Activision Blizzard’s King division is celebrating 20 years of as a company, and it noted that Candy Crush Saga now has 15,000 levels for the match-3 game.
The company said that Candy Crush Saga has reached $20 billion in revenue and five billion downloads to date since its debut in 2012 on mobile. That is the equivalent of a wrecking ball swinging through the video game industry. King had only 2,000 levels for the game back in 2016.
Headquartered in London, England and Stockholm, Sweden with offices across the globe, King’s games, including Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Farm Heroes Saga, continue to captivate audiences worldwide.
King continues to be a cultural phenomenon. King’s games were played by 238 million monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2023. Its portfolio of mobile games bring players of all ages and backgrounds together to play.
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Candy Crush has been the top-grossing game franchise in the U.S. app stores for six years in a row. Continued investments in major brand partnerships have enabled King and Candy Crush to stay at the heart of pop culture.
Designed to be played in short bursts, Candy Crush Saga players have collectively completed more than five trillion levels. A quick fun fact: if you were to add the distance of all the swipes completed in Candy Crush Saga over the last five years, you’d almost travel around the world seven times over.
The success stretches beyond solo gameplay too. In 2023, Candy Crush Saga hosted a momentous All Stars tournament, revealing a $250,000 prize pot and limited edition rings from iconic celebrity Jeweler, Icebox.
With more than 300 billion candies collected across the tournament, Candy Crush Saga crowned its ultimate All Stars champion following a live final at King HQ in London.
A long-term focus
Green joined the company 11 years ago, when it was a much smaller company with 150 people. That was about the same time that Candy Crush Saga launched on mobile. He started out in the London studio, working on Farm Heroes Saga at first and switching to Candy Crush Saga in 2015.
Back in those days, a lot of companies tried to adapt PC and mobile games to mobile and then they went on to launch the next game.
“One of the early bets that we we took was to see what would happen if we assumed the Candy Crush game would last for a very long time. What would we do differently? What if mobile is different from PC and console? We started doing a lot more long-term investment, investing in the architecture, investing in the organization.”
The company invested heavily in systems for the game that took months or sometimes years to complete with the idea of making the game a bit better every day, Green said.
“If we believe this is a long-term thing, the game is really going to be fantastic in yeras to come with a sort of compounding effect,” he said. “That was the biggest mindset change that I’ve been involved in.”
In 2017, the company made a push into doing activities outside the game to stir demand, such as a TV show and a number of partnerships.
“In the last year or so, we’ve been doing more of those partnerships, trying to introduce bigger innovations into the game,” he said. “And if you add those two things together — long term incremental improvement with these bigger kind of jumps and attempts to live outside the app — that’s a simple way of telling the story of where we are now.”
Green said he is on level No. 1,739, noting that he’s not very good at it and makes slow progress. But he likes the community and the longstanding players who have a real relationship with the game.
Ongoing content drops
As King looks to the next 20 years, its focus remains on its players and bringing to life its mission of Making the World Playful. The division has more than 2,000 people.
Understanding that players crave new challenges and engaging, fresh content, King continues to harness the innovation and creativity of its team to develop exciting new adventures and experiences for its dedicated community of gamers.
For the iconic game Candy Crush Saga, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, King will soon be releasing Level 15,000 – a landmark moment. In the spirit of King culture and tradition the newest designers on the team get the honor of designing the milestone level.
Embracing new technologies
The future of mobile gaming will also be influenced by AI, with huge opportunities for this technology to enhance the way King’s games are developed and interacted with over the coming years. King is focused on harnessing these new technologies and exploring their capabilities to improve player experience, helping to make game design and gameplay more compelling, responsive and adaptive.
For example, by optimizing understanding of players’ interactions with the games and live game operations, AI can help teams enhance the player experience by enabling highly relevant content and options for players.
Green said the company has been working with AI to build the levels for some time. The company acquired an AI company called Peltarion last year, adding 50 AI machine learning specialists at a company that already had AI investments. That gave the company a big leap forward even before the generative AI crazy came along. The AI helps the company determine the balance of levels and how well designed they are.
“The task of improving and optimizing and balancing and rebalancing the game based on our latest knowledge, or based on what players are telling us, is this gargantuan overwhelming task if we do it manually,” Green said. “The other thing AI is enabling us to do that is probably more important in the long run is not only creating new levels but to actually improve old levels, where the vast majority of the audience spends their time.”
With large language models, Green believes the company can probably reduce the amount of time that it spends on some of the repetitive manual tasks.
“When I first joined the company, I was working in essentially a product analyst role. Every few weeks, we would get together and we looked at the whole big picture of the game,” Green said. “And what that tended to mean upwards of 20 hours a week for me, mostly in the evenings, punching through data that I manually exported from our reporting tools at the time. And then I had to reformat it, plug it into my huge processing spreadsheets that would barely run on my computer, and then go through and try to interpret from that what was going on.”
Now with AI, Green can spend more time concentrating on the insights that are of the most value in improving the experience for players.
“The speed at which we iterate and improve the game is is an important factor, and so what I’m hoping is that AI will be able to help us improve the rate at which we improve the game,” he said.
The work culture
King said a key element of King’s success for the past 20 years has been its culture – the company prides itself on continually striving to create a caring and inclusive kingdom where everyone can show up as their authentic selves.
In recognition of this, King was acknowledged by both Newsweek and the Sunday Times in 2023, being placed among Newsweek’s Global Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces and securing a place on The Sunday Times list of Best Places to Work in the UK.
Tjodolf Sommestad, president of King, said in a statement, “Reaching our 20th anniversary is a mark of the incredible passion and dedication of the entire King team to our mission of making the world playful. As we turn our attention to the future we’ll continue to strive to make our games the best they can possibly be and give players more of what they want. With a history of success and a bright future ahead, King looks forward to delivering many more years of fun gameplay and memorable moments for our players.”
“We hope that Candy can continue to be a big part of popular culture for a long time,” he said. “For us to do that, we’ve got to make the game itself really good. That’s the bread and butter work for us from day to day.”
At the same time, the company is working with partners like the Jonas Brothers to take Candy crush outside of the app into other parts of pop culture, Green said. For instance, King drove 13 million visits to the Barbie content hub before the debut of the hit movie.
“There is this kind of big meta challenge that we have the whole time. The game has been around now for more than 10 years. But we want it to feel fresh and new all the time. So when you open the game, whether you’re a new player, or a lapsed player, or a player who plays almost every day, we want you to feel like the two or three minutes spent playing will be well used,” he said.
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