Game Design, Tips and Advice

Tutorials in Match 3 Games – Time to Kill Them?

Is it time to end Match 3 Game tutorials?

If you downloaded a match 3 game recently you might have noticed that the first few levels are guiding you how to play the game. I would make a guess that if you are reading this blog you have already played several match 3 games already and the tutorial is not really relevant for you. The question is how frequent is this situation and if there is a better why.

Match 3 – a popular genre

Match 3 games are a popular genre on mobile – no doubt about that. A Google site search on the play store returns over 1M results for the search “ “match-3”.


It’s probably the genre with the most number of apps out of the narrow genres (as opposed to a wide genre such as “Strategy”).

If we look at the number of players: Candy crush alone has over 2.7 billion downloads – this is close to the number of app capable devices out there and there are many more apps who are not that far behind.

It’s not a new genre either. Match 3 games has been around for at least 15 years. They have been with us through web games, Facebook games and mobile games.


A new user in a match 3 games is not new to the genre

What all these stats mean is that if your company publishes a match 3 game it’s likely that the majority of the new users you are getting is already familiar with the genre. Your UA teams are targeting users who liked other match 3 games on Facebook, Google is targeting your ads to users who searched match 3 in the past and other networks are trying to achieve the same result to send you relevant users. Users who know how to play match 3.

The tutorial is redundant for experienced users


Showing a tutorial to a user who never played match 3 could be the difference between him staying or leaving. However, the same tutorial for an experienced user is not effective. In fact, it might have the opposite effect – causing the user to leave as he is not challenged enough. Consider the tutorial in the image shown on the right side – it basically says “match 3 items” and might evoke the reaction “Well Duh!! It’s a match 3 game”.

Detecting experienced users automatically

Game publishers who want to offer an adaptive tutorial experience face a new challenge – how to detect which users are experienced match 3 players vs. not. Here are a few ideas how to detect this:

  • Acquisition channel – normally your UA efforts will be targeted at match 3 fans so you can just treat all paid traffic as experienced players. Alternatively, separate campaigns that are directly targeted to match 3 fans vs. broader campaigns. Using deeplinking you can invoke different flows inside the app. 
  • For the android version of your app, you can potentially check what other apps are installed on the device to determine if the user is already familiar with the genre. While Google will not allow you to send the app list to your server, checking locally and adapting the game experience is in the benefit of the app publisher as well as the user.
  • Prompting the user and asking him if he knows the genre is another way to go. If you think asking the user questions is annoying you should think again. Going through 7 levels of learning the game is far more annoying.
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