This is the introduction to a full deconstruction written for Naavik, a research, consulting, and advisory firm which enables their clients to master the business of gaming.

Project Makeover's Fall From Grace

Thursday, 24th of November 2022, 17:24 +01:00

Project Makeover is the second match-3 game of Beijing-based studio Magic Tavern. As most games in this genre, it combines the well-known puzzle levels with a decoration meta, but this time that meta is much more unique than usual. It was released exactly two years ago at what seemed to be perfect timing - Candy Crush Saga's revenue had been slowly declining, and all bets seemed to be off. And, throughout the months that followed, Project Makeover actually seemed to be on schedule to potentially surpass the big three match-3 leaders: Gardenscapes, Homescapes, and Candy Crush Saga.

Weekly(!) revenue of the biggest match-3 games during the last two years. | Source: data.ai

However, in March 2021, things took an unexpected turn - Candy Crush Saga revenues started picking up while its competitors suffered declines (a story Naavik Pro will break down further in December!). This seems to be the case to this day, and as the newest competitor with arguably the least loyal fanbase, Project Makeover has been dropping in the ranks quite heavily since early 2021.

While all of the games in the graph above are multi-million-dollar success stories, it's clear that over the last year, Candy Crush Saga has been slowly eating most of its competitors' revenues. The only clear exception is Royal Match, which was covered in a thorough analysis in May. It remains the only game that seems unaffected by the tightening noose that is King's monopolization of the match-3 segment. In terms of downloads, it's largely the same story.

Weekly downloads of the biggest match-3 games during the last two years. | Source: data.ai

When looking at the top-grossing match-3 games above, the plot twist becomes quite clear. From February 2021 onwards, during the lead-up to Apple's notorious iOS 14.5 patch (deprecating the IDFA) and the following months, download metrics of all match-3 games except Candy Crush Saga declined drastically. YoY change metrics over the last two years show the result of these heavy casualties on the match-3 battlefield in this post-IDFA era.

Worldwide change metrics of the biggest match-3 games YoY. | Source: data.ai

Regardless of its currently declining KPIs, with approximately half a billion dollars of revenue in just two years, Project Makeover has been a huge success for AppLovin subsidiary Magic Tavern. It has double the lifetime revenue of the company's first and preceding hit, Matchington Mansion, which disrupted the casual market after it was sneakily released under a company alias called Firecraft Studios. Matchington Mansion revolutionized Homescapes with clever additions like its less puzzly core gameplay, cheekier narrative, and decoratable collection.

Matchington Mansion featured redecoration and collectible decoration skins. | Source: Ludocious

Project Makeover is an equally impressive product, as its metagame is by far the most innovative one in the top grossing-match-3 games since Gardenscapes. Instead of the incredibly chewed-out mansion renovation, Magic Tavern decided to take a different approach by choosing a modern theme and glamorous art style. Additionally, the player for once does not take the role of a hovering entity that's being waved at or clapped for by a butler. In Project Makeover, players have access to elaborate character customization features, so they can freely customize the look of their "remodeling expert" alter ego.

Don't ask a player like myself to make a fashionable avatar.

Logically, with such an extravagant and radically different theme comes a different audience fit. As expected, the target audience for Project Makeover skews quite a bit younger than average. While millennials are generally the biggest demographic for almost any casual title, for Project Makeover, almost 30% of players are Gen Z. This is very high in comparison to competitors Royal Match and Candy Crush Saga, which cater more prominently to millennials and Gen X respectively.

From fashion to fantasy to candies: all three themes for different generations. | Source: data.ai

For a game like Project Makeover with its glamorous and dramatic theme, a high amount of younger players is not surprising, as this is mostly the generation that also watches shows like Queer Eye, America's Next Top Model, and Dream Home Makeover. This can be confirmed when looking at the game's ads, which are clearly focused on younger generation players.

Taking all of the above into account begs the question: Why did Project Makeover experience such a strong start but ultimately declined so quickly? In this article, we shed light on how this game did exceptionally well where practically all other competitors failed, how Magic Tavern seemed to comfortably sail this red ocean, and what went awry during the last 1.5 years. To deconstruct this case, I've addressed:


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