King Digital Entertainment have created a very clever game, which has in turn created a very clever product, making this very clever company worth a cool $7 billion. Candy Crush Saga is a wall to wall (Street) past-time on the commute these days, meaning the company floated off 15 million shares, bouyed by nearly 100 million players getting their own digit workout, around the world each day. Their shares took a 15% pound down on initial NYSE trading… Still this is an exceptional achievement in just eleven years of life, in the very tough computer games market. Trick is to go and make some more exceptional games that bolt on more followers, or just play it safe and copy most other gamer company business models and just make one sequel after another. Kerching! Until gamers are literally yawning as they swipe their credit cards through, using only muscle memory. Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty are examples of the many who reuse the engine, because a top game costs $60million, so it makes sense in terms of time and money to reuse the blueprints, framework and structure. When a game tanks, the losses can be significant and when you find a winning formula keep on using it, especially when the costs of making a top tier game can be up there with the Hollywood Movie budgets.
All credit to Riccardo Zacconi’s team of 400, because what they have managed to do is create a game that transcends gender and age groups, something that Nintendo did so well with the Wii Console and family friendly games. But better still, King isn’t shackled by one of the big 3’s gaming platforms – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are out, iOS and Android are in. People want mobile games for their commute, for entertainment bursts, for their down time between…anything, even to break the monotony of going to the loo… yes, anything. Kids will blow the summer holidays getting to Level 7009 of “Zombie Incinerator”, but some of us don’t have that same sense of drive or time, and work and families really get in the way of an 8 hour stint playing FIFA on the Playstation.
King have struck gold and are now doing what any good games company would do – reusing the engine to make Farm Heroes and Papa Pear. It will be a brave decision for someone at King, to stray too far from the Candy Cash Tree. In fact, in 2013 only 1 game in the top 50 was using fresh IP. Rock Star Games sat at the top with GTA (5) and the also rans of 2013 included Mario Kart (7), Gran Turismo (6) and Resident Evil (6), you get the idea.
So the King can still keep on mining the gold for quite some time, in the same vein as Angry Birds and the other games that serve as a nice distraction on the way from A to B do. Is it overvalued as a business? Time will tell, but with 50 new jobs being advertised on their site, pots of cash in the bank and the ability to attract the finest talent as the new darlings of Wall Street, King and it’s cool brand can keep it going for quite some time.