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By Samy Zakari

What more natural for the new king of casual gaming to actually be named “King”? With Candy Crush Saga, his highness reigns over 16 million dedicated players logging onto their smartphone or Facebook everyday. Farming life, slicing watermelon and throwing weird birds, all of this belongs to the past: making range of sweets is the new recreation of modern times. We wanted to go back on the tactics which allowed the conquest of the throne with the most loyal strategists of her majesty: Lord Stephane Kurgan, General Superintendent of the Kingdoms and Lord Alex Dale, Superintendent of the Royal Trade (which would be Director of Operations and Marketing Director in the language of the 21st century).

Stephane Kurgan and Alex Dale

Sound the bugle – My Lord, or rather, my Lords, thank you for welcoming us. May I ask your guards to proudly recall your top loudly facts.

Alex: Gladly little groom. King entertains more than 100 million unique players worldwide including 3 million in France. We publish puzzle games on the web, Facebook and mobile devices. Since the last two years we have grown strongly on Facebook with Bubblewitch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga and of course Candy Crush Saga which is now the most played game on Faceboook (first place since January 2013). The goal is simple: you need to match rows of candies of the same color to eliminate them, while unlocking bonuses that you can share with your friends.

Bubblewitch Saga was our first synchronized game on Facebook and mobile: if you reached level 12 on Facebook, you can then continue the game on iPad and go to level 13. If your friends Jean, Claude or Van Damme sends you a challenge request on Facebook, you can enter the game from your mobile.

- Battle of the two kingdoms – My lords, the misadventures of King Zynga’s army are still in recent memory: after celebrating some impressive conquest, their troops now suffer crushing defeats. How do you explain this debacle?

Stephane: We attribute it to a double diversification phenomenon affecting both the audience and the games. First, the audience of players on Facebook as well as the general audience of players has rapidly expanded to reach the mainstream audience. As a result, an increasing number of players cannot afford the necessary time to spend on Farmville-type resource management games or home console experience. For this audience, puzzle games are easy to tame: the rules are simple and they can be played in quick sessions. Plus, we have also seen a diversification of game categories available on mobile and social networks, which reflects more faithfully the gaming industry as a whole. As a result, the share of Farmville-like games has consistently declined in favor of more accessible kind of game like Bejeweled or those of our own catalog.

- The art of ambush – One of your great strengths is that you have anticipated this demand for games that could be both more accessible (puzzles) yet at the same time still deep enough to not be ignored by advanced players. My mother is very happy playing with your candies, and so are legions of experienced gamers who willingly say so.

Stéphane: Puzzle-game is essentially a genre combining thinking and action: the interaction is not the same as to click in boxes and wait for carrots to grow back (fatal stroke, opponent falling to the ground). This is what we have been delivering for ten years to the 10 million players of our platform King.com. We talk about “skill-gaming” here, with global leaderboards allowing players to compare their scores, and a match-making system to compete online with opponents of the same level. Theses regular players are experienced and eager to challenge, while on Facebook, the audience, which is three times larger, is obviously more diverse.

Alex: All players enjoy puzzles and the feeling of accomplishment they get when they succeed in beating one of them. On Bubblewitch Saga, a map is updated with a different level each month. Even after beating your friends, the games continue, with renewed challenges.

- Ruse and witchcraft – The industry has grown accustomed to juggle with the distinction between casual games and hardcore games. But it gets complicated when within casual games we can also distinguish mobile gaming from social gaming. Am I simple-minded or is it a mess no one quite understands?

Stephane: It’s true, and this is why we think that the adjective “social” will disappear, since all games will be « social » in a way or another.

- Street brigand – Isn’t the word “social” becoming a rude word, an offence you should never say in presence of an experienced player?

Stéphane: Maybe, but the reality is that this is not new, we have been making so-called “social” games for 10 years on our web portal. The casual entertainment business has been here for 60 or 70 years. In Japan, one of its representatives which is still popular today is the pachinko. There is a perfect English expression to describe the casual gaming: – evergreen, which means it has always existed and will always be there no matter what. We can even go further back in time and realize that there were puzzle games in ancient Egypt.

Alex: The specificity of social games also comes from the platform. Console games must mobilize a big team with a large budget for at least two years. On the other hand, our games are designed by teams of three people. They directly create a handful of levels through a fairly flexible mechanic, then it is directly tested by the audience. It’s like a TV show: each week we built levels and different experiences. From there, the games which have met their public are being declined on Facebook and mobile.

- Diplomacy – My lords, everyday friends assail me with invitations on Facebook or smartphone to play Candy Crush Saga. Clearly, your games are able to hook their audience. But what about experienced players who have had enough of this “social gaming” shift, can you reconcile both?

Alex: It’s pretty simple, you must know in your circle some hardcore players, right? Well, ask them if they also happen to play games on smartphones.

I hope they will forgive me to answer for them, but I don’t think I take much risk by answering that yes, more and more.

Yes, more and more experienced players also play on mobile. But the reverse is not true: few mobile and social gamers become hardcore gamers equipped with a powerful PC or even a home console. When it comes to mobile gaming, casual games with simple gameplay are the most natural way to play, you can tell by the top-downloaded games on the app stores every day.

- Witchcraft – Augmented reality and motion tracking controls are techniques that may have somehow proven themselves in casual gaming, but that remain little used in social gaming. Do you think it will evolve?

Stephane: Not sure I can answer, today theses things are quite far from what we do. Does it bring something to the game experience? There is more and more 3D in social games because it looks better, but the use of a technology only makes sense if it adds a real value to the game.

- Market Place – Aren’t virtual goods we buy and exchange a kind of recycled version of Panini stickers?

Stephane: It is definitely a retro concept, you can view it as a replica model of pinball and arcade games: if you still want to play, you insert a coin. In our games, if you are stuck on a tricky level and you want to keep playing, you can buy boosters that will improve your performance and simplify your progress. But you can still play the entire game without paying anything, virtual goods are only a bonus.

- Code of Honor – My lords, if a player does not play social games, does it means he is socially awkward?

Alex: Some players are very “viral” and invite all their Facebook friends. Others prefer to play alone. For them, challenge is the primary reason to play and they want to finish the most levels possible.

Stephane: Don’t worry, many mobile gamers play single player.

Alex: Even when playing alone the game experience remains great, mainly thanks to the synchronization between devices. Some players are very committed and connect on Facebook, iPhone and iPad: they start at the office, continue in their commute and finish at home.

- Library – Lords, finally, can you recommend me a book, a game or a movie that is not mainstream?

Stephane: The Big Chill, a 1983 movie about eight college friends who reunite again, with William Hurt and Kevin Kline.

Alex: The extended edition of The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, with 24 minutes of extra scenes. I also love Ridicules, Parice Leconte’s movie about aristocrats on the eve of the French Revolution. The film is based on a famous story: the King asks an aristocrat known for his good words to entertain him with a new story, but this time with the king as the main character. The aristocrat then replied: “Sire, the King is not a subject.” What do you call this kind of word play already?

- A “pun”, maybe?

Well, that’s it, a pun. A very good one (laughs).

Candy Crush Saga, available on King.com, Facebook, iOS and Android

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Samy Zakari

What more natural for the new king of casual gaming to actually be named “King”? With Candy Crush Saga, his highness reigns over 16 million dedicated players logging onto their smartphone or Facebook everyday. Farming life, slicing watermelon and throwing weird birds, all of this belongs to the past: making range of sweets is the new recreation of modern times. We wanted to go back on the tactics which allowed the conquest of the throne with the most loyal strategists of her majesty: Lord Stephane Kurgan, General Superintendent of the Kingdoms and Lord Alex Dale, Superintendent of the Royal Trade (which would be Director of Operations and Marketing Director in the language of the 21st century).

Stephane Kurgan and Alex Dale

Sound the bugle – My Lord, or rather, my Lords, thank you for welcoming us. May I ask your guards to proudly recall your top loudly facts.

Alex: Gladly little groom. King entertains more than 100 million unique players worldwide including 3 million in France. We publish puzzle games on the web, Facebook and mobile devices. Since the last two years we have grown strongly on Facebook with Bubblewitch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga and of course Candy Crush Saga which is now the most played game on Faceboook (first place since January 2013). The goal is simple: you need to match rows of candies of the same color to eliminate them, while unlocking bonuses that you can share with your friends.

Bubblewitch Saga was our first synchronized game on Facebook and mobile: if you reached level 12 on Facebook, you can then continue the game on iPad and go to level 13. If your friends Jean, Claude or Van Damme sends you a challenge request on Facebook, you can enter the game from your mobile.

- Battle of the two kingdoms – My lords, the misadventures of King Zynga’s army are still in recent memory: after celebrating some impressive conquest, their troops now suffer crushing defeats. How do you explain this debacle?

Stephane: We attribute it to a double diversification phenomenon affecting both the audience and the games. First, the audience of players on Facebook as well as the general audience of players has rapidly expanded to reach the mainstream audience. As a result, an increasing number of players cannot afford the necessary time to spend on Farmville-type resource management games or home console experience. For this audience, puzzle games are easy to tame: the rules are simple and they can be played in quick sessions. Plus, we have also seen a diversification of game categories available on mobile and social networks, which reflects more faithfully the gaming industry as a whole. As a result, the share of Farmville-like games has consistently declined in favor of more accessible kind of game like Bejeweled or those of our own catalog.

- The art of ambush – One of your great strengths is that you have anticipated this demand for games that could be both more accessible (puzzles) yet at the same time still deep enough to not be ignored by advanced players. My mother is very happy playing with your candies, and so are legions of experienced gamers who willingly say so.

Stéphane: Puzzle-game is essentially a genre combining thinking and action: the interaction is not the same as to click in boxes and wait for carrots to grow back (fatal stroke, opponent falling to the ground). This is what we have been delivering for ten years to the 10 million players of our platform King.com. We talk about “skill-gaming” here, with global leaderboards allowing players to compare their scores, and a match-making system to compete online with opponents of the same level. Theses regular players are experienced and eager to challenge, while on Facebook, the audience, which is three times larger, is obviously more diverse.

Alex: All players enjoy puzzles and the feeling of accomplishment they get when they succeed in beating one of them. On Bubblewitch Saga, a map is updated with a different level each month. Even after beating your friends, the games continue, with renewed challenges.

- Ruse and witchcraft – The industry has grown accustomed to juggle with the distinction between casual games and hardcore games. But it gets complicated when within casual games we can also distinguish mobile gaming from social gaming. Am I simple-minded or is it a mess no one quite understands?

Stephane: It’s true, and this is why we think that the adjective “social” will disappear, since all games will be « social » in a way or another.

- Street brigand – Isn’t the word “social” becoming a rude word, an offence you should never say in presence of an experienced player?

Stéphane: Maybe, but the reality is that this is not new, we have been making so-called “social” games for 10 years on our web portal. The casual entertainment business has been here for 60 or 70 years. In Japan, one of its representatives which is still popular today is the pachinko. There is a perfect English expression to describe the casual gaming: – evergreen, which means it has always existed and will always be there no matter what. We can even go further back in time and realize that there were puzzle games in ancient Egypt.

Alex: The specificity of social games also comes from the platform. Console games must mobilize a big team with a large budget for at least two years. On the other hand, our games are designed by teams of three people. They directly create a handful of levels through a fairly flexible mechanic, then it is directly tested by the audience. It’s like a TV show: each week we built levels and different experiences. From there, the games which have met their public are being declined on Facebook and mobile.

- Diplomacy – My lords, everyday friends assail me with invitations on Facebook or smartphone to play Candy Crush Saga. Clearly, your games are able to hook their audience. But what about experienced players who have had enough of this “social gaming” shift, can you reconcile both?

Alex: It’s pretty simple, you must know in your circle some hardcore players, right? Well, ask them if they also happen to play games on smartphones.

I hope they will forgive me to answer for them, but I don’t think I take much risk by answering that yes, more and more.

Yes, more and more experienced players also play on mobile. But the reverse is not true: few mobile and social gamers become hardcore gamers equipped with a powerful PC or even a home console. When it comes to mobile gaming, casual games with simple gameplay are the most natural way to play, you can tell by the top-downloaded games on the app stores every day.

- Witchcraft – Augmented reality and motion tracking controls are techniques that may have somehow proven themselves in casual gaming, but that remain little used in social gaming. Do you think it will evolve?

Stephane: Not sure I can answer, today theses things are quite far from what we do. Does it bring something to the game experience? There is more and more 3D in social games because it looks better, but the use of a technology only makes sense if it adds a real value to the game.

- Market Place – Aren’t virtual goods we buy and exchange a kind of recycled version of Panini stickers?

Stephane: It is definitely a retro concept, you can view it as a replica model of pinball and arcade games: if you still want to play, you insert a coin. In our games, if you are stuck on a tricky level and you want to keep playing, you can buy boosters that will improve your performance and simplify your progress. But you can still play the entire game without paying anything, virtual goods are only a bonus.

- Code of Honor – My lords, if a player does not play social games, does it means he is socially awkward?

Alex: Some players are very “viral” and invite all their Facebook friends. Others prefer to play alone. For them, challenge is the primary reason to play and they want to finish the most levels possible.

Stephane: Don’t worry, many mobile gamers play single player.

Alex: Even when playing alone the game experience remains great, mainly thanks to the synchronization between devices. Some players are very committed and connect on Facebook, iPhone and iPad: they start at the office, continue in their commute and finish at home.

- Library – Lords, finally, can you recommend me a book, a game or a movie that is not mainstream?

Stephane: The Big Chill, a 1983 movie about eight college friends who reunite again, with William Hurt and Kevin Kline.

Alex: The extended edition of The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, with 24 minutes of extra scenes. I also love Ridicules, Parice Leconte’s movie about aristocrats on the eve of the French Revolution. The film is based on a famous story: the King asks an aristocrat known for his good words to entertain him with a new story, but this time with the king as the main character. The aristocrat then replied: “Sire, the King is not a subject.” What do you call this kind of word play already?

- A “pun”, maybe?

Well, that’s it, a pun. A very good one (laughs).

Candy Crush Saga, available on King.com, Facebook, iOS and Android

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