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How Zombies Are Shaking Up the Puzzle Genre

One of the most exciting things about Sensor Tower’s new Game Intelligence feature within our Store Intelligence product is how it can uncover interesting changes in trends and important opportunities. By going layers deeper into sub-genres, themes, and styles, surprising growth stories emerge even in established game genres.

For example, the puzzle genre has been a place where lifestyle themes reign supreme, especially for the past year. From Playrix’s Homescapes to Magic Tavern’s Project Makeover, puzzle games have prioritized aesthetics-focused and decoration-oriented incentives to keep players hooked—so much so that puzzle games with those themes have accounted for 14 percent of downloads and more than 30 percent of revenue for the puzzle genre in Q1 of 2021.

But the next big thing could be… the apocalypse?

On April 8, Zynga globally launched Puzzle Combat, a zombie-themed game with a Match 3 mechanic, developed by Empires & Puzzles studio Small Giant Games. While the game initially soft-launched with a military theme, it evolved over time to incorporate a more apocalyptic theme, including zombies, during the course of its soft launch. The game joins another notable puzzle title that incorporates a zombie theme: Puzzles & Survival by 37Games, which launched in September 2020 and grossed more than $30 million in revenue globally across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play in May 2021.

While Puzzle Combat shares a little bit of Puzzle & Survival’s aesthetics—with colored circles around the zombies to denote weakness—the games feel fundamentally different due to their art styles. For example, Puzzle & Survival weaves apocalyptic elements into the plot, leveraging a more realistic 2D art style to convey drama. Puzzle Combat, on the other hand, maintains its core military theme with a lighter incorporation of zombie elements and a more casual 2D cartoon art style. It’s still early days for Puzzle Combat, but it already crossed $1 million in consumer spending in May 2021—a promising start.

Zombie Taxonomy

Sensor Tower’s Game Intelligence product is excellent at uncovering rising market opportunities and unexpected interests among established audiences. Although it’s a newly-rising theme subset—spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic—zombie and post-apocalyptic games have seen an uptick in revenue, despite having more conservative downloads. Worldwide consumer spending in games with that theme reached $180 million in May 2021, representing a 47 percent increase year-over-year. As new themes begin to gain traction across many different genres, Game Intelligence can keep your team informed about the best opportunities to enter the market.

Interested in learning more about the upcoming trends in the games industry? Sensor Tower’s Game Intelligence, powered by our Store Intelligence product, gives detailed insights into the various elements that go into a successful game. To learn more about how zombies are carving out a niche within the puzzle genre, or how any other trends are influencing game design and development, request a demo with our Sales Team.

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