“Match 3 Games” (or tile-matching games) are a type of puzzle game where the player manipulates tiles in order to make them disappear according to a matching criterion. In many match 3 games, that criterion is to place a given number of tiles of the same type so that they adjoin together. The core challenge of match 3 games is to identify patterns on a seemingly chaotic board. The number of adjoining tiles is often three, hence being called a “match 3” game.
The origins of match 3 games are in the late 1980s with games such as Tetris, Chain Shot! (SameGame) and Puzznic. The de-facto first match 3 game was released for DOS in 1994 called “Shariki.” This gave rise to bubble shooters, that also fall into the match 3 category, the legendary Zuma for PC can be referred to as a pioneering game. After its successful launch in 2003, the idea of matching elements with gunshots was quickly picked up by the game development community and caused a real bubble shooter boom (Luxor, Frozen Bubble, etc.). Match 3 games were made popular throughout the 2000s, in the form of casual games distributed or played over the Internet, notably the Bejeweled series of games. They have remained popular since, with the game Candy Crush Saga becoming one of the most widely-played casual games worldwide.
Match 3 games cover a broad range of design elements, mechanics and gameplay experiences. They include purely turn-based games but can also feature arcade-style action elements, such as time pressure, shooting or hand-eye coordination. The tile-matching mechanic is also occasionally inserted as a “mini-game” within some larger, more complex games – giving the players a different challenge and gameplay mechanic to enjoy.
Match 3 games that are set in a fictional background are normally based in a “bright and positive” fiction, as opposed to the warlike background of strategy games or fantasy background of massively multiplayer games (MMOs).
Match 3 game mechanics have been combined with other mechanics to produce a wide variety of puzzle game experiences.
Many match 3 games are timed – that is, new tiles are continuously added and the player is under pressure to make matches before the board fills up.
Untimed (turn-based) games, in which new tiles are added only after the player has made a move, used to be the exception, although the 1985 game Chain Shot! already had an untimed mode. The addition of an untimed mode to Bejeweled! was integral to that game’s success, as well as one of its most important influences on subsequent games, as it made the game more accessible to less skilled players.
In most match 3 games, players obtain points for each match. Higher scores are awarded for more difficult matches, such as those involving a greater number of similar tiles.
In most match 3 games, new tiles are randomly added to the board continuously, either turn by turn or in real-time. This may continue indefinitely or for a given period of time or number of turns.
The player must continuously remove the newly added tiles through matching. The game may end with a loss when the board is filled with tiles or if there are no more possible matches. It may end with a victory when the player clears the board or reaches a given score.
In the games industry, acquiring players will depend largely on platform distribution. For mobile games, distribution is typically in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, with other app stores like Amazon available as well. For PC, a publisher may distribute on Steam or other publishing networks found on the Web. As a result, marketing is tailored to driving potential buyers to the stores or sites where games can be purchased.
For mobile match 3 games, marketers typically focus on acquiring players through Facebook advertising and Google App Campaigns, as they’re highly effective channels for acquiring app installs.
For many advertisers, Facebook offers the highest volume and quality source of advertising traffic through Mobile App Install Campaigns. Fully capitalizing on the potential of the Facebook platform requires heavy creative testing and, more importantly, continually adapting to changes in Facebook’s advertising strategies and algorithms. Over the past few years, Facebook has ramped up the frequency of advertising product changes, and top mobile app advertisers have followed suit by ramping up the frequency of strategy changes. Looking back historically, the strategy we deploy today is very different than the strategy we deployed six months ago. Interestingly, this statement would hold true for any backward-looking period of time over the past five years. Put simply, our strategy is always changing to keep up with Facebook’s best practices for Mobile App Install Campaigns.
Alongside Facebook’s ad solutions are Google App Campaigns, which let advertisers create ads where people can download an app directly from an ad. App Campaign ads – and all the settings available for Google App Campaigns – are designed expressly to generate app installs, such as for match 3 games.
You can use other campaign types, like display ads and even text ads, to advertise apps. But, the conversion rates for those campaigns are terrible comparable to App Campaigns. You’re just way more likely to get people to install an app if they only have to make a couple of clicks.
For match 3 games, Facebook Mobile App Install Campaigns and Google App Campaigns are the best tools to acquire valuable players. If you aren’t squeezing every drop of opportunity out of Facebook and Google ads, it’s time to up your game.