Zynga’s Matching With Friends aims to be the next asynchronous craze

The With Friends series has gone from strength to strength since its inception by independent developer Newtoy in 2008. Since the original Chess With Friends, the series has taken in its own variations on Scrabble, Hangman and Boggle and has consistently remained one of the most popular asynchronous multiplayer series out there, which is what inspired publishing giant Zynga to absorb Newtoy back in November of 2010. Following the company’s recent Zynga Unleashed event, the series has a new entry: Matching With Friends, available now in free (ad-supported) and paid versions on the iOS App Store. Both games feature in-app purchases of game currency.

Unlike previous entries in the series, all of which are based on established board games, Matching With Friends is an original two-player puzzle game. Each turn, players are given three game pieces made up of three colored tiles each. Players take it in turns to lay down their three pieces on an 8×8 grid and attempt to make as many contiguous groups of three or more tiles of the same color as possible. At the end of the turn, the player is given points according to how many squares they matched, how many different colors they matched and multipliers from special spaces on the grid. Once a set number of turns have elapsed, the player with the highest score is declared the winner. Twists on the formula are provided by special star-marked “wild card” tiles which may substitute for any color, and “bomb” items which wipe out colored blocks in one of several different patterns. Bombs require in-game currency (earned through play or acquired via IAP) to use — and only two may be used per game to keep players “honest.”

The game incorporates the same social features as the rest of the With Friends series, making it easy for players to get started and find opponents right away. Players may connect the game to their Facebook account and send invites to their friends via Timeline posts — alternatively, those players who are not using Facebook may simply use a proprietary With Friends account and invite specific players by username or find a random opponent. It’s also possible for players to upload information from their phone’s address book to search for a specific friend — players are given ample warning that this is going to happen if they choose to make use of this option. The game incorporates an asynchronous chat facility and sends push notifications to players when it is their turn or their opponent sends them a message.

The game is solid and simple to understand, but whether or not it will enjoy the same success as past entries in the With Friends series is questionable. All previous With Friends titles have been able to draw on the fact that players are already familiar with the basic concepts of the popular games on which they are based. Matching With Friends is a completely original game and, while this is praiseworthy — particularly from a publishing stable as well-known for iterating on well-established formulae as Zynga — it may cause uptake to be a little slower than for the earlier games.

As new releases, the two versions of Matching With Friends are not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back soon to follow their progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.