In an age where everybody talks about the incredible amounts of cash generated by Fortnite, there’s less attention being paid to the game which arguably started the trend for money-generating video games. The Candy Crush Saga is old news in today’s world, with the original game launching back in 2012, but seven years down the line it’s still generating phenomenal amounts of money on a daily basis, and still puts many more modern games in the shade with its sustained financial success.
Eyebrows were raised when the established development studio Activision paid $5.9bn to acquire King Digital, the creators of the Candy Crush series, in 2015. The bulk of the value of that deal was understood to be the rights to Candy Crush, and some feared that the appeal of the games was already waning. It’s Activision who’ve had the last laugh, and whoever in their business strategy team who pushed for and signed off on the deal should feel no shame in patting themselves on the back.
To give a sense of the scale of Candy Crush’s success, we should first talk about comparisons. We mentioned Fortnite earlier. Fortnite has become a game so successful that entire businesses have been built around it. So many people play Fortnite that its best players have become social media celebrities. Some players stream their gaming sessions on Twitch and earn small fortunes just by playing the game, purely because there are so many dedicated fans out there who are happy just to sit and watch someone else play. Despite all of that success and the massive industry built around it, Fortnite makes $2m a day in sales, working out at $730m a year. That’s a colossal amount of money, but not as much as Candy Crush.
Another smash hit money-making game that’s been released since Candy Crush is Pokemon Go. Pokemon Go went viral, and breathed new life into a Pokemon franchise that was still thriving at home in Japan but becoming stagnant in the rest of the world. For a time during 2016 and 2017, it felt like you couldn’t walk anywhere without bumping into someone who was completely immersed in there mobile phone, trying to catch Pokemon. Interest in the game has cooled a little in the time since, but it’s still got an enthusiastic base of players. It earned $800m in 2018. It’s outperformed Fortnite, but it still doesn’t measure up to Candy Crush.
According to the most recent figures available, Candy Crush is still bringing in $4.2m a day. That equates to $1.5bn over the course of a full year. So many years beyond its launch, and far-removed from the times when it was a viral sensation that attracted mainstream media attention, that’s a truly astonishing figure.
We should probably be a little kinder when we’re talking about the age of the game, though. The success of the original Candy Crush inevitably led to demand for sequels and spin-offs, as well as influencing game developers elsewhere. You could definitely draw comparisons between Candy Crush and the Reel Rush slot game that’s popular at online casinos. The graphical choices the designers of the slot game made, as well as the use of fruity sweets as a theme, probably owe a lot to the existence of the Candy Crush franchise. A cynic would point out that you may actually see a return on the money you pay into the Reel Rush slot, whereas Candy Crush will just keep on taking! With sequels and expansions though, Candy Crush has found new leases of life, and new takes on the theme to appeal to new players. The game may have launched in 2012, but there have been sequels released almost every year since.
Despite that, it’s the original which carries more of the revenue than you’d probably think it would. The Sensor Tower report breaks down the percentage of Candy Crush revenue that comes from each version of the game, and an incredible $945m of the $1.5bn total was spent on the original Candy Crush. The remainder is broken up across several of the sequels, with Candy Crush Soda Saga responsible for a healthy amount, and $90m coming from Candy Crush Jelly Saga.
It might be that Activision has more reason to worry about the newer games than it does the older ones; the most recent entry in the series is Candy Crush Friends Saga, which had only brought in $3m by the end of the year, making less in three months from its October release date than the original does in a day. Despite that, it was the second most downloaded app in the series last year, implying that it may go on to do better than some of the other sequels. Either that or the players who downloaded it didn’t like it!
It may be that the eventual obsolescence of the original Candy Crush eventually kills the income from the series. Ultimately, technology will move on, and Activision will be faced with the issue of how to port their cash cow across to new devices and new mediums of entertainment. If players aren’t willing to shift their attention from the original to the sequels, they might be equally resistant to any modernized version of the original that Activision creates. Time, not lack of interest, may be the biggest threat to the series of them all.
In the meantime, we should all take a moment to step back and marvel at the fact that this basic puzzle game, based on the premise of nothing more complicated than moving colored pieces of candy from one location to the next in the hope of matching them up, is still not only holding its value in the market but increasing it. Revenue from Candy Crush Saga in 2018 was up 10% from 2017. It all goes to show that you can release a flashy shooting game which half the world downloads and plays, or you can make adorable cartoon characters appear in real life locations via a mobile phone app, but sometimes there’s no substitute for a genuinely well made classic game!