Puzzle games and especially match 3 puzzlers have been in the limelight of mobile game top grossing lists for as long these lists have existed – and it seems that they are not going anywhere. This, of course, might not surprise many of us: match 3 games are easy to learn, simple to play and don't take much of your time to get that sweet, addictive feeling of accomplishment.
To put it short, mobile platforms and match 3 puzzlers fit together like peanut butter and jelly. But how does the match 3 genre look today and what does the future have in store for it? Are we going to keep crunching those same candies happily ever after, or is there some kind of evolution and change looming in the horizon?
Before diving into the success factors of Match 3 puzzle games, let's first check out, how match 3 puzzlers are nowadays divided into two main “archetypes”.
The simplistic casual ones, with only one layer of the core game. In these games, it's all about connecting pieces on the board (cakes, candies, fruits, monsters -you name it!) by swapping, shooting or linking them. Levels follow each other in a strictly linear way – you complete a level and are then thrown right into the next one. There are no characters, buildings, gear items or other “layers”, it's just you, the board and an endless string of levels ahead of you. The gaming sessions are independent of each other, meaning that there is no link or plot to tie the levels (and you progression) together. Due to the simple nature of these match 3 puzzlers, we call them “single-dimensional match 3's” or just “SD3's”.
The more complex match 3 puzzlers with two or more layers of the core game. These games usually bring RPG or CCG elements to the table to expand the game's core and lure mid-/hardcore players on board while doing so. You get to explore dungeons, fight monsters and develop your party, just like in RPG and CCG games, but now the fighting is carried out with a match 3 puzzle mechanics. We call these games “multi-dimensional match 3's” or “MD3's”.
Puzzle & Dragons mixes RPG elements with Match 3 core, making it a “MD3” game
Both types have the potential to be successful – also in the future
If you look at the top grossing charts of the biggest western markets from the past year or so, you can see that there are success stories in both of these subgroups: Candy Crush Saga and its younger sibling Candy Crush Soda Saga have been standing on the pinnacle of US top grossing charts for a while now, while games like Marvel Puzzle Quest and Puzzle & Dragons have also found themselves grossing very well.
One might argue that at the moment, the SD3's have the upper hand. The point I'd like to emphasize here is that in the current markets, you can hit it big, whether you go with more casual match-3 or come up with a RPG/match 3 hybrid, because the demand for both of these genres exists.
The key is to include the right set of features and implement them in the right way so that the game fulfills the needs and wants of today's AND tomorrow's markets. That's what separates the success stories from the ones that you have never heard of.