the game over the long term (especially with app store updates)

If you want an evergreen hit, you need to keep a steady flow of content going. You’ll need to dedicate time in building new levels and giving a new sense of challenge to players who are getting very good at it. You also need to keep your players up to date through managing your app store front whenever you push for updates. They need to know there’s something to look forward to when they play your game and encourage others to download it out of all the match-3 games in the app store. 

Got a Match-3 Game ready to publish? Get visibility for your game with Slab!

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Mars Zarate

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