What factors make a game popular? Analyzing a very popular Nintendo Switch game

What factors make a game popular? Analyzing a very popular Nintendo Switch game

We live in an era where we consume large amounts of content. What make certain content popular? We will focus on the Nintendo Switch game the “Watermelon Game” that gained sudden popularity in Japan, and by analyzing consumers reacting to the trend, we will study the factors that made it buzz.

What kind of game is the Watermelon Game?

The Watermelon Game is a simple puzzle game where you drop fruits from above and pack them into a box. When two fruits of the same type touch, they combine to become one larger fruit, freeing up space. To aim for a high score, you need to make the fruit as big as possible. The name "Watermelon Game" is thought to come from the fact that the goal of the game is to create the watermelon, which is the final stage of fruit evolution.

The image above explains the main features of the game. The purpose is to connect the same fruits so they can evolve into a bigger type of fruit. The aim is to create as many watermelons as possible.
Source: https://topics.nintendo.co.jp/article/e9d2815a-23be-4dab-9264-1b959470e4fb

At first glance, it may seem like the game is not so difficult if the aim of the game is to make sure to connect the same fruits together, but when you actually play it, it is a very profound work. Fruits move according to certain laws of physics, so even if you drop them, they may roll in unexpected directions. Because of this, large fruits such as melons and pineapples that precede the watermelon in the wheel of fruit evolution may not cling and remain in the box, taking up the space and making it more and more difficult.

The Watermelon Game has simple controls and a cute appearance, but in reality, it's so difficult that even making a watermelon is a challenge. However, once anyone gets the hang of it, they can gradually improve, and each game is short, making it an addictive game that makes you want to try again and again.

The Watermelon Game has over 2 million downloads. It's so popular that there are fakes out there!

The Watermelon Game was originally developed as a built-in app for projectors by the projector company Aladdin X. It has since been ported to Nintendo Switch and became available in December 2021. Initially, this game did not attract that much attention, but recently, it has suddenly become a hot topic, and as of October 2023, it has exceeded 2 million downloads.

So, when exactly did the popularity of the Watermelon Game start to skyrocket? We will also explore the causes and reasons for this. For analysis, we will use VALUE' online behavioral analytics tool “Dockpit,” which allows you to analyze competitors’ websites and research trends using behavioral data that is updated, all within your browser.

Let's take a look at the trends in the number of people searching for "Watermelon Game" and see when it started getting attention. From the graph below, you can see that although there were almost no searches before August 2023, the number of searches increased rapidly in September 2023. As expected, the popularity of the Watermelon Game did not increase gradually, but rather it seems to have exhibited rapid increase in popularity within a period of a month or two.

Changes in the number of people searching for “Watermelon Game”
Period: October 2022 - September 2023
Devices: PC, smartphone

Also, as the popularity of the Watermelon Game increases, the number of people who are saying “[they are] familiar with the name and interested, but [they] don't know what kind of game it is” is increasing. Targeting this demographic, similar smartphone app games disguised as the Watermelon Game have recently become available one after another.

As of October 2023, the only one that can be called the original Watermelon Game is the one distributed as downloadable software for Nintendo Switch for JPY 240. Similar app games may require higher fees than the official version, so be careful when downloading them in the future. Regarding this matter, the developer Aladdin X has also issued a warning via its the official X account.

The Watermelon Game is attracting attention at such an abnormal speed that it is difficult to keep track whether information is accurate or not. However, there was a lag of about a year and a half from the time this game was first made available until it gained attention from the public. Why did people start to become interested at this timing?

The reason behind the success of the Watermelon Game is game commentators

As mentioned earlier, the Watermelon Game suddenly gained attention around September 2023. It is thought that the reason why it has become widely recognized by the public is that many famous game commentators have started streaming it.

In order for game commentators to gain viewers, in addition to their favorite games, they need to actively try trending games. Therefore, if a game that was first streamed by a few people becomes a hot topic and becomes interesting, trend-conscious streamers will also use it for their own content, and it can quickly gain fame. It may be that this case also applies to popularity of the Watermelon Game.

So where did the Watermelon Game craze start? In fact, if we look back at the streaming, the first time the Watermelon Game was exposed to many viewers was on September 7, when the famous streamer Futon-chan streamed himself playing the game and saying, “I usually play this game in my bedroom.”

The Watermelon Game became a hot topic among viewers who watched this video. At this point, it was still a small trend, but it is thought that Futon-chan's streaming of the game was what started the game’s popularity.

After that, a streamer named Oeno Takayuki, who has a similar audience, was recommended by a viewer to livestream himself playing the Watermelon Game, and the game broadcaster Moko who saw it also played the Watermelon Game live and was hooked.

Moko is also a YouTuber, and after the broadcast, he posted clips of the livestream on YouTube, further accelerating the popularity of the Watermelon Game. As a result of this, Junichi Kato also streamed the Watermelon Game on September 15th, and it quickly became a hot topic.

In late September, VTubers of Nijisanji and Hololive also began streaming, further increasing the game’s popularity. After the Watermelon Game became famous, big YouTubers such as Hajime Syacho and Hikakin, as well as YouTubers who don't necessarily make content on the genre of game commentary, posted videos of the Watermelon Game being played, and as of October, it seems the trend hasn't waned yet.

Are the people searching for the Watermelon Game mainly commentary viewers?

So, what kind of people are interested in the Watermelon Game? We searched for information on people who searched for the “Watermelon Game” online.

The graph below shows the ratio of people searching for “Watermelon Game” by gender and age. Looking at the graph, you can see that more than 60% of people searching for the Watermelon Games are male, and it is popular among people in their 20s, but also in their 30s.

A YouTube usage trend survey conducted by VALUES in 2022 also found that people in their 20s and 30s often watch live game commentary and VTubers, and this trend is particularly strong among men. The people searching for the Watermelon Game may be in the same demographic as those interested in watching game commentary.

People searching for “Watermelon Game” by gender and age group
Period: October 2022 - September 2023
Devices: PC, smartphone

Are people more interested in “watching game commentary” than “falling block puzzle games”?

Next, let's take a look at what other words people searching for in addition to "Watermelon Game" and other interest words. The table below ranks the top 15 interest words among people searching for “Watermelon Game” in descending order of feature value (*).

Top words include the names of games that were popular in the streaming world, such as "Q REMASTERED" and "Kanji de GO," as well as the live streaming media, "Twitch," and the distributors, such as "Hololive" and "Nijisanji." It was impressive that many livestream-related words were ranked, such as the word “VTuber.”

*Feature value: Percentage of people who searched for both "Watermelon Game" and other words among those who searched for other words.

Ranking of interest words of people searching for “Watermelon Game”
Period: October 2022 - September 2023
Devices: PC, smartphone

The Watermelon Game is classified as a "falling block puzzle game" in terms of game genre. A falling block puzzle game is a game where the rules are to skillfully arrange objects that fall on the field and eliminate them, similar to Tetris and Puyo Puyo.
Among them, the game SHOT2048 is a game where you arrange falling numbers, combine the same numbers to make a power of 2, and ultimately aim for 2,048, and it has a gameplay very similar to the Watermelon Game.

However, the names of these games did not rank high as interest words. Many people searching for the Watermelon Game may have become interested in it for the first time after watching game commentary and not so much because they were interested in falling block puzzle games.

The games that are popular due to game commentary are cost-effectiveness and time-effectiveness?

It is thought that the Watermelon Game became a hot topic mainly because it attracted the interest of people who like watching game commentary. On the other hand, in addition to the Watermelon Game, keywords that people were interested in included games that were popular among streamers, such as “Q REMATERED” and “Kanji de GO.” However, the popularity of these games is limited to the community of people who like to watch game commentary.

The fact that the Watermelon Game's name has become well-known even to people who don't usually watch game commentary can be considered an unusual event. Let's take a look at why the Watermelon Game has become so influential among the games that were streamed.

First of all, what are the characteristics of the games that become popular through streaming? We will look at the similarities between the Watermelon Game, “Q REMASTERED,” which was ranked 1st in the interest words earlier, and “Kanji de GO,” which ranked 2nd.

If you take a look at the contents of the three games mentioned above, they all have one thing in common: the rules are simple and easy to understand, and the game requires you to use your brain. “Q REMASTERED” is a physical calculation puzzle where you aim to complete a task by drawing shapes freely on the screen, and “Kanji de GO,” is a game where you use the keyboard to answer difficult-to-read kanji that come your way. The following is a scene from the game, but I think the rules can be understood by looking at this image.

The brain game/teaser called "Q REMASTERED" on the left asks players to draw and figure out a way to pull out the pink block without making the figure fall.
The game on the right is "Kanji de GO" where the player needs to read the kanji (character) before it approaches and reaches you.
This photo demonstrates how simple the game is.

If the rules are simple, even people who join halfway through the stream will be able to quickly understand the content and catch up on the topic. In live streaming, where there is a lot of people entering and leaving the room, I think it is important for the audience to be able to understand at a glance what the aim is, even if they are watching it for the first time. Also, since these are games that require you to use your brain and use trial and error, viewers are naturally likely to have discussions in the comments section. Brain games may be suitable for streaming because viewers can easily feel that they are participating rather than just watching.

Besides the content, the three games also have something in common. These are "low price" and "length per play.” The price of each game and the time it takes to play are as follows.

All can be purchased for less than JPY 1,000, and one play can be completed within 30 minutes. In this way, games that are reasonably priced and don't take a lot of time to play can be thought of as a way for people who watch the video to think, “I’ll try it,” and it's likely that the topic will spread. Recently, short-form videos have become increasingly influential on social media, and in today's content-rich environment, it may be effective to lower the time-related barriers as much as possible to attract users' interest.

Is the Watermelon Game addictive?

So, out of all the games that tend to become popular through streaming, why did the Watermelon Game stand out and become a big topic? From here, we will further consider what makes the Watermelon Game different from other games.

One of the things that makes the Watermelon Game so exciting is the score ranking. In the Watermelon Game, your best scores are recorded for "daily," "monthly," and "overall" rankings, and the top rankers and scores are also displayed online. Streamers were able to compete based on points without having to play online battles at the same time, and this is thought to have fueled a sense of competition among streamers.

The image on the left shows a screen with the different score rankings--daily, monthly and overall.
The image on the right is a thumbnail of a YouTube video from popular streamer Hajime Syacho saying he suddenly scored more than 3,000 points on the Watermelon Game.
Source: https://store-jp.nintendo.com/list/software/70010000043363.html

In the Watermelon Game, you can compete and have fun by aiming for a high score, but in reality, the game is so difficult that you can't even make a "watermelon" before you get a high score. Beginners' first goal is to be able to make watermelons. Next, it seems that getting 3,000 points is a big challenge among streamers. Only by overcoming this obstacle will you be able to be considered to be competing for what would be considered a high score. By the way, as of October 2023, the scores of the top online rankers are over 7,000 points. To achieve this, it will be essential to create more than one watermelon.

The fact that there are step-by-step goals such as “make a watermelon” and “aim for 3,000 points” before aiming for a high score may be the reason why the Watermelon Game is so addictive. Many people may want to play the game over and over again, thinking, “Even if you can't get a high score right away, if you try one more time, you might be able to make melons. And the next time, you might even be able to make watermelons.''

Also, in the Watermelon Game, there are scenes where you feel like you might not be able to do it anymore, but the fruit moves in a chain that you didn't expect, resulting in a big turnaround. As you can see in the image below, there are a lot of short videos on YouTube that show people making watermelons right when the game looks to be almost over.

Titles of the YouTube Shorts from left to right:
[Watermelon Game] Divine moves that help you make watermelons…probably
Just when I thought I stuffed it, a comeback!!! [Watermelon Game]…
[Watermelon Game] Made a pumpkin for the first time!!!!!!!
[Watermelon Game] A comeback from a desperate situation part 1
Source: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%E3%82%B9%E3%82%A4%E3%82%AB%E3%82%B2%E3%83%BC%E3%83%A0%E3%80%80%E5%A4%A7%E9%80%86%E8%BB%A2

The Watermelon Game is a game where you can enjoy the exciting feeling that even in a crisis situation, there may still be a way to turn things around. The exhilarating feeling of seeing fruits chain together all at once, combined with the pop and cute visuals, makes it a game that is easy to make into videos. Perhaps the secret to its popularity was that it was a game that people would want to spread on video.


In this article, we explored the secret behind the sudden popularity of the Watermelon Game, which is currently a hot topic of conversation. In summary, we found the following:

・The Watermelon Game exploded in popularity as it was picked up by many game commentators, including Futon-chan.
・It is thought that the people who are interested in the Watermelon Game are more similar to the people who are interested in “watching game commentary” rather than those interested in “falling block puzzle games.”
・The Watermelon Game is a simple brain game that can be easily played, so it may be suitable for streaming.
・It is thought that the “the different stages of goals” and “online score rankings” make the Watermelon Game more addictive.

It seems that multiple factors are behind the success of the Watermelon Game. Among them, we found conditions that seem to be considered important across other content, such as “lowering the time-related barriers” and “looking good in videos.'' If you have the opportunity to create new content, why not use it as a reference?

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Born and raised in the Bay Area, U.S.A, I was fascinated by the different social and purchasing behaviors between Japanese and American consumers. I studied communication for undergrad and international marketing for my graduate studies. My professional background is in bilingual recruitment and Japanese-English translation.


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