David VS Goliath.
How Matchington Mansion Challenged Playrix and Everybody Won
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Today, we’ll be delving into the fascinating world of the puzzle market and exploring the significant chain of events. It all started with a story of game creation, where a company reimagined an existing product and culminated in one of the most intense rivalries in the market. We will try to learn some valuable lessons that will help us create future mega hits.
Once upon a time, a company set out to make a game. They came across a highly successful match 3 game called Gardenscapes, and they were impressed with its potential. They decided to create something similar but with a unique twist. Adding meta to the puzzle was still fresh, and it presented a rare opportunity to enter a less crowded market, which was exciting.
The plan was straightforward – to take the elements that made Gardenscapes successful and put a fresh spin on them:
|From Gardenscapes||To A Random New Game|
|Austin, the butler||Nice and pretty girl|
|Tap-to-activate power-up system||Tap-to-activate system with combos and twists!|
|Rich animations and VFX||Hmm, let’s put something (MVP, ftw!)|
Maybe unknown to them, Gardenscapes was not a new concept. The popular match-3 game Gardenscapes had a predecessor on PC with a hidden object core gameplay, “Gardenscapes on PC.”
Additionally, Gardenscapes on PC had a twin brother, “Gardenscapes 2”, which revolved around home improvement:
Perhaps this company was aware of the existence of Gardenscapes 2 and still decided to take a chance on that race. It’s hard to say for sure.
Either way, that’s how Matchington Mansion came into existence, a robust match-3 game with many enjoyable features created by Firecraft Studio in an attempt to hop on the match-3-deco trend.
Now, take a look at the following picture. To me, it appears pretty similar to the one on top. However, in all honesty, there are only so many ways to portray the interior of a mansion.
However, Firecraft may not have known that Playrix had no plans to slow down. They were gearing up to launch Gardenscapes 2, which they would later market as “Homescapes.” This game would feature an outstanding meta part and a top-notch match-3 core component, which would be so successful that it will create a new trend that other companies would want to copy.
We won’t delve further into what precisely inspired Matchington Mansion, but it emerged around the same time as Homescapes, which was a bit of a surprise for Playrix.
However, this wasn’t a significant issue at the moment, as both games had their share of the market, and everything was running smoothly.
Start of the mega growth
Later on, Firecraft and their Matchington Mansion did something that forever changed the casual gaming industry. They pioneered the strategy of utilizing fake ads to promote their game, which resulted in a flood of low-cost traffic. This enabled them to experience significant growth within a brief time frame and caught the attention of the entire market, including Playrix.
Despite initially distancing themselves from such false advertising, Playrix found the allure of cheap traffic too challenging to resist. They soon jumped on board and took it to the next level. The use of hundreds of fake ads led to unprecedented growth and success, as evident in the massive traffic influx they received.
In fact, the situation became so intense that people even created petitions on change.org.
And some of the ads were banned:
At some point, Playrix decided to stop ignoring the similarity between Matchington Mansion and Homescapes and felt the need to take action. Let’s take a closer look.
For a while, they copied the game icon, description, and app store screenshots to the extent that it became almost identical to Matchington Mansion. We won’t even touch on the copying of ads, which was already mentioned earlier.
You can read a more detailed analysis of that moment covered with a lot of details in our lovely DecostractorOfFun:
Afterward, Firecraft Studios invested more money towards innovation and created their second hit, Project Makeover. I won’t go into detail about it here, but if you haven’t played it yet, you should check out this game. It features an excellent and innovative meta with a different approach from a typical story decoration meta. On the other hand, the match-3 gameplay is quite similar to that of the first game, Matchington Mansion.
The whole puzzle world was enjoying this elegant solution, and just a year later, the entire Project Makeover meta was copied to Homescapes as a series of live operations events. Playrix didn’t make a new game with makeover gameplay but just leveraged Homescapes success with a massive liveops addition. In my opinion, it was a bold and intriguing decision.
I aimed to present the sequence of events objectively without passing judgment on any of the parties involved. The main objective was to identify valuable lessons that we can learn from these events to help us in the future.
One important lesson from this story is that there is always space for innovation in the market, even when you’re up against major players in a crowded industry. Innovation is critical to success, so don’t hesitate to take bold and unconventional approaches.
- Marketing innovation is just as important. Firecraft was one of the first studios to understand and use it effectively. And with current marketing conditions, when CPIs are skyrocketing, it’s even more critical. The whole series of events they started, in one way or another, resulted in a significant increase in the puzzle audience, ultimately benefiting everyone involved.
- My favorite takeaway is that you should love the games you’re building. I enjoy playing Matchington Mansion, Project Makeover, Gardenscapes, and Homescapes because they feel like they were made with love.
As game developers, it’s important to remember that our ultimate goal is to create entertainment for players. While business success is important, it should never overshadow the importance of creating enjoyable, relaxing, and fun games. After all, players come to games to escape reality and have a good time.
So let’s strive to continue creating innovative games that set trends and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the gaming industry. Let’s not be afraid to take risks and explore new ideas while always keeping in mind the primary goal of providing an enjoyable experience for our players. With this mindset, we can create games that not only bring success but also bring joy to players everywhere. Good luck to all!