The gaming community has seen games thrive on the iOS App Store, Google Play and Facebook for a plethora of reasons; however, one of the biggest reasons for Candy Crush Saga's success is altogether new.
It's because of all the candy.
That's according to Tommy Palm, the "games guru" — that's his official position — at Candy Crush developer King, who told Polygon that the game's sugar-coated aesthetic helped it find purchase among the game's enormous population of players.
"One thing is the candy thing worked really well," Palm said. "People love candy; all ages. It works, and fits the game. It's a really great theme for a game like this."
During a GDC Europe panel, Palm explained that the game's focus on sweets was a no-brainer, given the delicacy's prominence across the world. There are many, many match-3 games on all three platforms (some of which were even developed by King), but none have been as successful or as saccharine as Candy Crush Saga.
"We saw that early on, when we tried it on our website," Palm said. "We could see how popular it became, especially —we have a lot of women, 25 to 55-years old, and it went really well for that target audience. I think that's the key to why it became such an enormous success. It fits for the whole family, so everybody can play it together."
Candy Crush Saga has found success — to the tune of 600 million plays and, according to the most recent figures from analysis site Think Gaming, over $800,000 a day — despite the fact that it utilizes free-to-pay monetization tactics that are quickly falling out of vogue. Players have a maximum of five attempts they can use on one of the game's hundreds of puzzles in a sitting. If they fail, they lose one of those lives; if they run out entirely, they can either pay to earn more, or wait 30 minutes for one of those lives to respawn.
That kind of time-gating has become decreasingly popular in the free-to-play market, with most devs favoring vanity items or progression-boosting perks. Despite King's going against the grain, Candy Crush Saga certainly isn't hurting because of its business model; in addition, Palm said that a majority of those who have finished the game haven't paid for extra lives.
"The game was designed from the beginning so you can make it to the end without ever having to pay."
"From the start, we focused a lot on the player experience," Palm said. "You have five lives from the start, in a row. You have five fails on any given level, and then you have to wait 30 minutes to get another, to refill a life. The game was designed from the beginning so you can make it to the end without ever having to pay. So, we tried that from beginning. Also, we've gone out and said that of all the people who are on the last level ... 70 percent of the players there didn't pay to get there."
Candy Crush Saga is the most successful game in King's catalog of hundreds of titles. Many of those games live on King's site; that's the easiest place for those games to go, free from the constraints of hardware or the complexities of what Palm called "the social envelope." Candy Crush is the latest one of those games to be taken from the King test bed up to the major leagues, so to speak, and is only the second of King's games to go cross-platform to mobile devices as well.
It's a success, but Palm was hesitant to talk about what potential future the franchise may have. The game has a rigorous update schedule, with the developers churning out around 10 new puzzles ever two weeks, Palm said during the panel. They're also able to adjust the difficulty of the game's more trying puzzles — King specifically reduced the difficulty of the "notorious" Level 65, a puzzle which singlehandedly led to a 40 percent retention drop.
When asked if the game could possibly come to consoles, Palm wasn't ready to rule anything out.
"I don't think we're excluding any of those," Palm said. "We're very much looking into seeing what players are asking for, what platforms to go to next. We'll probably wait to see that there's a substantial audience there first. I mean, if you look at the last generation of consoles, they're pretty small when compared to smartphones and tablets, how many players are right there right now."