Although the dividends brought by the epidemic to the mobile game market are gradually fading, a report by Senser Tower shows that the downloads of ultra-casual games around the world have bucked the trend and increased by 15% last year, with a total of 13.7 billion downloads for the whole year.
From the perspective of categories, the popularity of ultra-casual games is naturally inseparable from the repeated introversion of manufacturers on the classic theme of "Match 3".From "Candy Crush Saga", which was the best in the early years, to the emerging forces in Turkey represented by Peak Games and Dream Games, the match-3 category itself has also shown an increasingly high-quality development trend.
Especially in terms of game content, the combination of "Match 3 + X" is becoming a common idea for manufacturers to break through involution.Through the combination of other elements such as plot collection, character development, and simulated management, supplemented by a strong investment in art, the casual mobile game market in recent years has seen frequent explosions in the casual mobile game market.
Although there have been repeated breakthroughs in the "X element", objectively speaking, in terms of core gameplay, the match-3 category seems to have stagnated.After major casual mobile game companies such as Zynga and Voodoo raised the threshold at the product level, innovation in gameplay has become a rare opportunity for other players on the track to break through.
Recently, GameLook has noticed a very unique match-3 mobile game without fancy Xelements, and there is no ultimate artistic presentation.But this seemingly mediocre product, since its launch in July last year, has achieved a monthly in-app purchase turnover of over 7 million US dollars (about 44.22 million yuan) in just half a year. Today's monthly downloadsIt also reached 10 million times.How did this game called "Zen Match" achieve such a phenomenal market performance in an environment full of strong players?
Innovation, maybe just one more step
Just looking at the screenshots of the game, "Zen Match" is easily reminiscent of a game that GameLook previously reported.The first elimination game "Mahjong (Mahjong)"."Mahjong" uses a matching game similar to Lianliankan. Players need to match two identical mahjong pieces on the upper level to gradually unlock the lower level mahjong pieces until they are all eliminated.Thanks to the rich patterns of mahjong itself, for "illiterate" foreigners, this very oriental-style stacking elimination game is indeed quite attractive.Therefore, "Mahjong" has been prosperous since its release in 2009, and has been widely praised by European and American players for more than ten years.
However, since "Mahjong" has a history of 13 years, Naturally, there will be no shortage of imitators. How can "Zen Match" surpass its predecessors?
The answer is actually very simple, "Zen Match" goes one step further than all similar stack elimination games.
Due to the use of matching gameplay, in fact, "Mahjong" can be said to be a "two-match" game. Players only need to find two identical mahjong pieces at a time to eliminate them.The innovation of "Zen Match" is to change the "two matches" back to "three matches".
At the bottom of the main screen of the game, there is a square slot, which can store up to seven squares at the same time. What the player has to do is to find three squares with the same pattern in the stacked squares.If the player selects seven squares, but does not have three of the same pattern, he must pay a certain amount of "gold coins" to obtain an additional three storage slots.
If you have played the fourth-order Rubik's cube, you will understand that compared with the third-order Rubik's cube, the twoDifficulty is no longer an order of magnitude.The same goes for Zen Match and Mahjong.Although it seems that you just need to find one more of the same square each time, "Match-3" is much more difficult than "Match-2", especially the design of the initial 7 slots, in fact, the room for error is very low. The authorJust a simple trial of 10 levels, the mechanism of full slots was triggered three times.
At the same time, "Zen Match" also provides a daily puzzle section, as well as unlimited mainline levelsIn contrast, the daily puzzle is a high-intensity stacking level that needs to be completed in a limited time, and hundreds of different blocks need to be eliminated within 5 minutes.In the case of almost no thinking, the author just clicked for more than three minutes, which shows that the challenge is still relatively strong.
However, although there is no complicated plot, good-looking characters, and deep development, "Zen Match" can still be regarded as a "Match 3 + X" game.The "X element" of this game is not too rare-decoration and collection.By continuing to pass the level, players can obtain a "Blue Lotus" prop, which can be used to customize the color matching of the scenes provided in the game.Since there are many color-matching elements in a single scene, although there are fewer optional colors for a single element, players can still achieve quite personalized scene customization in this lightweight game, and there are rarely two players.The color scheme is exactly the same.
In addition, the process of players clearing the level is also set as "traveling", so players canView the various blocks and card backgrounds collected during your "travel process" in the illustrated book.Of course, compared with top products that focus on plot development, the collection experience of "Zen Match" is much simpler. Overall, the micro-innovation in gameplay is the key to this game's ability to break through the involution.
The byproduct of micro-innovation: a unique business model
One of the recognized reasons why ultra-casual games are popular with European and American players is that the payment threshold is low, and there are even a large number of "free" games that rely entirely on advertising for monetization.However, if the gameplay makes players want to stay longer, removing ads can be a good pay point.Therefore, simple in-app purchase + advertising monetization has become a business model commonly adopted by popular ultra-casual games.
However, GameLook noticed that due to the increased difficulty of "Match-3" compared to "Match-2" and the micro-innovative design of the game itself, "Zen Match" has different payment methods and users' willingness to pay.some natural advantages.In a sense, the monthly game revenue of more than 40 million is also largely due to this.
In order to reduce the difficulty, three kinds of props are provided in the game: temporarily add a block slot, return a selected block, and reshuffle the deck.All three props can be purchased directly with gold coins, and the game store also provides a paid combination of gold coins and props bundled together.Compared with general ultra-casual mobile games, which is similar to a one-time buyout, the payment methods provided by "Zen Match" are undoubtedly more diverse and flexible.
It should be pointed out that in "Match-2" games like "Mahjong", it is usually notSuch paid designs exist.Due to mechanical problems, there is no need for square slots and rollback in the "Match-two" game, and it is rare that the player needs to reshuffle the cards because the player eliminated the wrong mahjong combination.Therefore, "Mahjong" directly adopts the method of free shuffling, and uses the extra level pack as a payment point, which is actually similar to the paid DLC model commonly used in end games.
In contrast, "Zen Match", which has gone one step further, has gained three very attractive repurchase payment points for players.According to the author's personal test, compared with other popular casual game categories such as parkour, spot the difference, and puzzles, the payment points of "Zen Match" are more "stuck", and it is easier for players to pay willingly.
Although the game is small, it has a big background
Although the content of the game is not complicated, "Zen Match" still has traces of very standard industrial production.Although there are not many bright spots in the overall performance of the fluency, UI, music, etc., it is also at the upper-middle level in ultra-casual games.This also means that this game is not a rookie's test of the waters.
In fact, Good Job Games, the developer of this game, does have a lot of background.This is a casual mobile game developer established in 2017. It is located in Istanbul at the intersection of Europe and Asia, like the several emerging forces in Turkey mentioned at the beginning.
On the brand page of Google Play, you can find that this company hasMore than 30 ultra-casual mobile games have been launched in the game. Due to the high reusability of materials such as music and beauty, the company can quickly produce products with certain micro-innovations.
For example, the company's last product "Paper Fold" is also repeatedly listed in the US ultra-casualTop 10 hits on the game rankings.This game combines three-dimensional origami with two-dimensional puzzles. Each level of the game is set with different cartoon patterns, allowing players to fold according to a certain order of folding, so as to spell out a complete plane pattern. While exercising memory and logic, it alsoCan achieve a good decompression effect.
In general, the success of these Good Job Games products does not depend on long-term refinement andComplex content placement implementation.On the contrary, as long as a micro-innovation entry point can be found in real life or competing product research, this small team of just over 50 people can quickly iterate a product with sufficient completion and basically qualified overall quality.Then, through the common way of buying volume, the effect of rushing to the list is quickly generated, and then the profit method of "small profits but quick turnover" is realized.This is also consistent with the consistent research and development methods of Turkish manufacturers previously reported by GameLook.
For Chinese manufacturers on the other side of Eurasia, such R&D process, personnel structure and business model can bring tens of millions of downloads and revenue, which may be more or lessIt is "unacceptable".However, GameLook believes that, as the so-called "heroes don't ask where they come from", the explosive method proved by the Turkish counterparts with practical actions has well explained the business logic of the European and American ultra-casual mobile game market: instead of repeated introversion in the red sea of homogeneous competitionVolume, it is better to return to the essence of the game, a small step in the gameplay may become a big step in the business level.
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