Match3 subgenre is revolutionizing the mobile gaming industry

Finland based Mobile game insights and analytics specialist GameRefinery published a report on Match3 subgenre which sits within GameRefinery’s Puzzle genre under the Casual Game category. The report suggests that this subgenre is revolutionizing the mobile gaming industry, particularly the US iOS market. GameRefinery suggests that the Match3 subgenre has evolved in “waves”. Starting from the original Candy Crush Sagas to the most recent ‘decorative’ games such as Property Brothers Home Design.

The approach of GameRefinery to categorize games

Before understanding the report in-depth, we should know that GameRefinery uses a three-layered approach. First, they use a Category -> Genre -> subgenre hierarchy to differentiate games and make the audience understand. Then they offer insights for all individual game types available in the market. Their taxonomy is created together with the industry experts. And is based on a thorough testing and data analysis of the market.

Match3 subgenre is still the favorite

Match3 subgenre has become one of the most successful genres in mobile gaming from the last few years. Candy Crush has topped the chart in Match3 with approximately 26% market share. It is followed by Toon Blast with a 12% market share in the US iOS. It was also evident when Candy Crush became Top-grossing Franchise in Q1 of 2020 on the US App Store. Erno Kiiski, Chief Game Analyst – US, for GameRefinery also mentioned that Candy Crush Saga, Toy Blast & Candy Crush Soda Saga continue to be major contributors to Match3 games’ success. These mature titles represent a more “traditional” approach as they focus solely on core gameplay, i.e. crunching candies and tiles.

Key points of the report

  • Currently, Match3 subgenre is the biggest subgenre in the US iOS market and contributes around 21% of the market’s revenues.
  • Out of the 200 top-grossing Match3 games, 81% are more than two years old.
  • The “second & third wave” (the recent Match3 waves explained later in the article) of Match3 games have brought deeper meta layers to the subgenre. And have been able to gain market share from more “traditional” Match3 titles.
  • Battle pass & social mechanics are prime examples of new & trending features in Match3 games.

How the games under Match3 are able to draw more crowd?

The report mentions that a constant stream of content is crucial to keep the players happy and engaged. That’s why constantly running live events is an essential part of modern Match3 games. Also, Battle pass & social mechanics are new & trending features in Match3 games. Guilds, co-op tasks, and guild wars being prime examples.

The trends like deepening meta and social elements can also be seen from slightly differing player motivation profiles. For players playing games from the 1st vs. 2nd vs. 3rd waves of Match3 games. The latest Match3 games like Storm8, and Property Brothers: Home Design have introduced a “decorative” flavor. This flavor on top of traditional Match3 mechanics further increases their appeal in certain audience segments. However, if you want to know the secret behind the popularity of match3 games, you can check here.

The “three waves” of Match3 subgenre in the US iOS

Three waves of Match3 subgenre
Source: GameRefinery SaaS Dashboard

GameRefinery clubbed the set of Match3 games under different waves. The three waves of Match 3 games show the evolution of Match 3. The model for each game under Match 3 remains the same. The report says that the 2nd and 3rd wave titles add new versions on top of the foundation model. For example, the possibility to build & decorate your garden, renovate your house, etc.

Top features with the biggest revenue impact

In the initial days of mobile gaming, players used to complete level after level and puzzle after puzzle. But as the mobile gaming industry has evolved and matured, things have become very different.

Top features of Match3 subgenre with biggest revenue impact
Source: GameRefinery SaaS Dashboard

“A constant stream of content with fast enough cadence is super important in keeping your players happy and engaged. That’s why constantly running live events is an essential part of modern Match3s”


The report also mentions that the market data indicates that these event-related features have a significant impact. Majorly on a game’s revenue potential. Also features like social features, such as guild mechanics and other features incentivize players to interact with other players socially.

Recent top updates in Match3 subgenre

The report mentions Battle pass and social mechanics as two major updates in match3 subgenre. Match3 games like Gardenscapes and Clockmaker have started using Battle Pass as part of their monetization strategy. This has positively impacted the growth of this genre. The implementations of different social mechanics also played a major role. Social mechanics such as guilds, coop tasks, and guild competitions are also being used by match3 games.

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