What are Match 3 puzzle games and why are they so popular? (Essay Week)

In match 3 games, players can manipulate tiles on a grid in order to create matches. Over the past 21 years, new design and innovation of this game genre has been evolve. (Juul,2007) This essay will show that many people play match 3 games around the world. Even though match 3 games are very similar to each other, people enjoy them because it is easy to play and program. There are also convenient to download and play. It also allows people to be social and challenging. These are the reasons for the popularity of match 3 games.

There are some negatives to match 3 games. This formula of the games is very similar to each other, which can also make people feel bored. From Bejeweled to Candy Crush, these games overuse the same mechanics in similar games style. In both these games, players use the same swap function to create the match. According to Polygon, there are more than 2200 match 3 games that almost share similar titles and names because of easy programming by the developers. Therefore, the saturated market frequently faces criticism for lack of innovation. The truth to the criticisms are most match 3 games are video game clones which use the similar core mechanic of match 3 games (Jonathan,2016).

Despite these criticisms, Match 3 games are very popular. In fact, they are the top category of games (Leonov, 2014). First of all, match 3 games are simple for game developers to learn to program and create the game. The basic definitions of match 3 games are grid, cell, tile, block, color, gravity, clear, line, combo, and cascades. This is the important key to create a simple match 3 games. Because the evolution of the match 3 games has occurred more incrementally it is easier to analyze the match 3 games compared to other game genres (Lien,2014). The first match 3 puzzle game was Bejeweled which was released in 2000. This game used the basic concept of colorful diamonds and also one of the flagship of match 3 puzzle game. Popcap, the creator of Bejeweled estimates 10 billion hours by roughly 500 million people for a simple and most mirrored puzzle game mechanics (Lofgren,2015). As a result, game developer know that match 3 games are easy to program in the game genre than other. Moreover, some games have come up with different variety of rules and playing style like Zuma, Candy Crush, Jewel Mania, Puzzle Bobble and more.  Zuma rules is to shoot the bubbles to create match before the queue reach the end while Candy Crush rule is to swap the tiles to create match with limited moves available. Therefore, this game genres are very saturated with different option of game style to play and bring new ideas to create different type of match 3 games.

Furthermore, match 3 games are also popular because of the technology. Most match 3 games are playable on the app store because players can use mobile phone to swipe on screen to play. With such technologies, people tend to find that match 3 games are free to play (The future of match 3,2012).  In fact, most match 3 games had the amount of playable content also had a significant role in any free2play mobile games’ commercial potential. The vast majority of match 3 games offer 100 levels for players to complete before the next update as there are not much ways to increase the horizontal scope of match 3 games (Paul,2015). Moreover, Facebook also access even more match 3 games for players. It was also a free social network for publicity, advertisement, and sponsors. There are more than 800 million users in Facebook which becoming the center of attention of people in several aspects. As a result, game developers can use this media to publish the match 3 game to Facebook (Toshio,2012). People who use Facebook can access those games to play. With this social media technology, game developers can advertise the match 3 games to attract those players who use in Facebook. As a result, match 3 game also rely on social media technology.

Finally, match 3 games are also give social and challenging experience. This also brought simple linear level progression by introducing more new levels for the players. As such, game developers create new exciting challenges to test the players for more reward. (Labs,2014).  According to that, game designer’s objectives is to create experiences for players’ attention. Most match 3 games like Candy Crush series got attract by players because of numerous of levels and players can compete each other for higher score (Omori,2012). Moreover, match 3 puzzle also make people get addictive. To illustrate, people who plays Candy Crush were easily manipulated not just simple game and colorful candies, but also more challenging levels. This allow players to win and pass levels to gain better satisfaction. Those mini rewards that players earned allow player’s brains to release the neurochemical dopamine and tap into the same neuro-circuitry which cause the player keep continue on to play and got addict to the Candy Crush (Smith,2014). Therefore, social people receive more challenging experience from match 3 games.

In conclusion, match 3 game are easy to program for people to play more challenging levels with social media technology. Despite those negative effect of the game genre, people believe that it’s was fun to develop many variety of match 3 games for players to enjoy. As game developer, create a match 3 games with generated ideas can attract people to play which make this game genre very popular.


Juul, J. (2007) Swap Adjacent Gems to Make Sets of Three: A History of Matching Tile Games. Available at: https://www.jesperjuul.net/text/swapadjacent/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Labs, A. (2014) The DNA of candy crush saga and other successful match-3 games. Available at: http://www.dubitlimited.com/blog/2014/05/09/the-dna-of-candy-crush-and-other-successful-match-3-games/ (Accessed: 9 December 2016).

Leonov, I. (2014) Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140722162037-101913354-what-makes-match-3-games-so-popular (Accessed: 22 December 2016).

Lien, T. (2014) From Bejeweled to candy crush: Finding the key to match-3. Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2014/2/26/5428104/from-bejeweled-to-candy-crush-finding-the-key-to-match-3 (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Lofgren, K. (2015) A brief history of match 3 | big fish Blog. Available at: http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/ultimate-history-of-matching-puzzle-games/ (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Match game mechanics: An exhaustive survey (2016) Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JonathanBailey/20150227/237544/Match_Game_Mechanics_An_exhaustive_survey.php (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Omori and Toshio, M. (2012) ‘Analysis of Motivational elements of social games: A puzzle match 3-Games study case’, International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 2012. doi: 10.1155/2012/640725. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcgt/2012/640725/ (Accessed: 9 December 2016).

Paul. (2015)  The importance of live Ops in your game (and company) – altitude games Available at: http://www.altitude-games.com/importance-of-live-ops/ (Accessed: 9 December 2016).

Smith, D. (2014) This is what candy crush saga does to your brain. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/apr/01/candy-crush-saga-app-brain (Accessed: 9 December 2016).

The future of match 3 – what you need to know – PART I (2015) Available at: http://www.gamerefinery.com/the-future-of-match-3-what-you-need-to-know-part-i/ (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

The future of match 3 – what you need to know – PART II (2015) Available at: http://www.gamerefinery.com/the-future-of-match-3-what-you-need-to-know-part-ii/ (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Toshio, M. (2012) ‘Analysis of Motivational elements of social games: A puzzle match 3-Games study case’, International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 2012. doi: 10.1155/2012/640725.


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