ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Soccer Puzzle League: A Casual Game Too Hard Turns Into a Niche Product

August 27, 2014 — by Industry Contributions


ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Soccer Puzzle League: A Casual Game Too Hard Turns Into a Niche Product

August 27, 2014 — by Industry Contributions

Match3Studio is a Singapore-based game studio founded in 2012 by Budhi Tantra. As the company’s name might have revealed, it was created with the ambition to develop mainly match-3 games. However, they eventually decided to diversify. Their debut game Soccer Puzzle League was meant for a mass casual audience, but due to the complexity of gameplay became successful as a niche title, Budhi recalls. 

The Team with Versatile Skills

Budhi Tantra, the co-founder of Match3Games

Like most start-up game developing companies with no financial backing, budget has always been the utmost concern. Therefore, we wanted our team to be as small as possible, with each individual being as versatile as they can. So now I, aside from being the founder, deal with conceptualizing, level balancing, quality control, and work extra shifts to cover development costs. Kamonwit Sirithananonsakul, the developer and designer, is responsible for all technical and design aspects, and Markel Madrigal, the animator, does character modeling, animation, and motion graphics promo. We’re a team of just three people.

Kamonwit Sirithananonsakul, the developer and designer.

Puzzle Quest+Dungeon Raid+Soccer = Dream Game

The idea of Soccer Puzzle League came around because of the lack of good match-3 battle RPG games following the great success of Puzzle Quest by D3Publisher. We were suffering from a withdrawal syndrome so much that we started to dream about playing a match-3 battle RPG game in our minds, with our own favorite themes. Shortly after, there came Dungeon Raid, which managed to temporarily quench our thirst for an enjoyable match-3 game. After playing Dungeon Raid, a light bulb turned on, and we came up with the idea of mixing the two gameplays together with soccer as the main theme (it was a no brainer to pick soccer at that time: it’s the world’s most popular sport and FIFA World Cup 2012 was looming).

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Match-3 RPGs and soccer – because it’s the most popular sport and FIFA World Cup 2012 was looming

From Beta to a Full-Fledged Game: Twice as Long as Planned

We knew we had a limited budget and very little time (due to the looming FIFA World Cup 2012) from the beginning, so as soon as we came up with the game concept, we had the “keep it simple” mentality. We did manage to keep the main game concept and graphics simple. However, we realized that a solid gameplay is necessary to make the game competitive, and this contributed to the complexity of the project.

We fit the development of the alpha version in thee months out of the total six allocated for development. Going to beta stage took us another month or so. It seemed to be smooth sailing up, and morale was high in the team. But like in most situations, just when you think everything is going to be alright, moving from beta to a released and polished game took us beyond the allocated six months and frustratingly, we missed the World Cup!

Moving from beta to a released and polished game took us beyond the allocated 6 months.

Now, we realized that the main challenge is to get the game, well, playable. Wait, no – not only playable, but addictively playable and balanced, not too difficult and not too easy. It took us another 6 months to make all formula and level balancing match our standard (which turned out not so balanced after all). The game supposed to be released in July/August 2012 became a 2012 end-of-the-year release.

Too Hard for the Mass Market

Did we say that we have a low budget? Well, let us recap that again. We had a very low production budget. All the money used for development came from personal savings coupled with some odd jobs income. Development took twice as long as expected, so its cost ate up most, if not all, of our marketing budget.

The main complaint about Soccer Puzzle League: too difficult

With only social media and posting at forums, we managed to quietly release the game for iPhone and iPad. Soccer Puzzle League has fans all over the world. Critics, generally, loved it. However, one thing that was complained about the most was the fact that the game is too difficult (remember, we mentioned that it was balanced up to our own standards?). A product meant for casual gamers became a niche game. We quickly released an update to enable players choose difficulty setting, but it was too little, too late. Coupled with the lack of publicity, the game lost its traction and got lost among countless other apps.

Everything Happens for a Reason

It was sad to see our brain child drown in the depth of the sea of apps. However, not all has been lost. Soccer Puzzle League caught the eyes of an investor. Match3Studio was partially bought and became a subsidiary of the main company, PixnPlay Pte Ltd, whose focus is mainly on business apps. It’s a drastic shift, from developing games to business apps. Nevertheless, Match3Studio still operates developing and publishing more games. So fa,r we’ve made Zombie Defense: Smash&Crash and Great Dice D&D, and are currently working on another match-3 game we are hoping to publish by the end of the year.

Soccer Puzzle League 2 is likely to appear as an improved version of the game

In terms of Soccer Puzzle League, Match3Studio is now planning to make it available on Android devices. Beyond that, if there’s enough funding, the developers admit, they’d love to have the honor of developing Soccer Puzzle League 2, which would revise, improve and solidify the gameplay using the hard-earned and humbling lessons from the past to avoid pitfalls.


Industry Contributions