Lessons from a decade of Candy Crush

Lessons from a decade of Candy Crush

Three of the 10 highest grossing mobile games ever launched in 2012. candy Crush Saga, clash of clans and Puzzles & Dragons have each generated billions of dollars in revenue before counting spin-off titles or licensing deals. They came along as smartphone screen sizes got larger, giving developers more room to play. Game makers began to dominate the business model of free-to-play games that charge for extra lives, power-ups, or personalized outfits.

Today, mobile has grown from a sideshow in the gaming market to its biggest source of revenue. By turning games into “live services” with a constant stream of new levels or limited-time events, a popular mobile game can last as long as a console title, if not longer. candy Crush Saga was this cohort’s most consistent global hit of 2012. It had three billion downloads and still attracts more than 200 million monthly players.

However, financial success is not offset by cultural influence. The game’s lifetime earnings are estimated to be similar to the game’s earnings star trek gold superman franchises, but it carries only a fraction of the cachet of those pop culture stalwarts. Attempts to transition into other forms of entertainment have struggled: In 2017, CBS tried to turn Candy Crush into a TV game show in the US, but it lasted no longer than its first season.

Critics say that’s because Candy Crush is a puzzle game, repetitive at best, addictive at worst, with casino-style sound effects and dopamine-triggering rewards. And they can have a point. But even within the games industry, snobbery about mobile phones seems to be outdated. Candy Crush may not have the narrative verve of The Legend of Zelda or the joke of Grand Theft Auto but it takes skill to build software that feels as solid and satisfying as deleting a Candy Crush level does.

Part of the problem could be the lack of a central protagonist or a Mario-style mascot that would add additional personality to the game. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by pretenders Candy Crushs throne. The developers of a rapidly growing puzzle app, Royal game, have created a cheerful, grey-bearded character named King Robert to lead his players. Soner Aydemir, Managing Director of the company behind it Royal gameHe refers to him as a “companion” for players.

A bigger challenge in the struggle for cultural recognition of mobile games might be the format itself. We watch movies in groups to share on the show. Smartphone gaming is about owning the most personal and intimate screen of our lives. And when you realize you’ve lost an hour Candy Crush When you’re on the sofa, you don’t usually rush to the pub to argue with friends or vent about it on Twitter and Reddit.

At 10, Candy Crush shows little sign of disappearance. The game has been one of the top-grossing mobile games in the US for several years in a row. Indeed, in a business if not cultural sense, it’s a difficult act to follow. The barriers to creating something new Candy Crush– Scale hits are much higher today than 10 years ago and require huge investments in advertising to get noticed in the crowded App Store. Additionally, the advertising model that has allowed lackluster mobile games to buy their way to the top of the App Store charts has been hampered by Apple’s ad targeting restrictions. But if that forces developers to focus more on quality in the years to come, maybe one day mobile games will get the cultural recognition they deserve.

Tim Bradshaw is the FT’s global technology correspondent

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