Candy Crush Saga crushing the competition through incremental innovation and cross-platform play

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By Scott Reyburn Comment

Candy Crush Saga app iconCandy Crush Saga is all the rage at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, so much so that we weren’t even able to get into the “Candy Crush Saga postmortem: Luck in the Right Places” session today. The entire development community is interested in learning how Candy Crush Saga became an overnight success on mobile. Unfortunately, we were attending another session, and once we got out of that one, we found ourselves at the back of a line that was hundreds strong. However, at the “Free to Play Game Design: A Year in Review” session, the speakers analyzed trends they saw in the free-to-play space on mobile and social, including the trends they saw from King.com’s Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga.

The most notable trend noted by the speakers was the meteoric rise of King.com’s match-3 puzzler Candy Crush Saga, which skyrocketed up the app store charts since releasing for mobile in November 2012. According to past data from our traffic tracking service AppData, The game has been the No. 1 app on the top grossing Android apps chart for weeks as well as in and out of the top spot on the top grossing iOS apps charts for weeks. Candy Crush Saga also became the No. 1 game on the Facebook DAU chart, the first time since mid-2009 that a Zynga game didn’t hold the top spot.

Steve Meretzky, vice president of game design at Palydom, told the audience to stick with it and don’t give up when trying to reach success as a developer since it took a few “Saga” games before King.com struck gold with Bubble Witch Saga followed by Candy Crush Saga. Although both games feature proven gameplay mechanics seen in other games in the casual space, King.com incrementally innovated the formula enough to reach success, Meretzky says.

Another important factor to Bubble Witch Saga’s and Candy Crush Saga’s success was cross-platform gameplay. King.com kept the game near identical across all platforms, with a similar map screen, leaderboard, UI and more as well as letting the player carry their game progress across all platforms.

“It’s a great customer experience,” says Dave Rohrl, vice president of game production at Goko. “You can experience the game when, where and how you want. This lets players interact with your game a lot more, which ultimately increases their engagement and monetization.”

Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga aren’t the only games pulling off cross-platform gameplay between Facebook and mobile. Casino games like GSN Casino, DoubleDown Casino and Zynga Poker pull off cross-platform gameplay as well as games like Words With Friends.

And there are plenty of games where games on both Facebook and mobile don’t feature cross-platform gameplay like CityVille Hometown and Kingdoms of Camelot (Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North on mobile). Both make the user restart from zero on mobile and Facebook. Rohrl adds that not delivering on cross-platform gameplay is awful, but hopes the feature will become an industry standard in the future.

“This nut will be cracked in the near future, and this will be an absolute baseline for games in the future,” he says.