Are merge games becoming the new match-3? What’s the secret behind the recent popularity of this puzzle subgenre? How to advertise merge games?
In this article, I answer all these questions and more!
But first, let’s cover the basics.
What Are Merge Games?
Merge games are a subgenre of puzzle games, which was the top genre in terms of IAP revenue in 2020. (SensorTower).
The main characteristic of this subgenre is its simple mechanics. Players need to merge the same items to create and unlock a more complex item. For example, combining three dragon eggs creates a baby dragon. Then, players can merge baby dragons and unlock an adult dragon, and so on.
Merge Game Market Overview 2023
Data source: AppMagic, a leading mobile game intelligence platform. Get 3 days of free access to all AppMagic’s features, as well as 10% off, by clicking on this link.
The game that popularized the merge subgenre was Gram Games’ Merge Dragons (represented with blue color in the graph above), released in 2017.
Just like it usually goes, other publishers soon recognized the potential of this mechanic. Hence, they soon started creating merge games of their own.
All of this created strong competition, and eventually – market saturation.
However, popular merge games keep on earning.
If we look more closely at revenues, the merge games market is still growing. It experienced significant growth during H2 2022 – each month the revenues were between $34 million and $38 million when combining the top 10 merge games.
Interestingly, Merge Dragons is responsible for the majority of merge games revenue and it got to more than $780 million in all-time revenue. EverMerge, Merge Mansion, and Merge Magic all have between $100 million and $200 million in all-time revenue.
Here’s a detailed list of top merge games.
Most Downloaded Merge Games in 2023
- Merge Dragons (73+ million downloads)
- Merge Mansion (33+ million downloads)
- EverMerge (20+ million downloads)
- Merge Magic! (15+ million downloads)
- Mergical Fun Match Island Game (7+ million downloads)
- Merge County (6+ million downloads)
- Merge Gardens (5+ million downloads)
- Travel Town (4+ million downloads)
- Park of Monsters (3+ million downloads)
- Merge Fables (3+ million downloads)
The fact that merge games are so simple and players can pick them up right away played a big part in the success of this genre. There are no complicated game mechanics that take a lot of time to figure out.
Naturally, this attracts casual players.
Merge Game Trends
However, most merge games have different meta-layers (e.g., narrative, design & décor) that make them appealing to a broader audience.
The latest innovations in mobile gaming have seen mid-core games include merge mechanics. For example, Top War is a strategy game that features merge gameplay.
This could mean only one thing – merge mechanics are the hottest mobile gaming trend. And they’re here to say.
This is an exciting new market many developers want to explore.
However, new merge games need to find their place and stand out. That’s difficult as some games are already established as leaders, and even more new games are entering the market.
In other words, the competition is fierce, and the market is getting more saturated each day. So how to get noticed and scale a merge game?
This is where a good user acquisition strategy comes in.
Tips on How to Advertise Merge Games
As we’ve established, merge games are all the rage in 2021.
Because many players are now exploring this genre and looking for alternatives to Merge Dragons, there’s still room for new games to find success.
However, we must keep in mind that merge games are, for the most part, fighting for the same audience as match-3 games.
For that reason, genre differentiation is essential. You need to show match-3 players what makes a merge game different and give them a good enough reason to switch.
But keep in mind, competing with giants like Playrix and King is not an easy feat, as UA can get quite expensive.
Additionally, there’s big competition among established games in the merge subgenre and the new ones are trying to get a foot in the door.
There are two main ways to stand out from the competition.
The differentiation can come in the form of gameplay, game art, theme, storylines, or additional meta-layers. This is your chance to make something unique.
Another way is through UA tactics.
Understanding the target audience and running high-quality motivation-based creatives can give you a significant boost and an advantage over your competitors.
To help you get started with your UA strategy, I’ve put together some tips on how to advertise merge games.
Choose the Right Ad Formats for Merge Games
First, we need to talk about the best ad formats for merge games. As you might expect, video ads work tremendously well for this genre. The same goes for pretty much all mobile game genres.
You can’t go wrong with this ad format.
However, another great ad format for merge games is playable ads. That’s because merge mechanics are extremely simple – which translates well to playables.
The main benefit of playable ads is their interactive and immersive nature. People get the opportunity to experience some aspects of the gameplay, which usually results in more engagement.
For best results, we recommend you use both ad formats.
Align Your Messaging with the Target Demographic
As with any marketing effort, understanding your target audience is of the utmost importance. It helps you create ads that resonate with that particular group of players.
For example, merge games tend to have an older audience. Usually, it’s men and women between the ages of 40 and 50. Thus, using slang terms or memes is not a suitable form of communication.
Furthermore, you need to think about player motivations – why is this demographic into merge games? Do they want to relax? Perhaps they enjoy exploring? Whatever it may be, it will help you create better ads.
But more on that in the next section.
Creative Trends for Merge Games
Here’s the burning question: how to make ads for a merge game interesting enough so that people download it?
Here are some creative trends for merge games you should try.
In order to scale user acquisition campaigns for merge games, we recommend exploring motivation-based creatives.
With this approach, you can target different groups of players based on their motivations for playing.
Facebook Gaming has identified eight common motivations:
- Social connection
You need to think about why people play puzzle and merge games. Then, you come up with creatives that highlight game features that correspond to that motivation.
For example, some play merge games because they’re relaxing. This makes sense as the core gameplay experience is simple and allows people to get their minds off other things. In this case, you’d want to create a video ad with a soothing atmosphere and gameplay footage that demonstrates just how relaxing the experience is.
If a merge game has meta-layers, this can help reach a wider audience.
For example, let’s say there are design and renovation meta-layers, like in Merge Mansion. You can use those elements in ads to target players who are into customizing and self-expression.
For more info, make sure to check out our examples of motivation-led creatives.
As you’ll see in ad examples for merge games later in the article, many of them have intricate storylines.
Narratives are usually not part of the core game but are added as a meta-layer to make the game more engaging and reach a broader audience.
Because dramatic storylines have the innate power to grab people’s attention, it makes sense to feature them in ads, even if they’re only a small part of the game.
When people see an interesting narrative play out in a video ad, it makes them more invested in the game characters and thus more interested in the game.
Another big mobile game advertising trend that can be applied to merge games is posing a challenge to the ad viewers.
For example, “Can you do it better?” or “Can you make an epic merge?”
That way, you speak directly to viewers and entice them to install the game. It’s a subtle nudge, but it works well.
People are competitive. They’re driven by success, both in real life and in gaming. Posing a simple challenge can ignite that fire and make them want to prove themselves.
The so-called fail ads are another staple of the mobile game advertising world. We see this creative trend in ads for merge games as well.
The psychology behind it is simple.
People see somebody fail at a seemingly easy game task and think to themselves, “I’m so much smarter, I could do this better.” But to prove it to themselves, they first need to install the game.
Here’s the thing.
That’s exactly the reaction that this type of ad is supposed to evoke. The player in the ad is purposefully bad at even the simplest tasks to make the viewers feel smarter.
Examples of How to Advertise Merge Games
In the following section, I analyze video ads from the most popular merge games on the market.
It will help you learn what works and what doesn’t and see the aforementioned creative trends in action.
Use it to inform your UA strategy.
EverMerge from Big Fish is one of the most popular merge games on the market right now. With over 2.5 million downloads on iOS and 5 million on Android, this game has a lot to boast about.
Wondering about the secret behind its success?
Let’s analyze one of its top-performing ads.
The creative above is the perfect example of zoning in on very specific player motivations and behaviors.
It starts with the question – “Are you organized?”
It is instantly apparent that the creative appeals to players who strive for order, structure, and neatness both in real life and while playing mobile games.
Furthermore, that specific player behavior is connected to gameplay.
EverMerge can get quite chaotic quickly as the maps get bigger and different objects pile up. Those who keep things organized and have designated areas for each object type tend to be more successful because it allows better merges. Plus, it looks nicer.
Another great thing about his video ad is its CTA. Instead of a generic “Play now”, Big Fish opted for a personalized call-to-action – “Bring order to chaos!”
As I’ve mentioned, story-based creatives seem to work exceptionally well for merge games. The ad above is the perfect example of that.
Merge Mansion by Metacore Games experienced viral success because of their elaborate narrative ads and has garnered more than 5 million downloads just on Google Play.
The creative in question is more like a mini-movie rather than a mobile game ad. There are so many unexpected plot twists that happen in this 50-second video.
Here’s the gist of it:
- We see a young woman arriving in a wedding dress – she looks distraught.
- She finds out her house burned down.
- She then calls her grandma, who invites her to her mansion.
- The granddaughter helps to remodel it.
- There’s a short scene of the merge gameplay footage.
- Everything is fine and dandy, but then the grandmother gets arrested.
- They touch hands over the glass window of the police car in a moving scene.
- But as the cops drive her away, she sends a message to her granddaughter.
- “He is alive” is written on her hand.
So much has happened in this short video ad. Yet, we still don’t know what’s going on, as it ends with a huge cliffhanger.
Who’s alive? What’s going on?
The only way to find out is to install the game.
If you’re wondering how to engage people and get them to not only keep watching but to download the game, take notes. This is how you make a simple merge game seem incredibly interesting.
Merge Dragons by Gram Games is the OG merge game that pretty much started this genre trend. Released back in 2017, it has earned more than $220 million in revenue so far and gotten to almost 20 million downloads. (GameRefinery, iOS data)
We again see the story-based creative trend utilized for Merge Dragon’s ads. While they’re not as over the top as video ads for Merge Mansion, they still have exciting storylines that drive interest.
In the example above, the story is about a beautiful goddess who lost her magical shell and was turned to stone. This is the first part of the video, which aims to engage players with a narrative and entice them to continue watching.
Everybody wants to know what happens next.
The second half of the video consists of gameplay footage, i.e., the basic merge mechanics. By merging different objects, the example player represented by the pointer hand finds the stolen shell.
The goddess then blesses the land with gifts in the form of shiny new objects players can merge.
This example shows that you don’t have to go all out on high-end animations like Merge Mansion to create a captivating story for your ads. You can create an engaging story-based ad just by using game assets.
Another great technique of advertising merge games is including real people in video creatives. Merge Gardens by Future Trends did just that.
At the beginning of the ad, we see a young woman, presumably playing the game. Then, the fantastical world of Merge Gardens comes to life and transitions into the real world, as game characters come flying out of her phone.
We’re then presented with the simple merge mechanics through gameplay footage.
While this 15-second ad is very short and simple, it accomplishes what it set out to do.
Firstly, the first few seconds are very engaging and unique, which creates enough interest for people to stop and watch until the end. They also meet the charming game characters.
Secondly, viewers get a taste of the merge experience and learn how this game works.
Notice the music is very joyful and relaxing. Everything looks bright and happy.
This tells us the publisher’s goal is to appeal to gamers who play mobile games to relax and wind down. This group of players is not particularly interested in a fast-paced or complex game that requires a lot of strenuous mental activity.
The only thing that could be improved in this creative is the CTA. Instead of the generic “Play now”, this ad could benefit from a more personalized and creative call-to-action.
Merge Fables by MergeGame is an up-and-coming game in this genre, released earlier this year. So far, it has achieved more than 500 thousand downloads on Google Play and 170 thousand on Apple. (GameRefinery)
In one of the ads for this game, we see another popular creative trend being used – the so-called fail ads.
You’ve probably seen it in many mobile game ads. Usually, the example player in the video is trying to accomplish a task (e.g., save a game character) but fails to do so.
In this example, the goal is to merge water items to save a dragon that’s about to be burned alive at the stake. Granted, it sounds a bit dark, but the colorful ad somehow makes it look less horrifying.
In any case, the situation is tense as time is running out. Notice how music plays a big role in this – it creates a sense of danger. Also, the visuals are working together with sound effects to ramp up the already tense atmosphere of this ad (the red alarm).
All of it creates a sense of urgency and suspense.
Until the very last moment, it looks like the example player will win and get enough water. But then, the time runs out, and we see bright red “fail” come up across the screen.
What does this accomplish?
Viewers get hyped up and want to try it for themselves. Naturally, this drives installs.
Final Thoughts on How to Advertise Merge Games
We’ve come to the end of our guide on how to advertise merge games. Thanks for sticking around.
If you want to go one step further, you can read our guide on how to monetize merge games. There, you’ll learn what are the most popular monetization techniques for this genre, as well as see some practical examples from popular merge games.