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How Gardenscapes Changed the Match 3 Market | Pocket Gamer.biz

Long gone are the days when a game was developed and published without having to optimize, adapt and support it years after it was launched.

Here at PocketGamer.biz we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight games that have bucked the trend and found an audience that will continue to thrive long after they launched.

That leads us to our regular live and kicking series.

This week we spoke to Maxim Kirilenko, Playrix’s Chief Business Development Officer, five years after Gardenscapes launched, and how one game changed the match-three market and made a significant contribution to the studio’s success.

PocketGamer.biz: How do you rate Gardenscapes’ performance now that Gardenscapes is five years old – from launch to the mature title it is now?

Maxim Kirilenko: Gardenscapes is a project that has changed the market and, in part, the entire industry. It was a drastic change to the 2016 game mechanics. Many have tried to replicate this success and not many players have even come close to getting close to these benchmarks.

In the first few days after the game was released, all of its metrics exceeded our wildest expectations: the game was downloaded more than a million times and many players gave positive feedback on social networks and app stores. The game was even named Game of the Year by Facebook.

We have people from all over the world sending postcards to offices, doing fan art, and sharing personal stories

Maxim Kirilenko

Now we have people from all over the world sending postcards to offices, doing fan art, and sharing personal stories in gaming communities.

Austin, the main character, has his own social media pages and over a million followers personally. Recently, Zemfira, a popular Russian singer, wrote a song about Austin. (Seriously, look at this).

How big is the team currently working on Live Ops on Gardenscapes?

At the beginning of the project there were only 20 people on the team. In 5 years the team has grown 15 times. Around 300 developers, artists, game designers, UA managers, and others are now working on Gardenscapes to keep improving all parts of it, from narration to marketing to player support.

How important do you think customer support and updates are? What was your approach to this?

Our game is a service and we feel the same about it. We always see positive growth in key metrics as we release new updates that add functionality, objects, and layers. It’s also about the content. Playing the same content every day would be pretty boring.

So in order for our game to remain competitive, we have to work on it continuously. This includes everything from fine-tuning the mechanics to the narration, which is a very important part of our game. We work hard to make events and characters as interesting and engaging as possible. We have seen the quality of the property and various events increase dramatically with our experience and increasing consumer demand.

What steps have you taken to ensure Gardenscapes has a large and active player base over time, even after its release?

The game has a meta-layer and an event-layer. We are constantly working on the meta and expanding the areas of the garden so that the players who have been with us since the start of the game are carried away and can always find something new and exciting.

In order for our game to remain competitive, we have to work on it continuously

Maxim Kirilenko

There are two types of traditional events. First, they are based on content like restoring rooms or redesigning a garden and there are various competitions between players. These events allow us to produce additional narrative points to make them interesting and engaging.

Events often add to the game as we try to provide useful educational content to our players. For example, this spring we partnered with the World Health Organization to launch the “yoga” season to encourage people to stay healthy during the COVID-19 lockdown.

And of course, we’re continuing to work on the core match-three mechanic, adding new elements all the time to ensure the game stays competitive in the evolving ecosystem. All of this helps us keep our players.

What do you attribute the game’s consistently impressive grossing performance to, and how do you maintain it?

I think it’s because of our game development team and the phenomenal work it does to provide our customers with an exceptional level of live ops, events and new updates.

Financial success depends on two factors: proper operation and great marketing

Maxim Kirilenko

When you have a game that is great to play, its financial success depends on two factors: proper operation and great marketing. We are constantly looking for new creative concepts and testing marketing hypotheses. The metrics show us that our approach is working. Very often, successful mini-game mechanics are then added to the game for use in advertisements.

Even the most beautiful game with a perfect narrative will not be successful without clever marketing and advertising. But even if you put a ton of resources into marketing a weak game, it will still fail, so we pay close attention to these two aspects.

Are there KPIs like downloads, DAU, or retention that you want to share?

In five years, the project’s DAU has grown 5.8 times, and the MAU is now five times higher. In 2020, the number of players was at its peak: 11.5 million users played Gardenscapes daily, and the average monthly audience reached 42 million.

What lessons have you learned from Gardenscapes / are you still learning? Is there something about the game that you would treat differently in retrospect?

We are still learning a lot from the Gardenscapes development process and I am not sure if we can stop one day. Gardenscapes started out as a completely different game and kept changing, especially in its early days. Any game like this is practically a living organism. To survive it has to change and adapt and we are here as stewards leading that process. We evaluate how different levels of the game interact and work together, and we’re constantly making changes and refining them.

Finally, how has your experience with Gardenscapes affected where you are / what you are currently working on?

Gardenscapes has been a major contributor to the Playrix’s success. The introduction of this game and the introduction to the current state gave us the experience of developing the entire Scapes series with other titles. And above all, this success has given us the resources we need to master even greater challenges.

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