King (company)

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King Digital Entertainment plc
Subsidiary
Industry Video game industry
Founded August 2003; 13 years ago (2003-08)
Founders
Headquarters Stockholm, Sweden
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Riccardo Zacconi (CEO)
Products Candy Crush Saga
Revenue Increase US$2.26 billion (2014)
Increase US$661.00 million (2014)
Increase US$575.00 million (2014)
Number of employees
~1400
Parent Activision Blizzard
Subsidiaries King.com Ltd
Website king.com

King Digital Entertainment plc, doing business as King, is a social games company. King develops games for the web, for mobile (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), Facebook, and Windows 10.[1][2] King gained fame after releasing the cross-platform title Candy Crush Saga in 2012, considered the first successful game utilitizing the freemium model. King was acquired by Activision Blizzard in February 2016 for $5.9 billion, and operates as its own entity within that company.[3]

King is led by Riccardo Zacconi, who has served in that role since co-founding the company in 2003.[4] Gerhard Florin is the current Chairman of Board. He took over from Melvyn Morris when he stepped down in November 2014. The company has 1400 employees.[5] In 2013, it spent $110.5 million on research and development, roughly 6 percent of sales.[6]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

Prior to founding King, Zacconi and Toby Rowland worked together on uDate.com, a dating website created by Melvyn Morris which by 2003 was the second-largest one in the world.[7] Morris opted to sell site to the leading dating website Match.com (a subsidiary of IAC) for $150 million in 2003.[7][8]

Zacconi and Rowland joined with Sebastian Knutsson, Thomas Hartwig, Lars Markgren and Patrik Stymne, all whom had worked previously with Zacconi at the failed dot-com web portal Spray, to create a new company with angel investment provided by Morris.[7] King.com was founded in Sweden in 2003, and initially started with the development of browser-based video games. Morris served as Chairman, while Zacconi and Rowland were co-CEOs.[9]

Initially, King.com was not profitable, and nearly went bankrupt until a cash infusion from Morris on Christmas Eve of 2003 helped to finance the company.[4] By 2005, the company had been able to turn a profit.[4] During this year, the company raised $43 million by selling a large stake to Apax Partners and Index Ventures.[9] This investment was the last one that the company had to make until its initial public offering.[10] King.com continued to develop games for its web portal, which it would also share to other web portals like Yahoo![11] By 2009, the company was making about $60 million annually.[12] Rowland departed the company in 2008 to found Magnahigh, a web portal aimed for educational math games,[13] and sold his stake back to the company for $3 million in 2011.[8] Angel investor and former board member Klaus Hommels sold his similar stake at the same time.[9]

Transition to social gaming[edit]

Around 2009, social network games on Facebook began to gain popularity, led primarily through games developed by Zynga. King.com saw a significant drop in players on their portal games as a result, and started to develop their own Facebook-based games using the games already developed on the King.com portal, with their first such game released in 2010.[14] King.com used their web portal as a testing grounds for new game ideas and determine which ones to bring to Facebook, as well as determining how to implement various microtransactions for tournament-style play into the Facebook games.[15] Their first cross-platform web portal/Facebook game, Miner Speed, which allowed sharing of player information between platforms, was released in 2011, and was a simple match-3 tile game inspired by Bejeweled.[16] Following this model, in October 2011, the company released Bubble Witch Saga to both platforms. Bubble Witch Saga introduced the nature of a "saga" game, that instead of playing the same gameboard for as long as the player could continue to match matches, that instead the game offered individual levels that would challenge the player to complete certain goals in a limited number of turns. These saga elements allowed for the basics of social gameplay, but did not require the time investment that then-popular titles like Zynga's Farmville required; players could play just for a few minutes each day through the saga model.[17] The formula proved extremely successful, and January 2012, Bubble Witch Saga had over 10 million players and was one of the most-played Facebook games.[18] By April 2012, King.com had the second largest player count, around 30 million unique users,[9] second only to Zynga on the Facebook platform.[11][14] Facebook's director of games partnerships Sean Ryan described King.com's growth on the platform as "They were not a flash in the pan -- they've been around seven years. But they came out of no where in an area that was unexpected."[19] King.com next released Candy Crush Saga in April 2012, based on the popularity of its Candy Crush web-portal game and following the saga model from Bubble Witch Saga.[20] The game attracted more than 4 million players within a few weeks.[21]

The popularity of Bubble Witch Saga and Candy Crush Saga led King.com to start a new strategy into developing for the growing mobile game market, in a manner that would allow players to synchronize with the Facebook platform. Zacconi said that "As consumers and the industry focus more on games for mobile devices, launching a truly cross-platform Facebook game has been a top priority for King.com."[22] A mobile version for iOS device of Bubble Witch Saga was released in July 2012,[22] while the iOS mobile version of Candy Crush Saga was released in October 2012.[23] Both games saw boosts in the number of unique players with the mobile introduction; King.com saw that previously-declining player counts for Bubble Witch Saga become steady with the mobile version's release, while Candy Crush Saga saw more than 5.2 million unique players on Facebook in November 2012 and which were continuing to climb. Additionally, in-game advertising, which factored into about 15% of King.com's revenues, had increased ten-fold from 2011 into 2012.[24] Users jumped to 408 million by the end of 2013.[9] Revenues for King.com increased from a little over $62 million in 2011 to $1.88 billion in 2013.[9]

In March 2013, on the ten-year anniversary of the its founding, the company announced it was dropping the ".com" part of its branding and would continue on as just "King".[25]

Initial public offering[edit]

In mid-2013, King.com had considered filing an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States. Zacconi had said that "The IPO is an option...We are building the company and part of that is investigating options."[26]

The company applied for initial public offering (IPO) in September 2013. Its filing was made using allowances in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act to keep details of the IPO secret until it was to be offered. The IPO was backed by Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Corp, Credit Suisse Group AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The IPO gained great interest, as it followed Zynga's $1 billion IPO in 2011 and Twitter's IPO earlier in the month.[10]

King completed its on 26 March 2014. Priced at $22.50 a share, the middle of its projected price range, the IPO valued the company at US$7.08 billion. About $500 million was raised through the sale of 22.2 million shares. Of that, 15.3 million shares came from the company and the rest from Apax and other stakeholders. It was the largest ever IPO for a mobile/social gaming company in the US, narrowly eclipsing Zynga's 2011 offering.[4] To celebrate the debut, Candy Crush mascots took to the New York Stock Exchange.[8] Morris is the company's largest shareholder with approximately 35.6 million shares valued at $821 million.[7][8] The company began trading under the "KING" symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.[4]

Shares of King fell 15.6% on the first day of trading, closing at $19.[8] By June, the company's valuation had dropped by $2 billion, though otherwise was still profitable. Zacconi noted that their strategy from this point was not to find another "mega-hit" like Candy Crush Saga, but to "build a portfolio of games", carrying King's game design approach to other genres.[12] Revenue following the IPO were over $2.6 billion in 2014, with Candy Crush Saga generating nearly half of that amount.[27]

Acquisition[edit]

In November 2015, Activision Blizzard announced its plans to acquire King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion. Upon announcement of the news, USA Today reported that "the deal gives Activision immediate access to the growing mobile gaming audience, the fastest-rising sector in video games."[28] On 23 February 2016, Activision Blizzard closed its acquisition of King Digital Entertainment for a deal of $5.9 billion.[3] Activision Blizzard as a result operates the world's largest game network,[29] reaching around 500 million users[29] in 196 countries.[30] About the King acquisition, the CEO of Activision Blizzard explained that "we see great opportunities to create new ways for audiences to experience their favorite franchises, from Candy Crush to World of Warcraft to Call of Duty and more, across mobile devices, consoles and personal computers."[29]

Key employees[edit]

  • Riccardo Zaconni – Chief Executive Officer
  • Sebastian Knutsson – Chief Creative Officer
  • Hope Cochran – Chief Financial Officer
  • Rob Miller – Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary
  • Alex Dale – Chief Marketing Officer
  • Stephane Kurgan – Chief Operating Officer
  • Thomas Hartwig – Chief Technology Officer
  • Mark Taylor – Chief People Officer

Revenue model[edit]

King's games, prior to June 2013, made revenue for the company through a combination of in-game advertising and microtransactions. These microtransactions allow for players to use funds to purchase in-game booster items that could be used to help clear certain levels, additional lives, and immediate access to new levels instead of having to wait for a few days.

In June 2013, the company opted to remove all in-game advertising from their games, relying solely on microtransactions. The company stated that due to their "focus around delivering an uninterrupted entertainment experience for our network of loyal players across web, tablet and mobile has unfortunately led to the difficult decision of removing advertising as a core element of King's overall strategy".[31] Advertizing revenue had only made up 10% of the company's earnings in 2012, and only 1% within 2013; the company in its IPO files stated they do not anticipate any further earnings from advertizing revenue.[32] While King relies heavily on in-game purchases, it is estimated that only single-digit percentages of all players of their games have spent money on their titles. In Q4 2014, King had 356 million monthly unique users, with 8.3 million of them spending money. The 2.3% that pay spent an average of $23.42 a month within the games.[27] King stated that their model is aimed to continue to draw existing and new players to all of their games: "If the cost to acquire players is greater than the revenue we generate over time from those players and if we cannot successfully migrate our current players to new games and new platforms as we have historically done so, our business and operating results will be harmed".[32]

Games[edit]

King games offer synchronized play, enabling users to connect to their Facebook account whilst playing on their smartphone or tablet device. This means that the user's progress is updated across all platforms, allowing the player to switch from smartphone, to tablet, to Facebook without losing their progress in the game.[33][34] They also offer two of their games to connect to KakaoTalk in South Korea.

Bubble Witch Saga was King's first mobile game, released in July 2012 after its launch on Facebook in September 2011.[35][36] Bubble Witch Saga and its sequel Bubble Witch 2 Saga are versions of Puzzle Bobble.[37] Papa Pear Saga was released in March 2013 on Facebook, it is a Peggle variation.[38] Pepper Panic Saga was released in January 2014 as a matching game on Facebook.[39] It was ranked the 23rd most played game on Facebook in January 2014.[40] Around 2012, Pyramid Solitaire Saga was soft launched on Facebook. It was released on mobile in May 2014.[41] In late 2012 Pet Rescue Saga was launched on Facebook, then on iOS and Android In June 2013, Candy Crush Soda Saga was soft launched on Facebook and mobile[42] and Bubble Witch 2 Saga was widely released for Android and iOS devices.[43] In November 2014, Candy Crush Soda Saga was widely released on Android and iOS.[44] Alpha Betty Saga launched on Facebook in April 2015. This game is a variation of Bookworm.

In 2013, King acquired the Defold game engine, developed by Ragnar Svensson and Christian Murray in 2007 as a lightweight 2D game engine. The two had offered the engine to King as well as their services as contractors to support it, and later bought the engine, using it first for the game Blossom Blast Saga.[45] In March 2016, King released the Defold engine as a free development tool for any user.[46]

Candy Crush Saga[edit]

Main article: Candy Crush Saga

King's most popular game is Candy Crush Saga, which was launched on King's website in March 2011, which is a tile-matching game.[47] It launched on Facebook in April 2012 and quickly gained popularity. Following its success on Facebook, King launched Candy Crush Saga on mobile (iOS and Android) in November 2012. The game was downloaded over 10 million times in its first month.[48][49] In January 2013, it became the number one most played game on Facebook.[2][50] It had over 45 million monthly users in March 2013. By January 2014, it had over 150 million monthly users.[51]

List of Facebook games developed by King[edit]

Game Release date Description
Bubble Witch Saga 27 October 2011 Similar to Puzzle Bobble, players aim colored bubbles at a field, clearing bubbles whenever they make three or more interconnecting matches.
Pyramid Solitaire Saga 14 January 2012 Based on the solitaire card game Pyramid, players attempt to clear a board of cards by selecting cards that have are the next highest or lowest value of the card they just selected or dealt themselves.
Candy Crush Saga 12 April 2012 A match-3 swapping tile game but includes special candy tiles that can be created from matches, and unique goals.
Pet Rescue Saga 11 October 2012 Based on SameGame where the player selects matching adjacent boxes of the same color to clear the game board, freeing animals atop the boxes once they reach the bottom.
Papa Pear Saga 25 February 2013 A variation of Peggle where the player shoots projectiles onto a game board to clear various pegs and land the projectiles into scoring containers at the bottom of the game board.
Farm Heroes Saga 7 March 2013 A match-3 swapping tile game to collect various crops to meet each puzzle's quota.
Pepper Panic Saga 30 October 2013 A match-3 swapping tile game to collect hot peppers, where matches are based on both color and size, and a successful match leaves behind a pepper of a larger size.
Diamond Digger Saga 13 March 2014 Another variation of SameGame, but where matching groups of same-colored tiles clears out dirt and rock to create a route for water to flow between the level's entrance and exit.
Bubble Witch 2 Saga 12 May 2014 A sequel to Bubble Witch Saga, following primarily the same gameplay mechanics but adding new level types.
Candy Crush Soda Saga 20 October 2014 Expanding on Candy Crush Saga by adding additional candy tile types, soda-filling levels that causes candy tiles to float instead of sink, and other puzzle objectives.
Alpha Betty Saga 13 April 2015 A tile-matching game following the concept of Boggle and Bookworm where the player attempts to make words from adjacent letter tiles.
Scrubby Dubby Saga 11 July 2015 A tile-matching game similar to Chuzzle where instead of swapping titles, the player slides a row or column to make matches.
Paradise Bay 6 August 2015 A village simulation game in the nature of Farmville, developed by Z2, a studio acquired by King.[52]
Blossom Blast Saga 5 November 2015 A variant of Talismania, flowers of various colours are placed on a hex grid, and the player traces a line of similar-coloured flowers to match them up and make them bloom. Fully bloomed flowers then expand and "pop", clearing the flowers around them.
Candy Crush Jelly Saga 6 January 2016 Expanding on Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga, with many levels requiring players to spread jelly across the game board, and adding boss battles with a computer opponent.[53]
Farm Heroes Super Saga 28 June 2016 Expanding on Farm Heroes Saga, players must help the squirrel to get the nuts by moving the squares on the board however each move you take the wind blows in that direction moving the couloirs on the board.
Shuffle Cats 12 October 2016 A game like rummy where the object is to meld a number of cards before the opponent does.
Bubble Witch Saga 3 11 January 2017 A sequel in the Bubble Witch Saga series.[54]

iOS games[edit]

As of October 2016, King has 16 games available for download on the iOS App Store. The games are Blossom Blast Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Bubble Witch 2 Saga, Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, Diamond Digger Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Papa Pear Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Pyramid Solitaire Saga, Scrubby Dubby Saga, Alpha Betty Saga, Paradise Bay, Farm Heroes Super Saga, and Shuffle Cats.

Android games[edit]

As of October 2016, King has 17 games available for download on the Google Play Store. The games are Blossom Blast Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Bubble Witch 2 Saga, Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, Diamond Digger Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Papa Pear Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Pyramid Solitaire Saga, Alpha Betty Saga, Paradise Bay, Scrubby Dubby Saga, Farm Heroes Super Saga, and Shuffle Cats and a soft release of Hero in some regions outside the United States. Pepper Panic Saga can also be downloaded but not through the Play Store.

Windows games[edit]

As of April 2016, King has 5 games available for download on the Windows Store. The games are Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, Papa Pear Saga, and Paradise Bay.

Kakao games available in South Korea[edit]

Two of King's games that connect with Kakao Talk. They are Candy Crush Kakao,[55] and Farm Heroes Kakao.[56]

Trademark and cloning disputes[edit]

In January 2014, King attracted controversy after attempting to trademark the words "Candy" and "Saga" in game titles.[57] This directly impacted Stoic's trademark request for The Banner Saga, to which King filed an opposition, calling the name "deceptively similar" to King games.[57] Stoic said that the dispute hindered work on a planned sequel to their game.[58] The developer Runsome Apps opposed King's trademark of the term "candy" on grounds of "likelihood of confusion", referencing its CandySwipe game, that was published two years before Candy Crush Saga. King subsequently contested the trademark of "CandySwipe". In February 2014, Runsome Apps ceased legal action and opposition towards King, while posting an open letter shaming King's business practices regarding trademarks.[59] On 17 April 2014, it was reported that King has settled its disputes with Stoic Studio and Runsome Apps.[60]

Also in January 2014, game developer Matthew Cox accused King of ripping off his game Scamperghost, saying King's Pac-Avoid was a clone of it. According to Cox, he was in talks with King about licensing Scamperghost, but when the deal fell through the company released the game Pac-Avoid. Cox said Epicshadows, the developer of Pac-Avoid, told him that King had approached them to "clone the game very quickly".[61] King removed the game from its website, but denied the cloning allegation, stating that they were removing the game "for the avoidance of doubt".[62] Later, in an official statement on the company's website, King stated: "The details of the situation are complex, but the bottom line is that we should never have published Pac-Avoid. We have taken the game down from our site, and we apologise for having published it in the first place. Let me be clear: This unfortunate situation is an exception to the rule. King does not clone games, and we do not want anyone cloning our games."[63]

Awards[edit]

  • Fastest-Growing UK Company – Media Momentum Digital Awards[64]
  • Best Social Game – Candy Crush Saga, International Mobile Gaming Awards 2013[65]
  • Gold Stevie Award – Bubble Witch Saga, 9th Annual International Business Awards (2012)[66]
  • Favorite App – Candy Crush Saga, 2014 Kids' Choice Awards, lost to Despicable Me: Minion Rush

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Yeung, Ken (17 January 2013). "King.com's Candy Crush Saga Ousts Farmville 2 As Top Facebook Game". Thenextweb.com. 
  3. ^ a b "Activision Blizzard Becomes "Largest Game Network in the World" With Candy Crush Dev Buyout". GameSpot. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Candy Crush maker King Digital valued at more than $7 bln in IPO". Reuters. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "NYSE:KING". NYSE. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Stock, Kyle (18 February 2014), Highlights From the Candy Crush IPO Filing: 500 Million Downloads and Counting, BusinessWeek.com 
  7. ^ a b c d Garside, Juliette (25 March 2014). "Who are the Candy Crush millionaires?". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
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  25. ^ Yeong, Ken (26 March 2013). "'Candy Crush' maker King.com releases two new Facebook games as it tops 108M monthly players". The Next Web. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
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  27. ^ a b Candy Crush Saga players spent £865m on the game in 2014 alone. The Guardian. 13 February 2015.
  28. ^ Molina, Brett (3 November 2015). "Activision Blizzard scoops up 'Candy Crush' maker for $5.9B". USA Today. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  29. ^ a b c "Activision Blizzard Completes King Acquisition Becomes the Largest Game Network in the World with over 500 Million Users". Activision Blizzard. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "Activision Blizzard Announces Agreement to Acquire King Digital Entertainment and Better-Than-Expected Third Quarter 2015 Financial Results". Activision Blizzard. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
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  37. ^ http://xeophin.net/en/blog/2013/05/06/puzzle-bobble-clones-bubble-your-bubbles-tobubble
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  39. ^ "Pepper Panic Saga on Facebook - Facebook". facebook.com. 
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  41. ^ "Play cards the Egyptian way with Pyramid Solitaire Saga". insidesocialgames.com. 
  42. ^ "King Soft Launches 'Candy Crush Soda Saga', the Sequel to the Mega-Popular 'Candy Crush Saga'". Touch Arcade. 
  43. ^ Candy Crush Soda Saga and Bubble Witch Saga 2 Released.
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  47. ^ King's History. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
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  50. ^ Noah Long. "King's Candy Crush Saga Is Now The Number One Facebook Game". 
  51. ^ "So What is King's Contribution to the Games Industry, Anyway?". USgamer.net. 
  52. ^ Cook, John (6 August 2015). "Z2 launches first title under King Digital, a new simulation game dubbed Paradise Bay". GeekWire. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  53. ^ Kamen, Matt (6 January 2016). "Candy Crush Jelly Saga coming to Android, iOS, and Windows Store". Wired UK. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  54. ^ Minotti, Mike (11 January 2017). "Bubble Witch 3 Saga launches for mobile and Facebook". VentureBeat. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  55. ^ King. "Candy Crush Kakao - Android Apps on Google Play". google.com. 
  56. ^ King. "팜히어로사가 for Kakao - Android Apps on Google Play". google.com. 
  57. ^ a b Geigner, Timothy (24 January 2014). "King Cries Trademark Over The Banner Saga". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  58. ^ Lien, Tracey (22 January 2014). "Stoic: Candy Crush creator is hindering Banner Saga sequel". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  59. ^ Ransom, Albert. "CandySwipe Open Letter to King regarding trademark". CandySwipe. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  60. ^ Lien, Tracey (17 April 2014). "Candy Crush maker King settles trademark disputes with The Banner Saga developer". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  61. ^ Lien, Tracey (23 January 2014). "Indie developer accuses King of double standard, alleges game was cloned". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  62. ^ Geigner, Timothy (24 January 2014). "King denies cloning games, takes down Pac-Avoid". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  63. ^ "Our approach to IP", King.com, 27 January 2014
  64. ^ "GP Bullhound Summit 2013 – 2007". Gpbullhoundsummit.com. 23 May 2013. 
  65. ^ "Best Social Game – Candy Crush Saga". Imgawards. 
  66. ^ http://www.stevieawards.com/pubs/iba/awards/408_2657_21737.cfm

External links[edit]