Activision Blizzard’s King division is marking two decades in the business, and they’ve proudly announced that Candy Crush Saga now boasts a staggering 15,000 levels in its match-3 game.
The company has revealed that Candy Crush Saga has achieved a remarkable milestone, amassing a jaw-dropping $20 billion in revenue and garnering a staggering five billion downloads since its initial launch in 2012 on mobile platforms. This achievement can be likened to a seismic impact on the video game industry, considering the game had a mere 2,000 levels in 2016.
With its main offices located in London, England, and Stockholm, Sweden, along with a global presence through various offices, King’s gaming titles, such as Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, and Farm Heroes Saga, maintain their global appeal.
King remains an enduring cultural sensation, boasting an impressive 238 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2023. Its collection of mobile games serves as a unifying platform for players of diverse ages and backgrounds worldwide.
For six consecutive years, Candy Crush has held the position of the top-grossing game franchise in the U.S. app stores. This impressive achievement can be attributed to the ongoing investments made in significant brand partnerships, which have kept King and Candy Crush firmly embedded in popular culture.
Candy Crush Saga, designed for short, engaging gaming sessions, boasts a remarkable accomplishment – its players have collectively conquered an astounding five trillion levels. As a fun tidbit, if you were to combine the distances covered by all the swipes made in Candy Crush Saga over the past five years, you’d almost complete a journey around the world seven times.
The game’s triumph extends beyond individual gameplay. In the year 2023, Candy Crush Saga hosted a historic All Stars tournament, offering a substantial prize pool of $250,000 and exclusive rings crafted by the renowned celebrity jeweler, Icebox.
During this tournament, over 300 billion candies were collected, and Candy Crush Saga crowned its ultimate All Stars champion following a thrilling live final event held at King’s headquarters in London.
A long-term focus
Eleven years ago, Green became a part of the company during its smaller days, comprising just 150 individuals. This period coincided with the launch of Candy Crush Saga on mobile platforms. Initially stationed at the London studio, Green began his journey by working on Farm Heroes Saga before transitioning to Candy Crush Saga in 2015.
During those times, many companies were attempting to adapt PC and mobile games for mobile platforms, followed by launching the next game in quick succession.
One of our early strategic decisions was to envision Candy Crush as a long-lasting phenomenon. We pondered on how to approach mobile gaming differently from PC and console gaming. This led us to make substantial long-term investments, not only in the game’s architecture but also in reorganizing our efforts.
The company embarked on a significant journey of developing intricate systems for the game, often requiring months or even years to complete. The core idea was to enhance the game’s quality incrementally every day, creating a compounding effect over time.
Green expressed, “If we believe in the game’s enduring potential, it will progressively evolve into something truly remarkable in the years ahead. This shift in mindset was one of the most pivotal moments I’ve experienced.”
In 2017, the company expanded its scope by venturing into activities beyond the game itself to stimulate demand. This included ventures like a television show and various partnerships.
“Over the past year, our focus has shifted even more towards these partnerships, as we aim to introduce substantial innovations into the game,” Green added. “Combining our long-term incremental approach with these bold leaps and efforts to expand beyond the app encapsulates the current narrative of where we stand.”
Green candidly shared that he’s currently on level 1,739 in the game, acknowledging that he may not be the best player and progresses slowly. Nevertheless, he values the sense of community and the enduring relationships that players have cultivated with the game over time.
Ongoing content drops
Looking ahead to the next two decades, King maintains its unwavering commitment to its player community, diligently pursuing its mission of infusing the world with playfulness. The division boasts a workforce exceeding 2,000 individuals.
Recognizing the insatiable appetite of players for novel challenges and captivating, freshly-crafted content, King remains dedicated to channeling the boundless innovation and creativity of its team. This relentless pursuit drives the development of thrilling new adventures and immersive experiences for its steadfast community of gamers.
In a momentous occasion for the iconic game Candy Crush Saga, which marked its 10th anniversary last year, King is on the verge of unveiling Level 15,000. Staying true to the cherished traditions of King’s culture, the newest members of the design team have been granted the honor of crafting this milestone level.
Embracing new technologies
AI will play a significant role in shaping the future of mobile gaming, offering immense potential to revolutionize the development and player interaction in King’s games in the years ahead. King is committed to harnessing these emerging technologies and unlocking their capabilities to elevate the player experience, making game design and gameplay more engaging, responsive, and adaptable.
One illustration of this is the application of AI to enhance our understanding of players’ interactions within games and live game operations. This AI-driven approach empowers our teams to enrich the player experience by providing highly relevant content and options tailored to individual players.
As an example of our AI initiatives, we’ve been utilizing AI to craft game levels for some time now. Notably, we acquired an AI company named Peltarion last year, adding 50 skilled AI and machine learning specialists to our team, which was already invested in AI technologies. This strategic move propelled us ahead significantly even before the surge in generative AI. AI plays a pivotal role in assisting us in fine-tuning level balance and design.
Improving, optimizing, balancing, and re-balancing the game based on the latest knowledge or player feedback can be a monumental and daunting task when done manually. AI not only streamlines this process but also holds a crucial long-term advantage by enhancing existing levels, where the majority of our player base spends their time.
With the integration of large language models, we anticipate a reduction in the time spent on repetitive manual tasks. For instance, in the past, I personally spent over 20 hours a week in the evenings, manually extracting and formatting data from our reporting tools and processing it through complex spreadsheets to decipher insights about the game.
Now, thanks to AI, I can allocate more time to focus on valuable insights that can enhance the player experience. The acceleration of our game iteration and improvement process is a key priority, and AI is poised to play a pivotal role in enhancing our ability to evolve the game at a faster pace.
The work culture
King’s success over the past two decades can be largely attributed to its unique corporate culture. The company takes pride in its ongoing efforts to cultivate a nurturing and inclusive environment where individuals can authentically express themselves.
In 2023, King received notable recognition from Newsweek and The Sunday Times, solidifying its reputation as a top-tier workplace. Newsweek included King in its prestigious Global Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces, while The Sunday Times featured the company in its list of the Best Places to Work in the UK.
Tjodolf Sommestad, President of King, shared his thoughts on this milestone, stating, “Reaching our 20th anniversary underscores the remarkable passion and commitment demonstrated by the entire King team in our mission to infuse the world with playfulness. As we look towards the future, we remain dedicated to enhancing our games and meeting the desires of our players. With a history of success and a promising future ahead, King eagerly anticipates delivering many more years of enjoyable gameplay and unforgettable moments for our player community.”
“We aim for Candy to remain a significant presence in popular culture for the foreseeable future,” he stated. “To achieve this, our primary focus is consistently enhancing the game itself, which is our core daily endeavor.”
Simultaneously, the company is collaborating with partners such as the Jonas Brothers to expand Candy Crush beyond the confines of the app and into various facets of pop culture, according to Green. For instance, King generated 13 million visits to the Barbie content hub in the lead-up to the release of the blockbuster movie.
“We face an ongoing overarching challenge,” he explained. “The game has now been in existence for over a decade, but we are committed to ensuring it feels perpetually fresh and innovative. Whether you’re a newcomer, a returning player, or a dedicated daily player, we want your two or three minutes of gameplay to be a worthwhile experience.”