Top News

#1: Triple Match 3D and The Rise of a New Match Mechanic

Source: Boombox Games

As Moon Active’s Zen Match loses momentum, a new “item matching” game is climbing the top-grossing puzzle charts: Triple Match 3D. Developed by Boombox Games and launched in April 2022, this game has hit record revenue levels in the category, according to Furthermore, it already boasts an U.S. D90 revenue per download (RPD) of $3.36 versus $1.32 for Zen Match on iOS. 

This is even more surprising when considering that Zen Match has been in the market for more than two years, while Triple Match-3D was launched just 10 months ago. Will Triple Match 3D make the most of its momentum, and what’s driving these strong metrics? Let’s dig in deeper. 


If Match-3D (developed by Lion Studios) and Zen Match (now owned by Moon Active) were to have a baby, it would probably look a lot like Triple Match 3D. Triple Match 3D arranges objects to match on the playing board similar to Match-3D, but the matching mechanic comes directly from Zen Match. More specifically:

  1. In Match-3D, players are shown a huge pile of jumbled up items, and they need to maximize the number of two similar object matches within a certain round time limit to score points. See a gameplay video here.
  2. In Zen Match, players are shown a more organized (almost Mahjong-like) set of object tiles that need to be matched in sets of three within a limited space object tray. There is no time-limit to levels, since this is Zen Match after all, and so the only limitation and challenge for the player is to pick available tiles in the right order to both make matches (points) and always have enough space in the matching tray to continue to make matches until the tiles on the board are exhausted. See a gameplay video here.
  3. However, in Triple Match 3D, players are shown a huge pile of jumbled up items (like Match-3D), and need to make three-set matches in a limited space matching tray (like Zen Match) within a round time limit (again like Match-3D). See a gameplay video here.
Source: Naavik

As would be quite clear from the image above, Triple Match 3D is clearly focused on increasing the number of constraints on the player during the matching action gameplay versus its Match-3D and Zen Match counterparts. This is driven by pressuring players to complete the required number of matches within a certain time limit, making it very hard for players to find the right object in the object pile, and further pushing players to think about which object to place next in the matching tray so that they don’t run out of space (which is the one of round’s loss conditions, apart from simply running out of time).

All of this essentially results in highly frantic gameplay that becomes more prone to human error versus Match-3D’s, which is only time limited but not space limited, and Zen Match, which is only space limited, but not time limited. This is of course very intentional design by Boombox Games, since those points of human error are where Triple Match 3D heavily monetizes through mechanics like “pay to continue the round” and limited lives. 

In other words, the more the number of player constraints, the greater the player monetization — as long as the right monetization hooks are implemented, which Triple Match 3D delivers on. And it is really this point that results in the iOS US RPD curve differences we see below, where Triple Match 3D towers over Match-3D and Zen Match. Please note that these RPD numbers only include in-app purchases (IAPs), and not ads.


However, there are two important caveats to note about the RPD data above. First, the RPD difference might be slightly inflated because Triple Match 3D is currently investing heavily in user acquisition (UA) and is really in its growth phase at the moment. In the U.S., where most of the game’s revenue comes from, 80% of players come from paid sources, while in Zen Match, this ratio stayed below 65%.


This means its active user base is slowly catching up to that of Match-3D’s and Zen Match’s, and the game is probably seeing some of its highest value players come in at the moment. That said, we believe it would be safe to assume Triple Match 3D will continue to monetize stronger than its counterparts due to the fundamental design differences of the core gameplay we touched on above.


Second, it seems like Triple Match 3D’s strong RPD is more driven by early-game monetization versus long-term retention. This is mostly because Triple Match 3D completely lacks an overarching metagame, unlike Zen Match’s Redecor-style decoration metagame. While Triple Match 3D does have some secondary progression vectors such as teams, leaderboards, and light collection, the long-term player progression feature set is nowhere close to that of Zen Match’s. 

The impact of this can be clearly seen in the retention numbers below, where Triple Match 3D’s D7 and D30 retention is lower to that of Zen Match’s, but not that much lower than Match 3D’s (due to very similar metagame design and depth).


While it remains to be seen whether the existence of a robust metagame in Zen Match will result in the game’s RPD curve outperforming that of Triple Match 3D’s over the long term, Triple Match 3D does have the potential for greater short-term monetization of its player base.

Firstly, as seen in the retention graph above, there is a clear opportunity to improve the game’s D1 retention to bring it more in line with that of Zen Match’s. Getting into why the game’s D1 retention is low is out of the scope of this analysis, but improving it will instantly result in higher early life-time value (LTV) metrics to help scale UA even further.

Secondly, Triple Match 3D’s IAP merchandising is more expensive than the competition. For example, Zen Match’s price for more moves and lives stands at around $2, similar to other top-grossing puzzle apps. Yet in Triple Match 3D, that price is 50% higher at $3. Additionally, as the game is more prone to player error and players only start with $3 worth of coins, players are more likely to need to buy currency earlier, which in turn raises RPD numbers despite lower player retention. Furthermore, Triple Match 3D is the only one of the three games that has a >$100 IAP.

Though to truly showcase how focused on short-term monetization the Boombox Games team really is, we need only look at Triple Match 3D’s pricing psychology design for the no-ads IAP. 

Source: Triple Match 3D

One interesting point of note and question to ask is — who is Boombox Games? On their website, Ilyon Dynamics is noted as a partner, which is the same company that was acquired by Miniclip back in 2020 for $100 million. 

Interestingly, Ilyon Dynamics has its own “Tile Match 3D” title that has netted  around $500,000 in revenue since its launch in February 2022 (two months before Triple Match 3D went live). Further, Ilyon’s name seems to pop up on Boombox’s Privacy Policy agreement. But probably the strongest indicator that Boombox and Ilyon are likely one and the same company is how Triple Match 3D is available on Amazon’s app store for Android under the Ilyon Dynamics name. 

This is an important detail because it hints to a marketing war chest that Triple Match 3D might have through the relationship with Ilyon Dynamics, Miniclip, and parent company Tencent. Further, it hints to a highly experienced team building out the future of Triple Match 3D. Both of these points would be critical for both AppLovin (Match-3D) and Moon Active (Zen Match) to keep in mind when competing for the same user base going forward.

Zooming out, the initial success of Match-3D, the recent acquisition of Zen Match, and the rise of Triple Match 3D all point to the potential beginnings of a trendy new puzzle mechanic. We will likely have to wait a little longer before this emerges as a legitimate subgenre of its own, but simply looking at how many installs these types of games are garnering and the IAP and ad revenue volume they’re able to generate, it is definitely a segment to watch closely. 

#2: SayGames Sets Eyes on Hybridcasual

Earlier this week, Yegor Vaikhanski, CEO of popular hypercasual publisher SayGames, told that his company is “shifting strategy to focus on ‘hybridcasual’ games.” This follows an industry-wide shift away from the hypercasual genre as it  becomes increasingly difficult to monetize using traditional ad-based methods in light of Apple’s mobile privacy changes and the ongoing impact of a struggling digital ads market. 

We did a breakdown of Hybrid-casual you can explore here.

Hybridcasual is an evolution of hypercasual, taking the quick gameplay loops of the hypercasual genre and adding the depth and complexity you might expect from a casual to midcore game (see here for a more thorough breakdown). The popular release of Habby’s Archero in 2019 heralded the emergence of the new genre, which has since become one of the fastest-growing categories in mobile

What’s effective about hybridcasual is the depth of spend the genre’s borrowed casual and midcore elements offer. Instead of relying almost entirely on in-game advertising, hybridcasual games leverage deeper progression, metagame, and often more varied or complex game mechanics (often inspired by RPG and idle game elements) to create more opportunities for in-app purchasing. 

Sizing Up the Hybridcasual Trend

The push toward hybridcasual has been industry-wide. Companies like AppLovin, Voodoo, and even Meta have all begun characterizing the  move to hybridcasual as essential because hypercasual, though still huge at the moment, ultimately has begun to lag behind other genres in player engagement

A quick look into the performance of SayGames’ portfolio confirms the success of the publisher’s move toward hybridcasual. According to, the publisher’s most downloaded titles are all hypercasual: Race Masters (19.21%), DOP (7.19%), DOP 2 (4.76%), and Decor Life (4.36%) contributed 35% of total downloads to the company’s portfolio in 2022. 

A look at revenue tells a completely different story. SayGames’ Squad Alpha, My Little Universe, and Dreamdale - Fairy Adventure accounted for a whopping 66% of revenue in 2022 (30.81%, 24.61% and 10.84%, respectively), and are all hybridcasual. Race Masters, on the other hand, accounted for only 6.35% in revenue, bringing its RPD down to less than $0.01 compared to Squad Alpha’s $1.61 as of writing. 

Success has been evident for Squad Alpha, which brought in the third most revenue in the hypercasual subgenre for January 2023 (with Pocket Champ and Battle of Balls claiming first and second respectively), according to 

Is Hypercasual Really Dead?

Industry voices like  Voodoo’s Alex Shea have claimed  “hypercasual is dead,” as studios begin to transition away from the genre, but  hypercasual is still topping the popularity charts, accounting for 29% of all downloaded games worldwide

In a post-IDFA world, relying almost exclusively on an ad-focused monetization strategy doesn’t   cut it anymore. Determining whether a game falls into the hypercasual or hybridcasual category is often difficult, but it appears users' appetite for fast, easily accessible entertainment is now being fulfilled by hybridcasual experiences that offer greater gameplay depth, stronger retention, and improved player spending.

That being said, hypercasual still presents a unique opportunity (or challenge) for the industry, just not the one we might have expected. IronSource reported late last year that  “as hypercasual installs increase, non-hypercasual installs do too.” Hypercasual games are serving as a major source of supply for non-hypercasual user acquisition campaigns, with “20% of the installs for casual and midcore games on SDK networks now com[ing] from ads displayed in hypercasual games.”

The fate of hybridcasual seems intertwined, at least for the time being, with the continuing success of hypercasual. If studios stop creating hypercasual games that reach similar levels of installs, we could see a decline in installs across other genres that coincides with the decline of hypercasual over the next year as a consequence. That is unless developers can push installs for their hybridcasual titles up to the dizzying heights that hypercasual has typically reached, or drive higher monetization to make up for a lack of installs. 

It appears SayGames has so far been successful in their transition, though its level of hypercasual installs remains relatively high. Though total installs across all SayGames titles increased just 4% in 2022 compared to 2021, its revenue almost tripled from $9.14 million to $26.4 million year over year, according to We will be keeping a close eye on the coming months to see if the transition continues to be a success for SayGames and other similar studios, or if the fall of hypercasual starts to take its toll. —Jack Sinclair

Game Launch Radar

Source: Pocketgamer

#1: Payday: Crime War

  • Publisher: PopReach Corporation
  • State: Soft Launch
  • Territories: Australia
  • Classification: Shooter, Classic FPS/TPS
  • Quick thoughts:
    • Payday Crime War is a mobile free-to-play game inspired by the premium console/PC franchise Payday, more specifically Payday 2. While the original franchise was developed by Overkill Software, a Strabreeze Studios subsidiary, the mobile version of the game is developed by PopReach Corporation, a small developer known for casual games. 
    • PopReach takes the main gameplay from FPS shooter Payday 2, co-op heists, and adapts it to mobile, while adding a PvP mode to the new title.
      • In the main story mode, players pair up with other users to storm different locations and commit heists. Players can choose to engage stealthily or more aggressively with aid from local guards and police. 
      • The game‘s PvP mode allows players to compete in securing as much cash as they can. 
      • Committing heists and engaging in PvP combat rewards players with loot boxes, in which they can find resources for equipment upgrades or customization items.
      • You can watch a video of the gameplay here
    • Considering the relevance of the Payday franchise, it’s not surprising the company wants to capitalize on the mobile market. Furthermore, the timing of release also seems ideal for the company, as it has plans to launch Payday 3 on consoles and PC later on this year
    • Yet despite the current trends on shooter cross-progression between mobile and console/PC, it appears unlikely Payday 3 and Payday: Crime War will share a progression system. 
    • Overall, Payday Crime War does not feature enough complexity in its PvP gameplay to attract gamers from top-grossing mobile shooters like PUBG and Call of Duty. Nevertheless, the IP might be strong enough to attract the Payday fanbase to mobile and may also serve as an advertisement for the upcoming console and PC release. 

#2: Higan: Eruthyll

Source: Pocketgamer
  • Publisher: Bilibili 
  • State: Soft Launch 
  • Territories: Canada, Malaysia, and Singapore
  • Classification:  Strategy, Tactical Battler
  • Quick thoughts:
    • Higan: Eruthyll, is a new real-time strategy RPG (with gacha monetization) from Chinese social media giant Bilibili, and the first to be developed internally.
      • In the game, players storm through campaigns by assembling and positioning a team of heroes. Combat is in real time, with players selecting which characters to activate and when and how to use their ultimate attacks and abilities. 
      • The game also takes inspiration from card-battler games and other RPGs like Blue Archive, and activating characters requires players use mana, which is recharged during the battle. 
      • The art style is anime-inspired, but with 3D graphics and a sci-fi theme, making it similar to Goddess of Victory: Nikke
      • Besides the normal campaign game mode, the game also features PvP. 
      • You can watch a video of the gameplay here
    • Overall, Higan: Eruthyll combines a gacha-style RPG, high-quality graphics and animations, fresh gameplay, and team-based action RPG and strategy elements. It might not be as innovative as Goddess of Victory: Nikke, but it has serious potential.

Other Game Announcements

  • Niantic’s NBA All-World earned under $160,000 in its first month (Link)
  • Marvel Snap wins Mobile Game of the Year at the DICE Awards (Link)
  • Dead by Daylight Mobile opens for pre-registration ahead of the Next Era of Horror update (Link)
  • Top-down shooter Mighty Doom receives new trailer and release date (Link)
  • Minion Rush celebrates 10th anniversary (Link)
  • Level Infinite announces new cross-platform title Undawn (Link)
  • MapleStory M is launching in China as MapleStory: The Legends of Maple soon (Link)
  • Adventure Escape Mysteries x Clue: Tilting Point collaborates with Hasbro to bring six classic characters into the game (Link)
  • Eden Eternal is set to relaunch and be operated directly by its developer, X-Legend Entertainment (Link)

Company Announcements

  • Rovio delists original Angry Birds due to impact on free-to-play games (Link)
  • Genshin Impact publisher takes legal action against leaks (Link)
  • NetEase revenue rose 4% year-on-year in Q4 2022 (Link)
  • TapNation selected for French Tech 120 program (Link)
  • Tencent’s former China-exclusives go global (Link)
  • Ubisoft bullish on upcoming mobile releases in latest financials (Link)
  • Krafton are set to bring Road to Valor: Empires exclusively to the Indian market (Link)

Ecosystem Announcements

Source: Gamesbeat
  • Unity posts profitable quarter with tepid future outlook (Link)
  • TikTok games are now being tested in the UK – here are the 14 we’ve found so far (Link)
  • Tencent and other Chinese gaming companies to help promote Chinese culture (Link)
  • WeMade partners with Nine66 to boost reach and develop talent in Saudi Arabia (Link)
  • UK gaming market declined for the first time in a decade in 2022 (Link)
  • Top five Japanese esports teams all compete on mobile (Link)
  • PTW boost player support with a neural network (Link)
  • Kwalee bring AI into game production (Link)

Content Worth Consuming

Source: LevelUp Podcast
  • Building a mobile gaming business strategy (LevelUp Podcast): “In this LevelUp episode, Melissa sits down with Danny Moy, Chief Strategy Officer at SciPlay. They dive into the role of business strategy at mobile games studios, the secret to navigating M&As (from both sides), how to create long-term plans while working in a fast-changing industry, and a whole lot more.” (Link)
  • Why Rovio is Such a Juicy Catch (Deconstructor of Fun): “Playtika recently made a bid for Angry Birds creator Rovio. We dive into the details and why Rovio makes a great asset.”(Link)
  • ASO tests roundup: Volume 2 (Azur Games): “Today, we’re delving further into how various adjustments can impact ASO performance in our department. We have a dedicated Slack channel where team members share their before-and-after versions along with comments, highlighting some of the most interesting cases we’ll be discussing further on..” Link
  • 11 tips for killer User Acquisition ops (Q1 version) (Matej Lancaric): “Enjoy these few tips that will help you to improve your UA Operations. If you don’t, at least you spent a few minutes reading and not working. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the winter Q1 edition and share this with your UA friends.” (Link)
  • How to overcome the in-app purchase revenue gap in 2023 (ironSource): “As you explore an ad-based monetization model for your mid-core or hardcore game, it’s worth determining which ad units get you the most bang for your buck. Based on our data, the answer is clear: rewarded videos and offerwalls. Here are four best practices to get started.” (Link)
  • 2023 Mobile Ad Creative Index (Liftoff): “This year, we look beyond best practices to the trends driving revenue for advertisers now. Drawing on expertise from in-house experts at Liftoff, we explore five trends in depth: extended ad experiences, taking playables beyond gaming, tapping into gaming motivations, longform videos, and user-generated content.” (Link)

A big thanks to Fernanda Gonzalez for writing this update! If Naavik can be of help as you build or fund games, please reach out.

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