Project Makeover Monetization: Bringing Match-3 Back to Life

Project Makeover Monetization: Bringing Match-3 Back to Life

by Mihovil Grguric

Hey, a new match-3 game will appear and conquer the top-grossing charts!

If someone had told me this a few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Project Makeover is a game that did exactly this.

In this article, I cover everything you need to know about Project Makeover monetization. Let me guide you through the games’ most important elements, monetization practices, and retention strategies.

How Successful Is Project Makeover

Project Makeover was released in November 2020 by Bubblegum Games (under Magic Tavern). It has been just a few months since the release and the game is already crazy successful.

It went from zero to millions of dollars in the blink of an eye.

Project Makeover had an explosive release and a subsequent couple of months, where downloads reached an all-time high. However, after January 2021, the downloads have been on a steady decline. This goes to show how hard it is to keep a casual game relevant in this market.

But even though the number of downloads is not as high as it used to be, Project Makeover is still getting a large number of new players. For example, in August 2022, more than 3.3 million users downloaded it. That’s impressive for a casual game that has been released two years ago. Overall, Project Makeover was downloaded more than 162 million times!

Just like downloads, Project Makeover’s revenue is also on a decline month over month. But don’t be fooled, this game is still raking in the big bucks. For example, in August 2022, it earned more than $12 million. Since its release, it earned more than $440 million in revenue!

Currently, Project Makeover is the 21st top-grossing casual game – this is a huge success considering how saturated the casual market is.

Unless stated otherwise, the data in this article comes AppMagic, a leading mobile intelligence platform. Get 3 days of free access to all AppMagic’s features, as well as 10% off, by clicking this link.

What Makes Project Makeover So Special 

Project Makeover falls into three genres: puzzle, simulation, and casual. The game’s subgenre is match-3, but not the classic type we’re all familiar with. Unlike classic match-3 games like the Candy Crush Saga, this game is meta-driven.

It combines different fashion-themed meta elements with an exciting, dramatic narrative.

Apparently, Millennial women are into this game the most. 88% of players are female and their average age is 28.

To attract this particular audience, Project Makeover developed an interesting approach to user acquisition. Really, when you see their ads, you will recognize them right away. They often follow teen-movie-inspired plots where an unattractive girl becomes beautiful.

After the users launch the game, user experience and monetization take the wheel. We’re here to analyze both – in detail.

plot story

First Impressions

The game starts with an intro video, and right away you’re in for some fashion drama.

You’re in for a tv show with a purpose – helping people look and feel better about themselves.

Up to this moment, the show’s director has been making people feel really bad. She kind of looks like the famous villain Cruella De Vil and says horrible things to clients. People that are already insecure get to hear things like “I cannot fix your disaster” and “You’re ugly for life!”.

This plot is the game’s main hook. It’s the point where it gets all of your attention or loses it for good.

As a player, your role is to take her place and give people the makeover experience they deserve.

game tutorial

Game Tutorial

First, you will give yourself a name and become your first client.

One person from your professional crew is your first tutorial character. He guides you through the menu, your tasks, and puzzle swapping.

To figure out how it all works, it comes with pointers and explanations. You will find out you need to solve match-3 puzzles to earn coins. All of this to make your clients beautiful.

You will learn as you play, as every new feature comes with instructions. Later on, other crew members guide you as well.

project makeover art style

Art Style

The game’s visual theme is the world of fashion. Right away, you can see the game draws inspiration from different makeover and fashion-themed tv shows.

Wondering why is this important? The game feels familiar, and people love familiarity.

Project Makeover contains both 2D and 3D elements. For example, when you do makeovers, the characters are 3D, while most other game elements are 2D and cartoonish. The game comes in landscape orientation as well as in a bright and colorful color palette.

The “before” and “after” images are a big part of the visual impression. Client characters and their homes are purposely made unattractive and messy. This way, the end results seem more impressive.

When it comes to the match-3 segment, it is a classic board with tiles in different colors and shapes. They often explode, so you will see a lot of special effects and color explosions happening on the board.

project makeover ui

UI/UX

The user flow of the game feels simple and logical.

There are many different features on the interface, but they don’t feel overwhelming. The glue that holds all of it together is storytelling.

On the top of the screen, you can see a resources section. Here you can see how many lives, gems, coins, and cash you have. On the left, you can see your avatar.

On the bottom left, you can find your next makeover tasks. Next to it, there is an overview of the show’s episodes. In this part of the screen, you can also shift places, from room to room.

Finally, there is a play button on the bottom right. Here, you can enter the game’s match-3 board.

Main Game Mechanics

At its core, Project Makeover is a match-3 based game. The main role of the whole match-3 system in this game is to generate soft currency – coins.

Here’s how the game works:

  1. Play match-3
  2. Earn coins
  3. Return to meta

While meta is important for the story, match-3 features are crucial for game monetization, so let’s analyze them.

Swapping Match-3

In this game, you spend most of your time on the match-3 board. The board game is based on simple, yet effective swapping mechanics.

You can swap same-colored tiles up and down, left and right. After tiles disappear from the board, the whole construction moves down by a block.

On the left side of the board screen, you can see how much it takes to win a level.

You don’t have to be some kind of match-3 genius to figure it all out. This is a classic and simple match-3 board game.

special match-3 mechanics

Special Match-3 Level Mechanics 

The match-3 game is based on levels. Every new level comes with some kind of new feature that will help you solve the puzzle faster.

Or as the game’s app store descriptions say: BLAST through levels with exciting power-ups and explosive benefits!

These “explosive benefits” are booster items. They appear on the board after you match certain tiles. For example, matching 4 tiles in a line will get you fireworks that clear the whole line.

All it takes to make a blast is a swap, tap, or a double-tap. When an explosion occurs, it feels like a small victory.

Moreover, there will be added features like immovable obstacles, different items hiding under layers of tiles, etc.

life points energy mechanic

Energy Mechanics – Life Points

To even play on the board, you have to have at least one life.

Every time you play a level, you lose a life point. Of course, they are not lost for good, but they replenish with time. What this means is that every time you run out of lives, a timer appears on the screen.

The wait times aren’t too long. You will be ready for a new board attempt in a matter of minutes. Besides waiting, your other option is using gems, the game’s premium currency.

Finally, all of the game’s mechanics are here to make the game interesting and profitable. For this reason, game mechanics and monetization have to work together as one.

Now, let’s go over the Project Makeover monetization strategy.

project makeover meta

Meta Features

What makes Project Makeover different from all the other match-3 games? The answer is simple – meta.

However, the game’s meta is anything but simple. It consists of four parts:

1. Storyline 

The game is divided into episodes and follows an intriguing storyline. The story begins with a major conflict that immerses players into the game. However, the drama doesn’t stop there. Psst, some of the assistants are schemers. All of this makes players feel like they are a part of a rather dramatic TV show. 

2.  Fashion

The whole game revolves around fashion. It gives players the opportunity to become fashion designers whose choices matter. 

3. Hair and makeup 

Other than clothes, makeovers always include an overall appearance change. This includes a fresh haircut, refreshed looks, and even detailed baths. 

4. Decoration

This is the most unexpected meta feature in the game. The logic here is that the characters who have messy appearances also have messy homes. If you fix one, you should fix the other one as well. This part includes cleaning out, selecting new furniture, etc.

As you can see, the game’s meta is well rounded and diverse. Here’s what Magic Tavern’s CEO, Charlie Gu said on this topic:

“Project Makeover is undoubtedly a bolder attempt, the proportion of parts other than match three is very large. Even if the match-3 is removed, the playability of this game is very complete” (InfNews).

Ultimately, with all of these different features, the game attracts players with different interests. They range from fashion and makeup enthusiasts to people who love interior design.

Project Makeover Monetization Strategy Breakdown

Ever since the first match-3 games appeared, every new one is trying to be different and better.

For this reason, in the last couple of years, there is a trend of focusing on the meta. Project Makeover took over this trend – and brought it to a whole new level.

An expanded meta also means more monetization options. Keep reading to find out how Project Makeover utilized its monetization potential.

project makeover monetization gems

Which Monetization Models Project Makeover Uses? 

Project Makeover monetizes with in-app purchases only. Yes, relying on a single revenue source is always a risky move. However, the revenue numbers say it all – it works.

Why does it work so well? Let’s analyze Project Makeover’s in-game store and in-app purchases setup to answer this question.

Project Makeover In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup

When a game is based on in-app purchases, the in-game store is its backbone.

Here, everything has to be strategic and most importantly, previously tested. For this reason, the game store setup was thought-out as early as the game itself. Here are some best practices every developer should follow:

  • Make buying easy and simple
  • Offer a variety of choices
  • Offer a sufficient range of price points
  • Keep the price tags consistent

Now let’s go over Project Makeover’s in-game store to see exactly how Bubblegum Games did this.

The in-game store consists of one purchasable resource only – gems. Gems are needed for the match-3 segment of the game. You can use them to buy extra moves or power-ups.

There is a wide range of offers, six of them. They are sorted by size and range from 500 to 35,000 gems in a pack.

Pricing Structure for In-App Purchases

A huge – huge part of monetization done right is setting price points.

Generally, the minimum price point shouldn’t be below $2. On the other hand, the highest price point shouldn’t be too high either. Even the biggest mobile game spenders, whales, spend an average of $20 on a single purchase (DeltaDNA).

project makeover monetization gem store

In Project Makeover’s in-game store, you will find price points ranging from $1.99 to $99.99.

The cheapest offer comes with the least value for money, and the most expensive ones are most valuable.

Let me exemplify this for you.

Here is what you could get for each dollar you spend in the store. The smallest offer will bring you 250 gems, while the second cheapest would bring you 330 gems for every dollar spent.  The biggest offer should always come with the best value for money. In this case, each dollar would be worth 350 gems.

With that being said, here are the offers that players prefer most.

  • Pile of Gems ($1.99)
  • Purse Full of Gems ($4.99)
  • Tiara Class Package ($9.99)

As you can see, most of the game’s spenders are willing to spend no more than 10 bucks on the game. This comes as no surprise considering the game’s casual player base.

How In-App Purchases Really Work in Project Makeover

Yes, the in-game store is important. However, players’ path to the store is equally important.

To find out exactly how IAP features blend with the gameplay, I played Project Makeover for 6 days.

Days 1 and 2 

During the first two days of playing, there were no in-app purchase offers whatsoever.

You don’t experience something like this a lot in mobile games. The thing is, the early match-3 levels are really easy, so you will hardly run out of moves or lives in this phase. You can expect at least 30 minutes of pure gameplay until you’re stuck for the first time.

Day 3 

On level 12, I was out of moves for the first time. And I was so close to making it…

project makeover monetization moves

To continue playing the level, I was offered 5 extra moves and a rainbow piece. All it takes is 400 gems.

I didn’t have enough gems to buy it so I was taken to the game’s store.

Day 4

Level 13 was even harder than the previous one. Therefore, I ran out of moves again. Not only that, but I ran out of lives for the first time in the game.

out of lives

When your lives are at zero, you can ask someone for help or refill them with gems.

If you choose gems and don’t have enough – you’re taken to the gem store once again.

Day 5

A few levels later, the game started giving out free boosters at the start of the match-3 levels. I got to play using these boosters for a while. With these items, winning the games felt easy peasy.

project makeover monetization boosters

However, once I ran out of boosters, a new monetization feature appeared. Apparently, you can also buy boosters by using gems.

Day 6

As levels got harder, it took more and more lives to finish them.

After I was stuck on level 28, I gave up trying. I tried to complete this level over 10 times but it felt impossible so my player journey ended here.

User Retention in Project Makeover

No matter how good a game is, retaining players is always difficult. Casual players are definitely not famous for their loyalty.

Here’s an overview of Project Makeover retention data.

After one day, about 44% of players come back to the game. A week later, this number is cut all the way to 21%. After 30 days, about 9% of players are still playing Project Makeover.

Wondering if this is good or bad?

These retention rates are very good, and here’s why. Keeping players after the first day is the most important retention task. Here’s how well other games in the puzzle genre do it.

An average puzzle game keeps about 23% of players after one day. On the other hand, the top 2% of puzzle games retain about 53% of players on the first day (Benchmarks+ platform).

As you can see, Project Makeover’s retention rates are very close to the top of the genre. This is not accidental, everything about retention is carefully planned.

Retaining users is a big step towards monetizing them. Therefore, let’s go over the main retention mechanisms found in this game.

social features

Social Features

This game puts social features on a pedestal. If you’re not interested in spending money, social features can help you progress. In fact, if you sign in with Facebook, you will get a pretty generous reward – 300 gems.

If you run out of lives, you can ask your Facebook friends for more. You can also take a visit to their dressing rooms and see how they made themselves look.

Restricting Session Lengths

Unless you’re not some kind of match-3 master, the game will pause your progress. Quite a lot.

When you run out of coins, gems, lives, and moves on the board, this will naturally restrict your sessions. However, when timers appear, it’s like the game itself is telling you, “Hey, come back soon”.

personalization features

Personalization Features

After you enter your name, it is included in the storyline. You can see that awful ex-director shouting things like, “(Your name)?! What kind of name is that?”

Next, you will be able to give yourself a makeover as well. You start basic and unlock new options such as new clothes and hairstyles as you progress.

Personalization features are here to make you feel closer to your character. Plus: you can make yourself beautiful.

Events

At level 19, a completely new feature appears in the game. It is an in-game event that lasts as long as 30 minutes.

In this event, your task is to help a young photographer with a makeover. To help you achieve this, you get 30 minutes of infinite board gameplay. What’s in it for you? The excitement, earning coins, and faster progress.

daily features

Making It Daily

How do you motivate users to log in every day? It’s simple, give them daily rewards.

For this reason, Project Makeover set aside some gifts, from gems to clothing and accessories. Everything players have to do is claim their daily reward.

randomized rewards

Randomized Rewards

Receiving rewards is always exciting, and making them random is even more so. They appear occasionally in the form of mysterious boxes.

To receive a randomized reward, you have to complete a match-3 level.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are the most direct retention method in mobile gaming. Unfortunately, many games use them the wrong way.

Generally, push notifications should be three things: relevant, timely, and valuable. Making them like this is not as simple as it sounds.

For this reason, they often end up being pushy and annoying instead. If this is the case, you can say goodbye to good player retention rates.

Project Makeovers sends out push notifications. During six days of playing, I received two types of push notifications.

project makeover push notifications

The first type of push notification I received from the game was a lives refilled notification. This meant that the timers did their thing and I can come back to play on the board. This notification has appeared every time after I maxed out all lives.

With this kind of notification, the game speaks to players who actively play the game.

Next, I received something like a daily reminder. After playing the game for a few days, I was reminded that I shouldn’t miss a day.

Overall, Project Makeover has a well done, moderate approach to using push notifications.

project makeover monetization

5 Things You Can Learn From Project Makeover Monetization Strategy

Monetization is always more than what you can see on the surface. At the first glance, Project Makeover monetization strategy may seem simple, but it’s anything but simple.

Here is an overview of all the good sides of Project Makeover monetization.

Don’t Be Aggressive With IAP Offers

For a game that monetizes on IAP revenue only, Project Makeover has a surprisingly unaggressive monetization strategy.

There are no IAP pop-ups, no special offers, or even bundle deals. At least none appeared during my six-day player journey.

Let Players Play, Then Monetize

Before discovering the game’s store, players get to enjoy a lot of gameplay. During this period, the match-3 segment is easy and doesn’t last very long. With this strategy, players can earn quite a lot of coins and focus on the meta.

As the puzzles get more difficult, and players get hooked on the game, the game starts to introduce monetization features.

Offer a Wide Range of Items and Price Points

Since the game’s store consists of gems only, it has to be set up especially well.

Here, Project Makeover did everything right. Gems come in six different sized packs which is a very common practice among top games.

The price points were tailored according to different player groups. They are well aware that most players are not going to spend a lot of money on the game. For this reason, there are only a couple of bucks of difference between the smallest offers. Meanwhile, more expensive offers come with significantly higher price points.

free boosters

Give Players a Taste of IAPs

At the moment you start failing puzzles, the game will present you with boosters. First, you get to try them out for free. Then, when you use them all up and learn about their value, the generosity stops.

If you want new boosters, your only choice is to buy them with some gems. According to Project Makeover players, purchasing gems is the most effective strategy for in-game progress.

Make Premium Currency Irreplaceable

Even though there are three currencies in the game, gems are the game’s main monetization point. You can use gems for multiple purposes:

  • Skipping wait times (lives)
  • Level continue (moves)
  • Easier progression (consumable boosters)

With this strategy, the game can monetize different player types. The first type are the players who despise wait timers. Second, players who were really close to completing a level and only need a few more moves. Finally, consumable boosters will help players who are eager to progress faster.

Project Makeover Monetization Suggestions

There is a lot to learn from this game. However, there is always some room for improvement.

I learned this the hard way when I got stuck on a level myself. This kind of dead-end situation should never happen in a game, especially not this fast. As such, I found out this game is not very non-payer-friendly.

Obviously, the game should provide more progress options for free-to-play players. Yes, there are social features, but they aren’t as helpful for game progression. One of the most common player suggestions for this problem is increasing the number of in-game rewards.

For example, daily rewards and mystery boxes should contain more gems or boosters. Right now, these rewards mostly include cosmetic items needed for the meta. Anything that could be helpful on the problematic match-3 board.

Besides features for non-payers, the game could diversify its store offer. Here are some features that could have a positive impact on the game’s revenues.

  • Permanent boosts
  • Purchasable outfits
  • A subscription plan
  • A piggy bank

All of these monetization features have proven to be effective for games in this genre and games with similar mechanics.

Project Makeover Monetization Wrap Up

The numbers never lie –  Project Makeover is doing a lot of things right.

It took the proven match-3 concept and made it better. Most importantly, it made it profitable.

However, there are some progress and monetization aspects that could be improved. We’re looking forward to seeing what new features this young game will add to the monetization mix.

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