The Candy Crush franchise has now generated more than $20bn over its lifetime, says King.
During a recent press day at King’s London HQ, we got the chance to grill the man in charge of that juggernaut IP, Candy Crush franchise general manager Todd Green.
Here, we discuss whether King’s flagship game series is becoming more ad-driven, new match 3 contender Royal Match, how King prioritises its four Candy games and if it is considering going direct to consumer to dodge Apple and Google’s 30% IAP tax.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and readability.
IAP revenue in Candy Crush Saga has been in decline since March, according to Appmagic data. Does that reflect an increase in revenue from ads? Are you pushing more people towards ads or are there other market factors?
I mean obviously we use our own internal tools and they don’t always 100% match [third party estimates].
What we found is that over time, you have a lot of people playing and frankly spending some money as well. On top of that, we’ve been able to build an ads business, which is helping us to provide a lot of good experiences for players that they’d otherwise have to spend money and time on.
We’re in free to play so the vast majority of people playing are not spending directly. And there are lots of companies that have very different models for ads – we don’t force you to look at an ad, you have to press a button and you get a reward when you see an ad.
But what we’re finding is that that’s enabling us to give more content, whether it’s extra moves, extra boosters, extra lives to more people than we would do if we didn’t have that as a business. So we see the evolution of the game over time and evolution of the business model over time. And that’s a long journey.
So there is more of a focus now on pushing people towards ads? Or does it depend on the type of player?
Players can choose – some people choose to spend a bit of money, some people choose to watch ads, some choose to do neither. I’ve met a lot of players who say ‘I’ve never used a booster’ – even the ones we give for free. That kind of purist player, they’re fitting into this category where they really like the challenge. So we give people the choice essentially, and then players can move back and forth as they wish.
Royal Match has overtaken Candy in terms of downloads and IAP revenue according to Appmagic data. Has that made you rethink some of your strategy or galvanised your team?
I’ve been in charge of Candy now in two stints for about six years and in that time we’ve had lots of competitors come along – we’ve even had Mario.
It’s a very attractive market, and that pulls in lots of companies both with older IPs, like Mario, and also new games. And what we’ve seen historically is with every year that’s gone past, the size of the market goes up. So if you think about what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to reach as many people as possible. If the size of the market increases, that’s good for us.
We’re in this dynamic, evolving market, we’ve been here a long time and I hope we’re going to be here for a good long time yet, so whether it’s older or newer games launching that’s good for the industry and good for players.
Candy and Soda seem to be the priorities right now, so are you moving players from Jelly and Friends into Soda and Candy?
We’re certainly very happy with what we have, and we still have people thinking and working on all sorts of different concepts and new experiences for players.
There are two ways of delivering new experiences to players – the classic way, of course, is to launch a new app. But we’ve actually introduced some interesting, bigger changes in Candy and Soda over the last few years and there you can also reach a big audience of players as well. Of course the market changes and evolves, we’ve found that betting on improving the games that we have over a long time is very difficult for somebody else to compete with.
We have players playing all of our very long tail games at King and we’re still serving new experiences, new levels, new events, and so on in all those games.
We see players moving back and forth between the games from Candy into those other titles or into Farm [Heroes Saga]. If we do a good job with the portfolio, we offer players two things: consistent high quality and a good combination of familiarity and innovation inside each of those different products. And then inside each one of those, we have a different strategy for how we can evolve and improve the games.
Do you think about moving players onto other platforms, maybe into your browser games? You already have that presence there and it means you get to keep all the revenue, right?
It’s pretty simple for us, we’re making mass mainstream games. That means we want to be on the biggest platforms. And we’re on the biggest platforms right now, that means mobile. So that means we’re very focused on mobile today.
We were one of the first companies to offer robust and reliable crossplatform play, and you can still play across different mobile platforms, we’ll carry your progress over so the player doesn’t think too much about it. But we really talk about mass mainstream, as many people as possible – that’s how we run our business.
But is it tempting to push people – perhaps your biggest spenders – a little harder into the browser experience because then you get to skip the Apple and Google tax? Are you having those conversations?
We want to be where the most players are. It’s as simple as that. Our model is we have as many players as we can, and try and serve them a great game every day.
A small fraction of those will spend some money but in the end, we don’t necessarily know who those people are going to be. And so best thing we can do is to meet players where they are and give them a great experience, and right now that’s on mobile.