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Match-3 games like Candy Crush Saga are the most prominent subgenre in the U.S. iPhone game market, accounting for 21% of the market’s revenue, according to mobile game insight and analytics firm GameRefinery.

Match-3 it isn’t easy to crack into because there are a lot of established titles. Eighty-one percent of the top-grossing 200 match-3 games are more than 2 years old, said GameRefinery chief game analyst Erno Kiiski in the report.

The market has evolved in waves, starting from Electronic Arts’ Bejeweled and King’s Candy Crush Saga, and leading to decorative games such as Storm8’s Property Brothers Home Design. The new wave of match-3 games have brought deeper meta layers as a way to keep players coming back. A constant stream of content is crucial to keeping players happy and engaged, with existing titles offering thousands of levels. Live events such as tournaments are essential, Kiiski wrote.

New trending features in these titles include battle passes and social mechanics. The latter include guilds, co-op tasks, and guild wars. They’re designed to keep players motivated to stay engaged.

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The second wave of hits includes Gardenscapes and Homescapes, which brought deeper meta layers to the mix and allowed them to gain a significant foothold in the charts.

Above: New and popular games include Property Brothers: Home Design

Image Credit: GameRefinery

The third wave includes Storm8’s match-3 games with home decoration themes: Home Design Makeover and Property Brothers: Home Design. These games have introduced a “decorative” flavor on top of traditional match-3 mechanics.

In social competitions, players complete levels to earn points in order to progress in the season. A golden ticket can be bought to unlock the extra reward layer. Rewards include boosters, unique bonuses such as special pets to unlock in your garden, and increased maximum lives for the duration of the season.

Clockmaker’s Battle Pass variation has task-based progression. Players complete daily and weekly tasks to progress in the Pass and earn more rewards such as boosters and premium currency.

Players can join Teams in Matchington Mansion. Being a part of a Team lets you chat with your teammates, send/ask lives to/from each other (you get gold for doing that), and also complete tasks together (e.g. filling a team chest by playing levels).

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