The Candy Crush Sugar Rush

POSTED BY Analyst Team
It seems that right now everybody is talking about King’s infinitely successful Candy Crush Saga; even here in Juniper’s office the level you are on is the topic du jour. But instead of investigating how to get onto level 33 without spending 99c, I wanted to look at what’s made Candy Crush such a hit, and why. I’ll begin with a bit of a background to mobile game Candy Crush Saga: It’s been developed by online British games developer King (formerly known as King.com). The game Candy Crush Saga was initially released on Facebook in April 2012, then for smartphones and tablets in November 2012, and its style of gameplay has been likened to that of PopCap’s ‘Bejewelled’. Since its launch, both King and Candy Crush have grown substantially in popularity, and according to according to app metrics company AppData, King recently overtook competitor Zynga for the most popular games developer on Facebook, in terms of Monthly Active Users (MAUs). So what has made Candy Crush such a sensation? Firstly, it’s an incredibly easy game to start playing, especially if the user is familiar with Bejewelled. This is one of the key challenges which developers must overcome, namely, ensuring users return, which is explored in Juniper’s recent report Future App Stores: Discovery, Monetisation & Ecosystem Analysis 2013-2018. Yes it’s important to see traffic and downloads, but these mean nothing if your game then goes untouched by the user for the next six months. King have risen above this by implementing a simple tutorial which is played as you go along. Furthermore, the game can then be played for a short or long time (provided the user doesn’t lose all their lives) and if it is played through a Facebook account, a user’s progress is synchronised across all their devices – this probably explains why King are so successful on Facebook. King has also ensured that the gameplay is fresh, by offering different levels (385 and counting) and different modes of gameplay. I’ll just go back to that first point there though – it’s accessible. Candy Crush Saga is a freemium game, meaning that it’s free at the point of download, but encourages users to make in-app purchases to enhance their experience throughout the game. These in-app purchases are estimated to be generating $630,000 per day for King, so much so that King has even stopped advertising in the game. How have King managed to encourage so many users to spend money in their game? I would imagine it has a lot to do with timing. If a user loses all of their lives, they are locked out of the game for 30 minutes unless they pay for extra lives. When a user reaches this point, they are likely to have been playing the game for at least fifteen minutes, so their engagement with the game is high. They believe they are on the cusp of reaching the next level – something which King reinforces through their messages of ‘Sweet!’ and ‘Delicious!’ throughout the game. So paying 99c for extra lives is a small price to reach that next level – an even smaller price if you’re already a paying customer – which has meant that this is the number one in-app purchase for this game, in the App Store at least. One might argue that the game is difficult and hence the people which are spending so much money in the game are the people who’ve completed all 385 levels, but King would beg to differ, noting that 70% of people who complete the game do not spend a dime in it. A very clever game, however what will be even cleverer will be leveraging and sustaining this success, while it lasts...