Skillz Blog

How to Create a Successful Match 3 Game

Author: Hannah Press, Social Media Coordinator

Match 3 Genre History

The Match 3 genre owes its origins to early puzzle games, such as “Tetris,” released in the mid-1980s. As time progressed, game developers and publishers refined the formula for matching-style games. In 1994, a Russian programmer named Eugene Alemzhin’s created the first true ball-matching game for PCs. The goal of “Shariki” was to gain progressively higher scores through matching three or more same-colored balls by swapping adjacent ones. Though it wasn’t a huge name, the game informed the continued iterations of later Match 3 games.  

“Bejeweled,” a popular title released by PopCap Games, is widely thought of as the flagship Match 3 game. It was initially available for online play through Microsoft, earning over 350 million downloads and 20,000 concurrent players in 2000. With the emergence of mobile phones, the game increased in virality and has been ported to dozens of platforms. Following the enormous success of “Bejeweled,” a wave of similar games like “Puzzle Quest” and “Puzzles and Dragons” came about.

By 2012, developer King released the Facebook version of “Candy Crush Saga” and quickly ported it to iOS and Android. The game is free, but players have the option to make in-app purchases for extra lives or special bonuses. Since launch, “Candy Crush” has been downloaded 2.7 billion times and has been one of the top ten grossing mobile apps since 2014. At its peak, the game boasted revenue of over $1.3 billion.

Why is the Genre Successful?

The Match 3 genre is among the highest performing in the mobile gaming industry, and its growth in popularity shows no signs of slowing. One reason for this genre’s success is that it appeals to the human desire to think in patterns. Because the number three is the lowest figure used to form patterns, players are more likely to engage with and absorb information presented in groups of three. The concept of “threes” has been widely studied and is especially useful for achieving balance in design. Thus, it makes sense that the gameplay in Match 3s is both visually engaging and conceptually satisfying.  

Another reason for the success of the Match 3 genre is that these games have a low barrier to entry. They are easy to learn and have a clear objective. Progressing levels provide variety in gameplay that keeps players engaged. And the increasing difficulty of these levels entices users to keep coming back time and time again.

Match 3 games appeal to the casual gaming sector, which is the fastest growing in the industry. Players can complete levels or head-to-head matches in short periods of time, and the mobile platform allows them to play virtually anywhere. Because 77% of Americans own a smartphone, the total addressable market for Match 3s is vast and growing. As casual games require minimum experience and are relatively easy to learn, players are always eager to discover new content in this sector.

Creating a Match 3 Game

With the large volume of Match 3 games available, it is important to create a stimulating, engaging game to ensure its success. Developers should conduct research on potential audiences and pay close attention to market trends. After identifying the target audience(s), make sure to align creative and messaging with their motivations.

When designing a Match 3, remember that an engaging game is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The player should feel they are working towards an end goal, whether it’s solving the board entirely or earning points for each strategic movement of a piece. Ensure a relatively minimal style, with no clutter. Use high-contrast color combinations and consider giving varying textures or shapes for different-colored pieces.

An effective way to differentiate your casual Match 3 game is to offer unique Power-Ups that are rewarded to players for good performance or after a certain amount of time spent in the game. These pieces increase the number of ways players can complete levels, giving the gameplay versatility and keeping users engaged. Introduce new mechanics and challenges periodically in levels. This will boost retention, as players must adopt new tactics to succeed.

A Match 3 game with an engaging core loop, varying mechanics, and stellar visuals are key for being successful. An additional way to drive game success is to convert the game into a mobile eSport.

Match 3 Games on the Skillz Platform

One way to differentiate your Match 3 game in the mobile industry is to make it competitive. With the Skillz platform, you can position your game on a tournament management system where players compete against others of equal skill. Why is Skillz a good match for this genre?

Match 3 games are built for competition. The level-based progression maps of Match 3 titles already serve as asynchronous leaderboards. With Skillz, players can compete against real opponents for either bragging rights or real-world prizes. The familiar gameplay and mobile format empower players to compete in a competitive ecosystem where they can see their skill-level increase over time. Additionally, the rules/mechanics are easy to learn and appeal to a variety of competitive player types, like pattern-recognizers and problem-solvers.

Lastly, the quick and timed format is ideal for tournaments. Short game time leads to instant results and enables players to enter more tournaments in their available time. Players measure their progress against the clock, empowering a more rewarding experience while increasing their likelihood to compete again and again.

If you’re interested in seeing how Skillz can help you launch and monetize your mobile game, check out our Developer Console and download the newest SDK.