Former King CEO reveals how reliance on Facebook almost killed Candy Crush

It's not only publishers who were burned by Facebook - gaming companies were too.


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Riccardo Zacconi, the former CEO and co-founder of the gaming giant King, which was acquired by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion, said that his company was almost crushed by Facebook.

King's massive success was fueled by Candy Crush Saga, a free-to-play game that is currently the top-grossing mobile iOS games app in the US. Though Candy Crush Saga is a massively popular game now, Zacconi said that it faced an existential threat by Facebook when the social media giant initially opened up to game developers.

“2009 is the year when (King rival) Zynga launched a game, which became incredibly popular, called Farmville. And that's the year where Facebook also started growing massively. And so, between April of 2009, and a year later, Facebook impacted one of our biggest, Yahoo in an incredible way. We were the key partner of Yahoo and games,” he said to The Brave Ones.

“Still we are profitable. Still we are OK, because we have loyal players who will stick with us,” Zacconi would tell people. “But we're losing players and the revenues are slowly going down, and it's only a matter of time that we need to crack Facebook, or we will be out of business.”

After King released Candy Crush on Facebook in 2012, it had to face heavy competition from Bubble Safari by the rival company Zynga which ended up getting greater traction than Candy Crush. As a result, Candy Crush lost users and consequently, saw a dip in revenue.

“But at some point after we launched, Candy Crush actually flattened out on Facebook, because one of our biggest competitors, Zynga, who was much bigger than us launched (Bubble Safari) a competitive game to one of our strongest games at the time, Bubble Witch, which was stronger than Candy Crush, and really hit us hard. For the first time, we saw our users going down, and our revenues going down,” said Zacconi.

King then launched Candy Crush on the mobile platform and saved itself from the impending doom due to Facebook. The game was designed to be accessible across both mobile and desktop platforms, fueling the massive success the game is enjoying today.

“We launched the (mobile) game in November 2012. And by the end of the month, the game … skyrocketed. I never experienced anything like that my whole life,” said Zacconi.

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Naga Pramod

Naga Pramod is a computer science major and tech news reporter with a passion for cyber security, networking, and data science. [email protected]
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